Jay Harris added the vacant European flyweight title to his Commonwealth belt with a comprehensive victory over gutsy Spaniard Angel Moreno at the Vale Sports Arena.
The Swansea man, trained by his father, a former British featherweight champion – “He’s Peter’s son and he’s number one!” his raucous fans sing – was in charge from first bell to last in a performance which almost matched that of WBC boss Charlie Edwards when he met the Madrid fighter in March.
The judges’ scores – 120-108 from Monaco’s Jean Robert Laine, 119-109 for Pole Grzegorz Molenda and a closer 117-111 by Italian Luca Montella – underlined the one-sided nature of the action, but the marvel was that Moreno made it through after the drama of the previous afternoon’s weigh-in.
Angel was nearly two pounds over the limit at his first attempt and his slender frame did not suggest there was any surplus to lose. Yet somehow he was back 90 minutes later to tip the scales bang on eight stone, though his shaky legs bore witness to the effort.
Few expected him to have recovered his strength by fight time and at the start it seemed Moreno shared those doubts, storming into a wild attack that suggested he felt an early finish was his only hope. The opener ended with the visitor complaining about an errant elbow and, though Harris’s apology was accepted, Angel looked pretty sorry for himself.
A clash of heads in the second left Jay with a nick over the left eye – it never became a factor – and by the close of the third Moreno was moving more confidently.
His renewed belief that stamina would not be a problem proved correct, despite the Welshman’s repeated targeting of the body, but did nothing to overcome the gulf in skill. Italian Massimo Barrovecchio had little to do as referee.
Blackwood lightweight Craig Evans retained the WBO version of the European crown with a repeat 10-round decision over veteran Irishman Stephen Ormond and looked good in doing so. Two last-session knockdowns confirmed Evans’s supremacy in Belfast two years ago; this time Ormond stayed upright, but the overall pattern was the same.
Craig was generally quicker and more accurate in his work, although Stephen kept marching forward and his smile at the end of each round – even the fifth, when tit-for-tat low blows saw both men turn away in pain – reflected his enjoyment, despite being mainly on the receiving end.
A tiring Evans was docked a point by Marcus McDonnell for holding in the last, but it had minimal effect on the outcome, with Steve Gray’s 98-92 supported by 97-92 and a too-close 95-94 from Hungarians Bence Kovacs and Ferenc Budai. Ormond, now 36, announced his retirement afterwards.
The third title clash on this MTK Global card featured the night’s most competitive action, Pontypool’s Kieran Gething somewhat fortunate to keep his Welsh super-lightweight belt with third man Martin Williams handing him a 97-95 vote over Newport’s lanky Craig Woodruff.
The MC’s mic cut out as he announced the challenger’s name, but if that was an omen it was not obvious at the start, with former lightweight ruler Woodruff landing his jab and tying Kieran up when he moved inside. Mr Williams was soon on Craig’s case, but the man they call ‘Smiler’ controlled the first four rounds.
The fifth, however, brought a turning of the tide. Woodruff, perhaps worried about previous difficulties in sustaining a high pace, took his foot off the pedal and Gething capitalised through his greater workrate. He walked on to a sharp left hook in the eighth, but Craig failed to follow up, and, although the two final sessions were toe-to-toe affairs, Woodruff did not do enough to convince the man who mattered.
The only stoppage victories were claimed by unbeaten Kazakh prospects Sultan Zaurbek and Zhankosh Turarov, each in bouts scheduled for eight-threes.
Super-feather southpaw Zaurbek dominated Nicaraguan Sergio Gonzalez but appeared unwilling to risk the all-out assault that would surely have brought referee Chris Jones’s intervention long before it finally came at 2-44 of the last.
Florida-based welter Turarov, meanwhile, making his European bow, hardly had time to show anything before it was over. As the bell rang for the third, Mr Williams walked across to encourage the trainer of Ghanaian Richmond Djarbeng to leave the ring, only to find that the African – the recipient of a few tasty body blows in the second – was unwilling to continue. He claimed to be suffering from stomach cramps.
All six Welsh prospects on the undercard won decisions. Former amateur star Sean McGoldrick, with Martin Murray helping in the corner, dealt with a new Nicaraguan on the scene, Moises Mojica, despite losing a point in the fourth of the six-threes for low blows. Mr Williams, scoring for Mr Jones, had it 59-55.
Also over six, local Steve Robinson and Lance Cooksey, from Rhoose, whitewashed Nicaraguan Jose Aguilar and Stockport trier Jamie Quinn respectively, referee Reece Carter seeing both 60-54.
The four-threes bouts all went to the home fighters by 40-36, with Rhondda teenager Rhys Edwards outclassing another Nicaraguan, Rafael Castillo (Mr Williams for Mr Jones), Cardiff’s Maredudd Thomas, on the eve of his 23rd birthday, overcoming Midlander Kevin McCauley (Mr Williams) and David White, Jr, also on home ground, beating Hull’s Luke Fash (Mr Carter).
The Verdict Calls for an all-Welsh showdown between Harris and British champion Andrew Selby will increase after this.