Denzel Bentley is now a two-time British middleweight champion following a split decision win over Linus Udofia.
Friday night’s main event at The Indigo at the O2 was on paper a 50-50 affair and the 12 rounds proved the prediction to be correct.
Felix Cash had vacated the Lonsdale belt which he won by beating Bentley 13 months ago to end the five-month reign of ‘2 Sharp’. Tonight’s efforts by both challengers proved how much winning the prestigious title still means.
Udofia looked the more composed of the two fighters early on. His jab was instrumental in winning him rounds with Bentley looking for explosiveness to allow him to take on his opponent on the inside and land power punches.
In round two Udofia looked stronger and proved that fighting in close quarters would be no problem with his uppercut finding a home on occasion. Bentley then got a foothold in round three. A left hook started his charge which was the beginning of Udofia being forced back to the ropes, too often for his corner’s liking throughout the bout.
Bentley had to contend with Udofia’s jab again in the fourth round. The Luton middleweight chose to use brains over brawn much to his benefit as his Battersea opponent brawled his way to throw anything in Udofia’s direction.
As the fight reached halfway Udofia was beginning to make a few dents in Bentley but a pattern began to emerge in the final 30 seconds. The former champion would put the hammer and foot down and go straight at Udofia forcing the judges ringside to ponder if that was enough to win the round.
The seventh began with a cracking short left from Bentley. His relentlessness started to wear Udofia down. Once again in the closing moments of the session he threw the kitchen sink. A one-two, followed by a right hand and shots to head and body would have sealed those three minutes for sure.
Bentley had the momentum and his aggression in the eighth and ninth made the fight closer than ever. Controversy could have blighted the contest when referee Mark Lyson missed Udofia’s knee touching down after another Bentley onslaught which saw a right hand catch his fellow challenger forcing the unseen knockdown.
Udofia got back to some ring smarts in the tenth and controlled the 180 seconds. Bentley looked to be having a breather after a nine-minute push to bring him firmly in with a shout of becoming a two-time champion.
The final two rounds were a mix of Bentley’s pressure equalised by Udofia’s ability to evade shots and spin off the ropes to return fire. Round 12 may prove to be the one that got away for Udofia, however, as he back pedalled for the majority allowing Bentley to look the busier and more productive of the two men.
A draw may have been a fair result, but Bentley got the nod 116-112, 114-115, 115-113 to take a split decision and hold aloft the British title once again.
“It means a lot to get the belt back,” a jubilant Bentley told Channel 5’s Andy Clarke afterwards.
“I didn’t like the way I lost it, I won it back. Most of all that was a fight! I enjoyed that I promise you.”
Was Bentley confident he would get the victory as he waited on the score totals being tallied up?
“I was confident. I’ll be honest with you as good as a fight that was, I was surprised that was a split decision. A few rounds I had him hurt. I think in the second half of the fight four out of the six rounds I had him going. But I ain’t complaining about the scorecards. I’m glad I got the victory and I’m happy to have the belt back around my waist and British champion again.”