Sandoval KOs Harris in eight to clinch shot at Edwards

Impressive Californian Ricardo Sandoval sealed a shot at IBF flyweight champion Sunny Edwards with an eighth-round body punch KO of Swansea’s Jay Harris in a final eliminator at the University of Bolton Stadium on Friday night.

The fight had been a fairly even affair before Golden Boy fighter Sandoval (19-1, 14 KOs) showed his quality with a destructive body attack in the fateful eighth.

A rib-bending left hook sent Welshman Harris (18-2, 9 KOs) to the canvas, but he battled upright. Later in the session, Sandoval launched another punishing left downstairs to drop former WBC title challenger Harris for the full count.

Sandoval fought with a maturity that belies his 22 years and looks a legitimate title threat. “I feel amazing. I have worked so hard for the last two months, I was ready to go,” Sandoval told interviewer Alex Steedman. “I always had confidence. I know a lot of people doubted me, but I trained hard, I had a lot of experience in the amateurs and I got good sparring. In the future, I hope I can be one of the top fighters in the game.” 

In the chief support on the MTK Fight Night, ex-IBF bantamweight champion Paul Butler (33-2, 15 KOs) scored a first-round knockdown but had to settle for a surprising split decision against gutsy Mexican import Willibaldo Garcia (12-5-1, 6 KOs & 1 NC).

Scores were 97-92 and 96-94 for Butler, overruling a 95-94 nod for late-sub Garcia in a bout the Ellesmere Port man seemed to have won reasonably comfortably with his classier output.

The rugged visitor was dropped in the first by scything left hooks to the body and jaw but fought back to give a good account of himself. His workrate and roughhouse aggression posed problems, but the more stylish and crisper work of Butler generally held sway. Garcia was a late replacement for Ghanaian veteran Joseph Agbeko who had visa problems.

“[The judges] have probably gone a bit on workrate, but if you look at that workrate, what gets through?” Butler told Alex Steedman. “I’m catching a lot on arms and poking a couple through. I think he landed the head more than actual shots. 

“I said when he replaced Agbeko that it was a tougher fight, maybe not skill-wise, but he came and he brought it. We knew he was going to sit on my chest and did everything unorthodox. Half the time he didn’t know what he was throwing himself.”

Former British light-heavyweight champion Hosea Burton (26-2, 12 KOs) got his career back on track after a disappointing defeat to Ricards Bolotniks last September, with a sixth-round KO of another former Golden Contract semi-finalist Liam Conroy (18-7-1, 9 KOs). 

Burton looked sharp throughout and finished matters with a left hook. With the victory, Manchester’s Burton earned the right to fight for his old title, currently held by Craig Richards.

“It means a hell of a lot more this time round, because I didn’t realise what I had until it was gone,” Burton told Alex Steedman afterwards. “To get another chance, it has been a long time, a hell of a long time. To get my shot again means everything to me and I will get that British title back.

“Craig Richards will give it up. He should have given it up so me and Liam could have fought for it, but give it until Monday or Tuesday. Me and Dan Azeez will get it on.” 

Derry’s skilful featherweight Tyrone McCullagh came unstuck when he was surprisingly stopped in three by Evesham journeyman Brett Fidoe. After two quiet rounds, former Golden Contract semi-finalist McCullagh (14-2, 6 KOs) was dropped following a burst of Fidoe pressure in the third, hitting the canvas after a right hand. He rose a little unsteadily before the fight was waved off by referee Jamie Kirkpatrick, perhaps a shade too early. But it was a terrific result for Fidoe (15-65-5, 7 KOs) who is now riding high on a two-fight win streak.

Irish lightweight contender Gary Cully (13-0, 7 KOs) forced a third-round retirement of Romanian veteran Viorel Simion (22-6, 9 KOs) to continue his march up the pro ladder. The wiry 6ft 2ins Cully completely manhandled the smaller fighter, causing him to wince from body shots in a painful and one-sided third before the visitor sensibly withdrew on his stool. “We thought he would give me rounds but I was just a level above. He was a tough, tough guy and he took some heavy shots,” said the in-form Cully after another dominant showing.

Dublin super-lightweight prospect Pierce O’Leary (7-0, 3 KOs) scored a heavy but worrying KO of Czech Jan Marsalek (8-4, 7 KOs) in the second round. O’Leary detonated a huge left hook that sent Marsalek on to his face amid disturbing scenes. The Czech was lifted from the ring on a stretcher, but was conscious before being taken to hospital as a precautionary measure. “I wish him a speedy recovery and make sure he gets home to his family. Boxing is a tough sport,” said a respectful O’Leary afterwards. On Saturday morning, MTK Global promoter Lee Eaton confirmed Marsalek was fine on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Luton middleweight hope Jordan Reynolds (2-0, 0 KOs) dropped Czech southpaw Jan Ardon (2-7, 0 KOs) twice en route to 60-52 points decision; Basildon welterweight Inder Bassi (3-1, 0 KOs) outpointed Plymouth stalwart Chris Adaway (10-71-4, 1 KO) 40-36 and Liverpool’s Blane Hyland outscored Birmingham’s Reiss Taylor (2-8, 1 KO) in all-southpaw encounter at flyweight, also by a 40-36 scoreline.

Main image: MTK Global.