Undisputed lightweight champion Katie Taylor was once again in imperious form, utterly dominating Spanish mandatory challenger Miriam Gutierrez to retain her crowns on the cards at the SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday night. Scores were 100-89, 100-90 and 99-91.
Taylor (17-0, 6 KOs) outboxed, outfoxed and outfought her resolute but plodding challenger. The hardy but limited Gutierrez (13-1, 5 KOs) hung tough but was up against it from the opening bell as Taylor unleashed a blistering first-round assault.
In the third, Taylor pressed for the stoppage once more, reeling off hurtful combinations. The faster Irishwoman pinned the Spaniard on the ropes, but the challenger held firm. She was dropped in the fourth by a right hand as Taylor continued to boss proceedings.
Yet she couldn’t budge the sturdy challenger and to her credit Gutierrez lasted the course. It was Taylor’s ninth successful title defence as she continues her dominance of the 135lbs division.
“I thought it was a great overall performance,” said Taylor afterwards. “I boxed well at long distance and close. I did a bit of everything in there tonight. I threw everything but the kitchen sink at her. I just couldn’t get her out of there. She’s tough as nails so credit to her. She hung in and she was there to fight until the very end. She’s obviously big and strong and that showed tonight.
“I thought it was important for me to stamp my authority right from the first round. She hadn’t fought outside of Spain and was out of the ring for a year. I thought it would be good to start fast. I thought I was going to get her out of there at one stage. She hung in there and she kept swinging shots. She was actually very dangerous when she was swinging shots. I had to be a bit more cautious later on in the fight. Overall, it was a great performance.
“Obviously, I would have loved to get a stoppage in there tonight. I haven’t got a stoppage in a long time. It is hard to hurt these girls, they’re very strong and durable. I did everything that I could to get the stoppage but she hung in and I have to be happy with a points win. I’m going home with all of the belts and I’m still the undisputed champion. I’m still unbeaten and this is a great end to the year.
“This was absolutely huge. I think every girl on the card tonight boxed brilliantly. Three fantastic [women’s title] fights. It’s just an amazing showcase. As I’ve said before, Eddie has given us this platform. Women’s boxing is on fire right now because of the platform he has given us. What an amazing few years of women’s boxing. That’s what it’s all about for myself, inspiring the next generation. Hopefully there was a few young girls watching through Facebook on the livestream. It’s all about inspiring the next generation and what an amazing platform to do it on.”
After struggling to outpoint Natasha Jonas in August, Denaby dynamo Terri Harper illustrated her world class pedigree with a clinical ninth-round stoppage of Katherina Thanderz in defence of her WBC and IBO 130lbs titles.
Harper (11-0-1, 7 KOs) was sharp and disciplined and a different animal to the fighter who was taken to the wire by Jonas. She used her natural length and range to pick off Thanderz before her heavier hands told down the stretch.
Thanderz bulled Harper to the ropes in the sixth, but it was a rare success and the champion’s blows always looked the sharper. The Spanish-based Norwegian suffered a bloody nose after a clash of heads in the ninth before Harper closed the show.
A hefty left to the body demonstrably winded Thanderz (13-1, 2 KOs) and Harper didn’t let her off the hook, backing her up with a thudding assault to head and body before referee Victor Loughlin stepped in.
Harper later revealed she had hurt her right hand in the fourth round adding further kudos to arguably her career-best win.
“I’m buzzing,” said Harper. “That’s my birthday and Christmas all in one. That’s made my year. Obviously, having that tough fight with Tasha, there was doubts, and there was wrongs that I needed to put right. We came away and I’ve worked my butt off. I’ve just gone out there and breezed it.
“I hurt my hand in the fourth round, I couldn’t throw it, and when I did throw it it was painful. I stuck to my jab, kept long and just moved. I knew she got frustrated at one point. She stood in the middle of the ring. I didn’t want to look like I was running but there was nothing else that I could really do. I’m happy.
“I caught her with the head, that’s probably from me lunging in, accidental. I could see that her nose was troubling her. The sound of her breathing changed. She was getting distracted by the blood. I threw a nice left hook to the body, caught her and I heard her wince. She backed off and I just went for the kill and the ref jumped in.
“I got a few stoppage wins early on in my career so it’s nice to get another one. I’m going to say a big thank you to my S&C coach Danny Wilson, he’s given me the confidence that I can go through those gears and that I have got the strength. God knows what I’m going to be like after my next camp. I want to fight the best. I’m coming for you [WBO champion Mikaela] Mayer! Slowly but surely we’ll get there and I’ll be punching you in the face very soon.”
Aldridge’s Rachel Ball (7-0-1, 0 KOs) completed a dream year with a clear points victory over dogged Argentine Jorgelina Guanini (9-2-2, 1 KO) to win the vacant WBC interim super-bantamweight title. Scores were 99-91 (twice) and 99-92.
After original foe Ebanie Bridges pulled out through a shoulder injury, IBF super-flyweight champion Guanini came in at 10 days’ notice but arrived overweight for the projected vacant WBA bantamweight title match with Ball. This being boxing, an accommodating WBC interim 122lbs crown was put on the line with Guanini failing to even make that weight, meaning the belt could be won by Ball only.
Ball struggled to establish her natural range early on, but ultimately didn’t disappoint on her big night as she finished strongly. Ball’s height, industry and superior stamina was too much for the stocky Guanini who didn’t have the required punch or devilry to dent the flame-haired Midlander.
“I’m so grateful to Matchroom and BCB for continuing to support my journey,” said Ball. “I felt confident that it was mine. I was landing my shots pretty well. She was running around the ring and I feel like I used my distance a lot better.
“Everything happens for a reason and perhaps she was what I needed at this time. Fair play to her, it was a really good fight. I’m glad I used my assets a bit more in this fight. When I had the opportunity I did go forwards. I went to the body a bit more which I’m pleased about.
“Look how far Terri [Harper] has gone and look how far Katie [Taylor] has gone. I’d love to be able to be as successful as them. That would be amazing. It’s all good experience. I hope we inspire some girls out there to try boxing and do something different.”
In something of an upset, Jack Cullen (19-2-1, 9 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to outhustle Scottish hope John Docherty (9-1, 7 KOs) on the cards in a British 168lbs title eliminator. Scores were 96-94 (twice) and 95-94.
The step up came too soon for Montrose southpaw Docherty who had blasted out the usual suspects but found the Lancastrian an unwilling fall guy. It had started so brightly when Docherty dropped an off-balance Cullen with a left hand in the opener.
But Cullen regrouped strongly, with Docherty sustaining a damaged right eye in the third, and gradually took over, punishing the Scot’s porous defence. The former English 160lbs champion appeared to forge ahead on the cards and consistently beat the vaunted banger to the punch.
In the eighth, Docherty was eating heavy leather, but took his licks, despite jettisoning his mouthpiece twice in the round. He needed a last-ditch KO, but it didn’t come and his disconsolate expression at the final bell told the story. But the Scot can come back. The plucky Cullen moves on to bigger things in the meantime.
“First round I ended up slipping on my ass,” said Cullen. “If people thought it was a knockdown, it wasn’t. I had to work and push it. Every time I went back to the corner Michael and Dave [Jennings] said, ‘Look, you need to get stuck in here and dig deep’. That’s what I feel like I did to win the fight.
“That’s the first time I’d ever fought a southpaw. I was getting caught with stupid shots for the first couple of rounds. It was time to tuck up and dig deep. I feel like I was really coming on after the fourth round. I still feel like it was a big step up for him.
“I take my hat off to him for taking the fight. We were supposed to be fighting different people tonight. We’re young and we’ll fight anybody, there’s no reason not to. There’s a lot more for me to work on. [My training team] have only had me for between six and eight weeks, which isn’t a lot of time.
“I feel like I’m going to come on bigger, stronger and better. This is my natural weight at super-middle. I’ve grown into it and it’s time to takeover. I’m here for a fight and I’m here to takeover and win. I’m young and I’ve got self-belief. I feel like I’m good enough.”
Former British bantamweight champion Kash Farooq (14-1, 6 KOs) finally made his Matchroom debut after several cancellations with a solid workout against sturdy Mexican Angel Aviles (20-6-1, 6 KOs). Scores were 100-90, 100-91 and 99-91. Farooq excelled to the body, but the tough Mexican shipped his best shots and made it to the bell.
“I’m really happy to be back out,” said Farooq. “It’s been a year now and it was a bit frustrating during the pandemic period. I’m very lucky to be one of the few boxers getting a fight at the moment. I’m happy to be boxing again. I’d like to thank everybody.
“I’m really happy with the performance. It was my first one back in a while but I wouldn’t say I had ring rust or anything. It’s good to get the rounds and the experience in. I’ve had a lot of changes in opponents. We got there in the end and we’re happy with the performance. It’s good to be out before Christmas.
“This is the next chapter of my career. I don’t know where I’ll go from here but it’s down to Eddie and my team. I’m really happy just to be back boxing. Hopefully, there are bigger things coming for me. This is what every fighter dreams of.
“I started on the small hall shows and I didn’t even sell any tickets. I was lucky to sell about three or four tickets in my first three fights. My manager has always backed me and I’m thankful for it. He’s worked really hard to get me out.
“I wouldn’t give my performance a ten out of ten but I’d give it a seven or eight. I love the [Lee] McGregor rematch, it’s a big fight for Scotland. It would be great if he wins the European title, and it would be a big fight whenever it happens.”
In the show opener, Liverpool light-heavyweight Thomas Whittaker-Hart (5-0, 2 KOs) dictated with his jab to outbox Bradford’s Jermaine Springer (7-2, 1 KO). Referee Bob Williams scored 79-74.
“I feel like I boxed okay,” said Whittaker-Hart. “I’ve had a long time out of the ring. It’s been a year out of the ring for me. I thought I could have done a bit more. My sharpness wasn’t 100% there. I’ll get more experience with a few more fights under my belt. I’m a little bit disappointed but it is what it is. I was drawing him into the counters. I wasn’t getting my shots off enough. I feel okay.
“I’ve had a long year, I wasn’t too well in January. I was in hospital. It’s been a strange year for me. I’m just happy to be back in the ring doing what I do best and getting a good win under my belt. I felt the pace a little bit at the end. I’ve only ever done a six rounder, but it only went five. This was a step up in rounds for me. It’s one of them, it’ll come in good time.
“I don’t want to box journeymen, it’s not what I’m about. I want to keep getting tested as I go up the levels. I want to box the best people that I can. I couldn’t ask for a better team around me. I’ve got [manager] Tony [Bellew] looking after me as well. I can’t ask for much more. Fighting with no crowd wasn’t any different, you don’t even notice it to be honest.”
Main image: Matchroom Boxing.