One of boxing’s nearly men Jazza Dickens finally received a rich reward for years of toil with a merited points win over a dogged Ryan Walsh in a compelling Golden Contract 126lbs final at the Production Park Studios in South Kirkby on Wednesday night.
Scores were 98-93, 97-94 and 96-94, as MTK Global’s exciting tournament concept drew to a close.
“I boxed many ways in this tournament with different styles, and I knew it was my chance to show what I can do,” said Dickens afterwards. “This was my moment on Sky Sports. I beat Leigh Wood and Ryan Walsh this year and now I want a world title. I’ll have my rewards when I get my world title.
“Sorry to those that couldn’t be there tonight. I need to thank my coaches George Vaughan and Derry Mathews for everything they have done for me.”
In an absorbing encounter, the laser-focus and precision of Dickens won out. He was sharper, crisper and more busy than Walsh who wasn’t able to slow the Scouser’s rhythm with stout body work or desperate bursts of pressure.
Switch-hitter Walsh began as a southpaw against portsider Dickens (30-3, 11 KOs) and made early inroads with a crisp right hook, but Dickens’ long left hands caused problems as the round progressed.
Dickens’ smart right lead was at the fore in the second, but there was precious little between them at this stage. The Scouser looked marginally the sharper man in the early exchanges. He drilled Walsh with a stiff left hand and received a nod of acknowledgement.
The Cromer man landed some smart body blows in the fourth as he creeped back into the contest. The former British champion changed looks and pressed in the orthodox stance as Dickens used his clever feet to ghost clear of danger.
Walsh (26-3-2, 12 KOs) reverted to southpaw in the sixth, but Dickens had proved the slicker fighter in a number of close rounds. Needing some impetus, Walsh threw Dickens to the canvas, illustrating his physical strength was still in evidence.
Switching stances, Walsh landed a solid right hook in the seventh but he needed more devil and delivery. Dickens’ cuter work and busier hands held sway. He fended off an increasingly forceful Walsh in the eighth as the Cromer man ramped up the pressure, but Dickens barely put a foot wrong.
The Scouser’s educated jab dictated in the ninth as Walsh was always a step short and couldn’t pin him down. Walsh needed something special in the final round. He poured on the pressure, but Dickens was a picture of concentration and competed well in some brisk, late exchanges to seal a well-earned win. The classy Walsh acknowledged Dickens had won at the final bell in a commendable display of sportsmanship.
In the other final, ‘Latvian Lion’ Ricards Bolotniks was a worthy winner of the Golden Contract tournament at 175lbs, scoring a last round stoppage over a gutsy Serge Michel.
At the beginning of the Golden Contract, Bolotniks was the tournament’s rank outsider but in a memorable run, halted the previously unbeaten Steven Ward and handily outpointed favourite Hosea Burton before grinding down Michel in impressive fashion in the final.
“At Christmas, I will now be drinking coke and eating potatoes!” said the charismatic Bolotniks after his life-changing victory. “I did my job and I showed the tactics that my coach taught me. I am just so happy.
“I want Anthony Yarde next year. Maybe we will see each other. I am ready for 12 rounds, 15 rounds, or 20 rounds! Everything in this tournament was good. Thank you to everybody. I will go drink beer and eat pizza!”
Exuding self-belief early, Michel was composed at the outset, dictating in the centre of the ring via a smooth jab and clever movement. Having conceded early ground, Bolotniks sprung into life in the third, nailing the German with a stiff right hand and punishing him downstairs.
The duo traded heavy blows in the fourth as Michel sought to stifle the Latvian’s sudden momentum. Bolotniks demonstrably hurt Michel with a left hook to the body and the German’s elbows dipped, but he dug in and battled back strongly near the bell.
Bolotniks’ body work had Michel (11-2, 8 KOs) wilting in the fifth. A right hand sent Michel careering back into the ropes and referee Michael Alexander correctly called a knockdown, deeming the ring perimeter kept him up. Michel seemed on the brink, but he clawed his way back into the round and the fight. But the fight seemed hard to salvage with the Latvian in irresistible form.
A ceaseless Bolotniks (18-5-1, 8 KOs) marched forward, punishing Michel with fierce bodywork on the ropes in the seventh. Meanwhile, Michel’s best shots just bounced off the relentless Latvian.
Michel used his feet early in the eighth with some degree of success but Bolotniks finished every round strongly and the German needed all his wits and grit to survive. Perhaps he should have been saved from his own bravery in a clear losing cause. He battled on regardless.
A straight right hand rocked back Michel’s head in the ninth before a left hook to the body winded Michel and left him in dire straits in a corner. Again, he survived another tight spot under a frenetic assault.
A spent Michel was stunned again by the ropes in the 10th and grabbed on grimly but Bolotniks would not be denied his stoppage, overwhelming the German with a torrid barrage of blows that sent him down a second time in the closing stages. He rose, but with just 15 seconds left, Bolotniks’ corner waved the towel to save a brave man from unnecessary punishment.
In an eliminator for the English 140lbs title, Brighton’s Harlem Eubank (11-0, 3 KOs) was too cute for Chessington’s Daniel Egbunike (6-1, 3 KOs). Calm and assured, Eubank’s greater mobility and measure defused the dangerous Darko in a breakout win. Referee Phil Edwards scored 97-94.
The highly-touted Adam Azim (1-0, 0 KOs) kicked off his pro career with a decisive points win over Blackpool’s capable Ed Harrison (2-5, 0 KOs) in a lightweight six-rounder. Referee Edwards scored 60-54.
In another 135lbs encounter, Belfast southpaw James McGivern (2-0, 0 KOs) knocked down Seaham’s Jordan Ellison (11-31-2, 1 KO) in the second en route to clear 60-53 points win on the card of referee Edwards.
In the show-opener, Irish middleweight Fearghus Quinn moved to 2-0, 0 KOs with a straightforward points success over Bicester’s Scott James. Referee Edwards scored 60-54.