Boxing’s European return, headlined by veteran campaigners Marius Wach and Kevin Johnson, took place in a Polish hotel with no crowd on Friday night. All boxing fans will agree the sport’s reappearance was welcome, but it was a little eerie, too.
Ring girls showed their round cards to disinterested doctors, trainers delivered their instructions through the surgical masks we’ve all grown used to seeing – and indeed wearing – and the whole show had a slightly muted atmosphere.
Understandable, perhaps. We weren’t expecting a packed MGM Grand.
In terms of action, the undercard was hit and miss, with some of the most entertaining boxing arguably coming from teenage amateur talents, Artur Proksa and Jakub Targiel.
At the top of the bill, two well-seasoned veterans fought 10 rounds for a belt with less history than either of them – the ‘vacant Republic of Poland international heavyweight title’.
Wach secured a wide unanimous decision from the judges (as per Boxing Social’s preview prediction), but the contest was evenly matched.
Johnson (34-17-1, 18 KOs) was typically hard to catch clean in the opening rounds. Using his signature shoulder roll, he managed to avoid most of the Pole’s heavy artillery. Wach (36-6, 19 KOs) plugged away with ones and twos, open-mouthed and carrying several rolls of fat.
Perhaps due to Covid-19-stunted training regimes, both men struggled with the pace at times, but thankfully the fight didn’t descend into clinching.
American Johnson had success with his jab throughout, but struggled to land any power punches. A couple of short-lived periods of dominance, with Wach backed into the corner of the small ring, showed viewers the fight wasn’t entirely one-sided.
‘The Viking’ struggled initially to find a home for his chopping right hand but did so in the fifth round, much to the joy of the small group of Poles in attendance. Another particularly stiff right hand in the sixth drew a tell-tale shrug from Johnson and Wach began finding the mark more regularly.
On the final bell, the Pole rushed to unwrap his right hand and apply ice – suggesting an injury. It’s unclear how severe that is at this point, but it could affect the timescale in which we’re likely to see him fight again. Wach believes that his victory here will catapult him into a fight with former European champion Agit Kabayel.
Ewa Piatkowska (14-1, 4 KOs) did not seem to enjoy her role in the main supporting contest, taking on fellow Pole Karina Kopinska (13-33-4, 3 KOs) over six laboured, two-minute rounds. The bout was a rematch but produced the same result, a points victory for Piatkowska.
The 35-year-old former WBC super-welterweight champ stepped into the ring as a super-lightweight and it’s unclear if that’s where she intends to campaign in future. She never looked entirely comfortable, which begs the question: ‘Was dropping two weight classes a wise choice at this stage in her career?’
Her opponent Kopinska will be a familiar face for many British fans, having lost on points to Natasha Jonas, Nina Bradley, Sam Smith and Chantelle Cameron. The Pole was also stopped by Katie Taylor back in 2016.
The former WBC champion started a little slowly, with Kopinska keen to pressure her from the start. Patience paid off though and, by the end of the third, Kopinska was bleeding from the nose.
While Piatkowska was definitely the better-schooled boxer, Kopinska’s consistent aggression could have seen her edge several of the rounds. The underdog looked certain she had won on the final bell and Piatkowska seemed slightly sheepish when her hand was raised.