IN last week’s Boxing News preview of Samir Ziani’s European super-featherweight title defence against Alex Dilmaghani at Production Park Studios, we predicted that the fight could turn out to be one of the best of the year. And so it proved, as the warring southpaws combined to produce a thrilling encounter brimming with courage, determination, non-stop action and no shortage of skill.
Up until the 12th and closing frame, every round was fiercely fought and closely contested, with champion and challenger going head to head and taking it in turns to tear into each other. The pace was frenetic throughout and the fitness levels on display were astonishing.
Dilmaghani, 29, enjoyed success early in the opener when using his jab to keep the bout at range. He mixed in quality body shots but was unable to deter the 30-year-old Ziani, who was dangerous with the overhand left and uppercut. Stinging hooks from both hands nestled into the sides of Ziani’s torso in the second, yet the world-ranked Frenchman continued to target Dilmaghani with slashing lefts.
In the third, fast flurries and solid short hooks smacked into Ziani’s skull. Dilmaghani zoned in on the midsection in rounds four and five, though the bullish Ziani refused to be slowed. What the strong and stocky visitor lacked in finesse he made up for in sheer output – his aggression was relentless.
Referee Giuseppe Quartarone belatedly warned Dilmaghani for using his elbow in the sixth – a round in which the Crayford fighter was cut below the right eye. Ziani stormed in with lefts and rights both upstairs and down in the seventh. Dilmaghani responded in the next session by stabbing out his jab and neatly pivoting away from punches in order to land his own.
After being lectured again by the official for use of the elbow, Dilmaghani swapped heavy hooks with Ziani in the ninth. A clash of heads in this stanza left the man from Blagnac nursing a wound by his right eye, to go with a gash on the bridge of his nose. The gruelling war of attrition persisted in round 10, as Ziani connected with a pair of clean right-lefts on the inside.
The teak-tough super-feathers exchanged combinations in the 11th and, for the first time in the contest, a sign of weariness was evident when Dilmaghani staggered back slightly following an assortment of hooks from Ziani.
Going into the last round, Dilmaghani was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards (as well as mine), but Ziani would soon render these tallies redundant. A furious two-fisted assault from the EBU titlist caused Dilmaghani to stumble forward and fall to the mat after becoming entangled with his opponent. Mr Quartarone did not deem this a knockdown, nor did he when an exhausted Dilmaghani was only kept up by the ropes in the wake of another burst of blows.
By now, Dilmaghani was spent, especially so when a trio of clubbing hooks forced him down in the corner. The fight should have been stopped here, but the referee allowed it to continue. Unable to grab hold, the brave Dilmaghani was felled by a final Ziani onslaught, as the bout was called off with only nine seconds left to run.
On the undercard, rejuvenated Brixton cruiserweight Isaac Chamberlain needed just 50 seconds of a scheduled eight-rounder to ruthlessly dispatch Wolverhampton’s Matt “Slugger” Sen. A powerful barrage necessitated referee Mark Lyson’s intervention.
In a battle of unbeatens at middleweight, Sevenoaks’ young Michael Hennessy Jnr, the son of the show’s promoter, was pipped 58-56 (for Mr Lyson) by two-fight Longton novice Jamie Stewart.
Woodland Hills, California-based Irishman Stephen McKenna looks like one to watch. Boxing just above the welterweight limit, he savaged Castlemilk’s Gary McGuire. The Scottish journeyman was initially decked by a collection of winging hooks. Upon the resumption, a larruping left put him on his backside and led to a stoppage at 1-13. It had been set for six. John Latham officiated.
Mr Latham also oversaw sculpted Birmingham super-middleweight Idris Virgo’s shutout 40-36 points victory over Trafford trier Scott Williams.
The Verdict Hats off to both boxers for a rip-roaring main event.
Samir Ziani (129lbs 6oz), 32-3-1 (7), w rsf 12 Alex Dilmaghani (129 1/4lbs), 19-2-1 (8) 1NC; Isaac Chamberlain (205lbs), 12-1 (6), w rsf 1 Matt Sen (205lbs 2oz), 5-3 (1); Jamie Stewart (156 1/4lbs), 2-0, w pts 6 Michael Hennessy Jnr (158 1/4lbs), 4-1-1; Stephen McKenna (149lbs 9oz), 5-0 (5), w rsf 1 Gary McGuire (150 3/4lbs), 1-17; Idris Virgo (167 1/2lbs), 7-0-1 (1), w pts 4 Scott Williams (170 1/2lbs), 0-8.