OHARA DAVIES could be about to pull off one of the current era’s great transformations after executing the best win of his career. The Londoner knocked out Lewis Ritson with a body-breaking left hook in the ninth round of their WBA super-lightweight final eliminator.
It has set up the 31-year-old with a shot at the sanctioning body strap, currently in the possession of the Dominican Republic’s Alberto Puello, who is scheduled to make his maiden defence on May 13 against Rolando Romero, from America.
A man with penchant for a ruck with his rival before getting anywhere near the ring, and a perennial pantomime villain, Davies dreams of making headlines, this time for all the right reasons.
While he created some mischief by turning up in a Manchester United top in Newcastle for Thursday’s final (and only) media conference just days after the Magpies had lost to them at Wembley, this was largely a new Davies. More respectful and less confrontational, this was a boxer intent on letting his fists do his talking. Or some of it.
And how his gloves did just that in a sparsely-populated Utilita Arena, where Davies dismantled the hopes of home Toon favourite Ritson.
The 29-year-old Geordie, making his first appearance for a year, began confidently enough with his trademark jab scoring well in the opening two rounds, during which time Davies missed with as much as he landed.
But by the third Hackney’s “Two Tanks” began to exert himself, his right connected to the head of Ritson, while that dangerous left to the body began to find its mark.
While “The Sandman” dug in better in the fifth, it was his opponent who was dictating matters with some tasty left-right combinations in the sixth before hurting Ritson to the body in the seventh.
While Lewis appeared to stem the flow in the eighth it was only a stay of execution. Some chopping rights to the head from Ohara in round nine stung his opponent before a sickening left hook sent Ritson crashing to the floor, where he was counted out by referee Howard Foster at 2-23.
There was an equally ruthless performance from another away fighter in the night’s other WBA final eliminator after new featherweight sensation Otabek Kholmatov announced himself by brutally ending Thomas Patrick Ward’s long and proud unbeaten record at 2-58 of round five.
Kholmatov arrived on Tyneside as something of an unknown quantity but the secret is certainly now out. The Uzbekistan 24-year-old’s amateur career was more steady than stellar, but as a pro, based in Hollywood, Florida, his progress has been startling, blasting out his first nine opponents inside a total of 22 rounds.
A huge figure for a featherweight, he set about Ward in the first, flooring the West Rainton star with a left-right to the head. Ward, up at seven, saw out the round and fought back strongly in the second and third with some sharp head combinations and refused to buckle when Otabek connected with some heavy body work.
The brave Ward was forward again in the fourth and a three-punch salvo got his followers off their seats, only to be put down for a second time. Again, Ward beat the count at seven and gave as good as he got in the fifth but the Uzbek’s frightening power would prove decisive and a left hook to the head wobbled Tommy with the right putting him down. This time there was no getting up and after coach Neil Fannan threw in the towel, referee Mike Alexander called it off.
The two former Fannan team-mates can take heart and inspiration from Lee McGregor, who returned to his place of work after 13 long and difficult months by outpointing Alexis Kabore 79-74, from referee Ron Kearney.
These eight hard-fought rounds will have done Edinburgh’s British, Commonwealth and European bantamweight champion the power of good after fending off a terrific effort from the Burkina Faso veteran. McGregor, now campaigning at super-bantam, began confidently and did some good scoring with his left, with the stoppage specialist happily settling in for the long haul in a battle contested at close quarters.
Kabore earned his couple of points and played his part, with the pair going at it blow-for-blow in the seventh, before McGregor controlled the final three minutes expertly to finish on a high.
Unbeaten Cork prospect Steven Cairns impressed over six rounds against Poland’s Jakub Laskowski, enjoying a shut-out 60-54 tally from referee Neil Close. A sharp left hook to the body was a feature of his display while he couldn’t miss when he brought his right through the middle.
Twelve months after leaving this arena in frustration after an horrific cut caused a premature end to his debut, Ben Rees was back in the ring and in a hurry to impress in a six-rounder against Konstantin Aleksandrov. The Ashington super-middle, part of the Birtley ABC production line, dropped the Bulgarian in the neutral corner when he followed a spiteful body combination with a left to the head. Kearney called a halt at 2-06 of the first.
In the night’s other six-threes, Ritson’s Forest Hall stablemate Ewan Mackenzie stretched his winning sequence to seven against Sheffield’s Serge Ambomo. The Jarrow southpaw dictated the pace and fight before Ambomo came on strongly at the end and despite a rousing finale, conceded a 59-55 verdict with Close in charge.
Bishop Auckland’s Nathan Forrest opened the event with a smooth performance in defeating Liam Fox, from Manchester, 40-36 from Kearney.
Two well-supported North-East boxers made winning debutants at the event promoted by Wearside fight figure Phil Jeffries.
Ferryhill’s Callum Walton was positive from the off and when a left to the body put Zdenko Bule on the canvas, referee Close counted the Croatian out at 2-21 of the second of a scheduled four.
Horden super-feather Ali Shear Syed Shah was lively in both movement and delivery as he closed the show with a 40-36 verdict from Kearney over Venice-based Nicaraguan Christian Narvaez.
THE VERDICT: Ritson and Ward will look to plot a way back after brave efforts, but the night belonged to the away corner after two stunning wins