“I CAN still make it to the pub!” Josh Taylor shouted to old pals-cum-BT Sport analysts David Haye and Carl Frampton inside a near empty York Hall after an early finish to his IBF and WBA super-lightweight defence against Apinun Khongsong.
The press in the balcony also called to Haye and Frampton after Taylor’s first round KO and asked if the replays on the screens in front of them made the finish any clearer than it had appeared in real time. “A left hand,” Frampton responded while Haye clenched his left fist then wryly shrugged his shoulders.
The Thai challenger was something of a mystery even before he writhed on the canvas after a short, sharp left plunged into his body. Though his 16-0 record matched that of the champion, the 147 cumulative defeats suffered by his opponents should make his position as the IBF mandatory worthy of further investigation. For context, the sanctioning body placed Khongsong eight places above Taylor’s previous opponent, Regis Prograis. The same Prograis who went 12 rip-roaring rounds with the Scot last year in a closer than close fight laced with unquestionable skill and quality. If anyone in the IBF can justify satisfactorily why Prograis is now rated so miserably, I’m all ears.
Such hokey-pokey speaks of the nonsensical manner in which sanctioning body ratings are compiled. Khongsong picked up IBF Pan Pacific and IBF Asia belts in recent years against undemanding opposition, paying sanctioning fees along the way as his IBF world ranking steadily improved. Draw your own conclusions on the morals of that.
But it’s easy to be so cynical with hindsight. Certainly, there were enough whispers of Khongsong’s punching prowess to make Taylor and new trainer Ben Davison take this challenge seriously. The 24-year-old’s long arms and broad shoulders tallied up with a fighter who could bang and as the opening bell sounded he looked significantly taller and wider than the champion. His right arm was cocked and ready to counter, and his left, which he clumped into Taylor’s ear and caused it to redden in the first minute, also carried significant weight.
“A lot of people will disagree but we thought Khongsong was a threat,” Davison told Boxing News in the immediate aftermath. “Josh came straight over afterwards and said [to me], ‘They’re the heaviest hands I’ve ever been in with’.
“We watched how he’d made weight and we picked up on his thin waist. I didn’t expect it to be exploited that soon but, back stage before the fight, I had the body belt on and I’d not felt Josh like that before.
“For a training camp he’s got fatigue and all the rest of it but once that fatigue had gone, I could really feel the difference.”
Khongsong felt it too. Southpaw Taylor used clever feet and feinted with his right to disarm the challenger before pushing him to ropes and administering the wicked left-handed blow. Not only was Khongsong counted out at 2-41 by referee Phil Edwards, he was still grimacing 15 minutes later when he was put in the back of an ambulance on a stretcher and taken to hospital on the instruction of doctors.
“I’ve definitely caved his rib cage in,” Taylor told the assembled press. “I knew that’s what he does in the clinch, he always swings off the clinch so I thought I’d go under the hook. I felt it go right in. I knew it was a good shot but I didn’t know to the extent until I seen him lying on the floor.”
Taylor marches on and deserves credit for taking care of business so clinically. In the end he didn’t quite make last orders for a deserved pint, but one hopes this is the last order he has to take from sanctioning bodies before he gets the fight his talents merit. Jose Ramirez, the WBO and WBC champion, is apparently ready and waiting.
Epsom’s Charlie Edwards returned to the ring for the first time in 13 months and was made to work hard for points win by Wolverhampton’s Kyle Williams. The Midlander tried and tried to put a dent in the former WBC flyweight boss but in the end was the clear loser – 99-91 on referee Bob Williams’ card – after 10 rounds.
Up on the balcony directly above the ring, Edwards’ brother Sunny made himself heard. Making the most of the lack of crowds, he shouted advice to Charlie throughout and even found time to share a joke or two with Williams and his corner. At the final bell, Kyle looked straight up to Sunny and pointed at him through his left glove and offered a wry smile.
Williams – who took Sunny’s mischief in good humour – had his moments. In the fifth he briefly rocked Edwards with a right to the head and had greater success in the eighth, the best round of the fight, when he pinned his opponent on the ropes with a sustained assault on the body. Yet the classier work, orchestrated by quick and intelligent feet, always came from Edwards.
As early as the first round Williams was shaking his head upon being caught. Edwards’ jab was impressive throughout; in a tidy move in the sixth he doubled it, span away from the counter and hurled a right over the top.
A worthwhile outing for Edwards as he maps out a future down at super-flyweight, a division he’s likely better suited to than the bantamweight class this was fought at.
Spain-based Romanian Ionut Baluta may not be the underdog again for a while. For the third consecutive time he upset the odds, this time with a bruising and emphatic third round stoppage of Ireland’s fancied David Oliver Joyce. The victory follows wins over Kyle Williams and TJ Doheny.
Baluta controlled the opening round before attacking like his life depended on it in the second. The former amateur star – who lost to Vasyl Lomachenko as long ago as 2008 – was in trouble but fired back as the pair exchanged meaty shots in Baluta’s corner.
Baluta stepped up another gear in the third. This time, 33-year-old Joyce could not go with him and his head was a stationary target. A searing left hook crashed off Joyce, by now in dire straits, and he toppled in slow motion onto his back. He regained his footing but little else and referee Steve Gray called off the hammering at 1-49.
Oxford’s Jordan Flynn opened the evening with a 60-54 whitewash of Stockport’s Jamie Quinn. Flynn was flashy and eager throughout, scoring to Quinn’s body with looping blows but he struggled to penetrate his much-travelled opponent’s high guard with most of his rat-a-tat attacks upstairs. In the thick of lockdown, Quinn told Boxing News he feared he may not fight again because the demand for journeymen would cease, but this latest outing was his third in four weeks.
The inspirational comeback of 38-year-old “Jazzy” Jeff Thomas, from Lytham St Annes, could be over after he was soundly beaten over four rounds by George Davey. Trained by popular former super-middleweight contender, Henry Wharton, the York prospect’s lead left hand, generally thrown as a jab but occasionally as a hook, was on point throughout. Thomas did score with a big left hook himself in the dying moments but was too frequently beaten to the punch. Mr Williams scored it 40-36 in the 22-year-old’s favour.
Gateshead’s Karl Pilkington dutifully chased Northampton’s Eithan James for the entirety of their four-rounder, picked up a swelling beneath his left eye but left a 40-36 loser on the card of referee Williams. James, only 20, was made to work hard for the victory in every round in a solid workout.