IRON Maiden. Two words which proved a recurring theme in Manchester.
Just 24 hours after the heavy-metal legends had made plenty of noise at the AO Arena, Savannah Marshall had to play the iron maiden, showing considerable steel to wrest the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO titles from Franchon Crews-Dezurn, plus the Ring belt, via a majority decision.
A work of art it was not. This was a real blood and snot affair, and after 10 fiercely-contested rounds, we got wildly-diverse scorelines.
There were gasps among the 8,000-crowd when US judge Paul Wallace’s 95-95 tally was delivered first, ahead of 99-92 from Spain’s Jon Llona-Fernandez and Twickenham’s Marcus McDonnell’s 97-93, which looked spot-on. Your BN writer saw it 97-94.
Whatever the debate over the tallies, the best boxer triumphed, and Marshall was able to soak up the glorious moment of becoming undisputed super-middleweight champion and bounce back from last October’s defeat to Claressa Shields.
The self-styled GWOAT, who was visible and voluble at ringside, looms large with promoters Boxxer confident of striking a re-match between the bitter rivals, with St James’ Park a preferred location, though sanctioning body directives could decree that Marshall will take on another unbeaten American, Shadasia Green, first.
Before the opening bell, there was the surreal moment of the reigning champion singing her national anthem. It clearly inspired her because she was the first on-song with some good footwork and jabs.
Marshall got her own jab going in the second, while whacking a couple of long overhand rights into the jaw of the Baltimore boxer.
When the Hartlepool fighter found time and room, she would get through with both fists, but Crews-Dezurn’s physicality ensured a high degree of grappling – three times one or both of the combatants went to the canvas, through wrestling not punches.
Crews-Dezurn put in a huge effort in the seventh and took the last but, throughout, Marshall possessed the sharper, better punches and deserved to have her left arm raised by referee Victor Loughlin.
Natasha Jonas enjoys her nights in Manchester and did so again by winning as she pleased against Kandi Wyatt, who was stopped 33 seconds into round eight of a one-sided contest for the vacant IBF welterweight belt.
It made the Liverpool boxer, now in her 40th year, a two-weight world champion with surely a couple of momentous occasions still to come against equally high-profile opposition.
This was a straight-forward night. Her first left hook wobbled Wyatt before another left drove her back to the ropes with an early night looking almost inevitable.
Wyatt survived that and, thereafter, did come forward, but southpaw Jonas could not miss with her backhand, and didn’t.
A sustained series of head shots to Wyatt’s already-bloodied face prompted the intervention of Mr McDonell in the eighth and a nod of the head from the 32-year-old from Calgary. An excellent piece of refereeing.
Zak Chelli was off the Mark in every aspect as he was outpointed over 10 rounds by sub opponent, Mark Jeffers, whose supporters from nearby Chorley celebrated his career-best win, 97-94 (Loughlin/ McDonnell), 97-93 (John Latham).
The Fulham boxer had been due for a tasty super-middleweight match-up with Mark Heffron, only for the Oldham man to pull out, with Jeffers stepping in and how, stepping in with lefts to the body and rights to the head for starters.
Relishing his opportunity, Jeffers was confident and ultra-accurate in his work, and built up quite a lead and while Chelli found some spark in the fifth, sixth and eighth rounds and desperately threw everything into the last, Mark proved a worthy victor. The unbeaten 25-year-old can look ahead to some bigger occasions. Mark Lyson refereed.
Another super-middle with ambition is Callum Simpson and the Barnsley 26-year-old will have benefited greatly by going the entire 10 rounds with the redoubtable Boris Crighton.
With five first-round KO wins under his belt and nine early finishes on the spin, Simpson predictably began all guns blazing as he searched out his 10th, pinning the Aberdeen man on the ropes more than once.
Simpson boxed in some superb bursts, but Crighton simply would not budge and more than played his part in a watchable contest which ended in scorelines of 99-92 (Loughlin), 97-93 (Lyson), 99-91 (McDonnell). Latham was the third man.
Ben Whittaker’s ability to excite and infuriate were very much in evidence in his eighth-round stoppage of Vladimir Belujsky.
Showman or show-off? Is there much of a difference, surely we want entertainers?
Certainly, the audience lapped it up early on and even his opponent seemed to stand back to allow and admire the Darlaston super-middle’s playing to the crowd.
There were flashes of brilliance and power, in particular when two lefts to the body and three clubbing rights put the Irish-Slovakian down in the third.
However, by the later rounds, all you could hear was chatter in the arena, as seemingly many had ‘switched off’ with the contest petering out, until the last when the Olympic silver medallist burst back into life. His furious attack prompted Mr Lyson to step in at 1-49, with a shake of the head from Vlad who believed he deserved to hear the final bell.
Fury boxers enjoyed a clean sweep after success in the opening and closing bouts.
April Hunter avenged her sole career loss by edging out Kirstie Bavington over eight rounds, Latham favouring the North Shields super-welter 76-75.
The opening half made for difficult viewing with work for Mr Latham, to separate the pair, and for the cut men after early claret-spills.
But the final four sessions were infinitely-more palatable and it saw Hunter find some flow, notably when an overhand right in the seventh connected with Bavvo’s chin, forcing a brief touchdown.
It proved the key moment with Hunter gaining the nod against the Pensnett 30-year-old, who was back to her aggressive self after two losses.
Middlesbrough’s Will Howe, an ex-international team-mate of Adam Azim and Caroline Dubois, and with an eye-catching ‘Boro Balboa’ moniker, launched his career with a 40-36 (Latham) shut-out of Blackpool heavyweight Jake Darnell.
THE VERDICT: Marshall makes the perfect response to middleweight defeat to Shields.
Talking point: Has there ever been a case of a boxer singing the national anthem before a world title fight? Franchon Crews-Dezurn, a singer as well as a fighter, belted out the Star-Spangled Banner before her clash with Savannah Marshall. Shame on those who disrespected it and to the few who booed the UK’s national anthem.