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Dillian Whyte makes his return in Saudi Arabia

Dillian Whyte
As the rain fell in the desert, Michael Hunter is unlucky to draw and Dillian Whyte picks up a win on the Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz undercard

MICHAEL HUNTER started liked greased lightning against veteran contender, Alexander Povetkin, spluttered a little in the middle rounds before putting his foot down at the end. The American contender seemed to have cruised over the finishing line but was held to a contentious draw. The scores were split: 115-113 each and one of 114-114. Boxing News had Hunter up, 116-112.

A right hand rocketed over Povetkin’s lazy lead in the opening seconds and the Russian, stunned more than hurt, stumbled back. The same shot – that rasping right – had the same effect later in the first round

After two sessions, Dereck Chisora – stood at ringside but not paying attention – asked Boxing News who was winning. “Hunter,” we replied. “Povetkin will come on strong soon, watch,” Chisora said.

As if by magic, Povetkin fought back and hurt the American with a meaty right of his own in the third. A savage left to the body briefly then reminded the younger man to respect his elders. The Russian had further success in the fourth and fifth.

A short right uppercut from Hunter in the ninth rocked Povetkin. At the end of the round, both mistakenly went to the wrong corners as the crowd chanted ‘Let’s go Saudi’ for no apparent reason other than to amuse themselves in the torrential rain.

Hunter scored with that right hand in the 11th and Povetkin’s eyes rolled. Hunter smothered his own work at the wrong moment and the Russian just about survived. Povetkin rallied to start the 12th but Hunter seemed to finish the bout just like he started it – in control.

Anthony Joshua show
Michael Hunter seems to be in control against Povetkin Action Images/Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

Dillian Whyte was understandably sluggish as he outscored perennial fringe contender, Mariusz Wach over 10 rounds. The Englishman was forced to endure some hairy moments towards the end as his energy levels drained and Wach grew confident.

Whyte at last had his name cleared of any wrongdoing by United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) following adverse findings in a pre-fight drug test ahead of his victory over Oscar Rivas in July. No explanation was given as to why UKAD took so long to announce their findings. It was a distressing period for Whyte, who was only given three weeks’ notice to prepare for this bout.

Yet he was bossed the early exchanges on the inside and landed the eye-catching shots from range. Looping shots powered into Wach throughout the first half of the bout.

By the end of the seventh, the skin surrounding Whyte’s right eye was starting to swell. Wach had a strong ninth before they both exchanged in the 10th. Whyte, showing his incredible tenacity and guts, wobbled the Pole in the final minute with a series of right hands.

The scores were 98-93 and 97-93 (twice) for Whyte. Massimo Barrovecchio was the referee.

As the rain pummelled the stadium and everyone in it, Eric Molina could not find any shelter in the ring despite it being the only dry spot in the entire place. Filip Hrgovic rained punches on the former world title challenger, several of which were blatantly illegal as he regularly took aim at the back of Molina’s skull.

The American, after being outboxed and out-rabbit-punched by the promising Croat (and don’t blame him for bending the rules, referee Ian John Lewis should have a word with him when they started in the first round), was clumped to the canvas with another blast to the back of the head in the third.

Molina, who did himself few favours by regularly curling himself into a ball, complained but the referee stopped the bout at 2-03.

Tom “Not So” Little promised to shock Mahammadrasul Majidov – who famously beat Anthony Joshua as an amateur – but he was outgunned before being dropped and stopped at 1-57 of the second round.

He was in a corner when the Russian, who fights out of Azerbaijan, scored with a cracking right hand that floored the Hatfield fighter. The Brit fired back on instinct but the blows were too clumsy to do anything other than invite the talented Majidov to do his worst. Majidov wasted nothing before Mr Gray rightly stepped in.

Zuhayr Al Qahtani, fighting out of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and based in Mitcham, was cheered by the smattering of local fans in the stadium when he was introduced. With no stoppages on his record prior to this eight-rounder for the WBC’s (unsurprisingly) vacant Middle East lightweight strap, it seemed only a matter of time before Omar Dusary became his first stoppage victim. But despite having his head rocked back from right hands on countless occasions, Dusary – displaying round circles on his back which were the result of cupping therapy – dug in to last the course. Three scores of 80-72 were in Al Qahtani’s favour. Mr Barrovecchio was the referee.

Los Angeles starlet Diego Pacheco uncorked a devastating right hand that ripped Tanzania’s Selemani Saidi from consciousness on impact. There were worrying moments before Saidi regained his feet. The official end came at 1-38 at Mr Gray dispensed with the count.

Leeds’ debutant Ivan Hopey Price – aka, Drago – used his excellent southpaw jab to weaken Tanzania’s Swedi Mohamed before sinking the same hand into his rival’s wiry stomach in the third. The Dave Coldwell-trained prospect, a Team GB standout, followed with a right over the top before referee Ian John Lewis rescued a bewildered Mohamed at 2-22.

Opening proceedings was Dubai’s Majid Al Naqbi, a 23-year-old lightweight prospect, who dominated Georgia’s plucky but outclassed Ilia Beruashvili. Against the ropes and obviously out of his depth, referee Ian John Lewis made the right call to rescue Beruashvilli at 2-57 of the third.

THE VERDICT A night for the prospects as the contenders fail to impress.

RESULTS
Anthony Joshua (237lbs), 23-1 (21), w pts 12 Andy Ruiz Jnr (283lbs), 33-2 (22); Alexander Povetkin (229lbs), 35-2-1 (24), draw pts 12 Michael Hunter (226lbs), 18-1-1 (12); Dillian Whyte (271lbs), 27-1 (18), w pts 10 Mariusz Wach (270lbs), 35-6 (19); Filip Hrgovic (241lbs), 10-0 (8) w ko 3 Eric Molina (248lbs), 27-6 (19); Zuhayr Al Qahtani (133 1/4lbs), 8-0, w pts 8 Omar Dusary (129lbs), 7-1-1 (1); Diego Pacheco (167lbs), 8-0 (7), w ko 1 Selemani Saidi (166lbs), 20-16-5 (15); Ivan Hopey Price (125lbs), 1-0 (1), w rsf 3 Swedi Mohamed (125lbs), 12-7-2 (3), Majod Al Naqbi (133lbs), 4-0 (2), w rsf 3 Ilia Beruashvili (124lbs), 8-13 (4).

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