IT’S not an uncommon phenomenon for observers to disagree about what they’ve seen take place in the ring. You could sit ten people before a fight and get ten varying opinions at the final bell. How do we decide which is correct? Maybe they all are, or perhaps none represent the actual truth. Ultimately, it all boils down to interpretation and we can all have our view, but in boxing the moral high ground is always the least crowded part of the landscape.
What isn’t in dispute is that Bushey’s Miles Shinkwin turned in a fine performance to outpoint Leigh Park’s Joel McIntyre 97-95 on referee Jeff Hinds scorecard for the Southern Area light-heavyweight belt, a win that is even more praiseworthy given it was achieved with a broken rib sustained in the second round and a badly cut eye from a clash of heads in the eighth. The fact that Shinkwin betrayed absolutely no sign of the debilitating pain he must have been suffering from the rib underlines the man’s fighting heart, and while the hugely entertaining fight was close there can in my view be no plausible argument that the decision was not the right one, despite the reaction of some sections of the crowd on the night.
Shinkwin’s excellent boxing combined with a slow start from the heavy-handed McIntyre saw the Bushey man take the first three rounds. Sharpshooting accurately from the outside, Miles moved extremely well while conceding the ring centre to McIntyre who had difficulty adjusting to the rangy style of his opponent. Holding his left out in an attempt to disrupt Shinkwin’s rhythm, McIntyre sought to get close and land his shots but Shinkwin was able to draw on his impressive experience as a decorated amateur to avoid a lot of the trouble, until of course the rib-breaking right landed in the second. From that point onwards the shape of the battle changed although we were not to know until afterwards exactly why. Nonetheless, Joel began to have his successes in the third as he settled down and scored with body-shots when he could find the range. At time both men stood off and waited for the other to lead although this tactic worked better for Miles who countered very effectively despite his punches appearing to have little effect on the tough McIntyre. The third was much closer than the preceding two, but Shinkwin shaded it.
Both men must have felt the heat on the very warm night but that didn’t stop the pace from increasing as they shared some furious exchanges in the fourth which McIntyre just nicked with his greater pressure and aggression. Miles showed a truly excellent jab that scored repeatedly, a weapon that served him well throughout the ten rounds, and although warned for a low blow in this round and the next, his elusive movement was causing problems for Joel who perhaps did not cut the ring off in the way he should have done. Rounds five and six were among the closest of the fight as Joel upped his workrate and scored with some heavy left hooks and straight right hands while shipping fast jabs from Miles. Both rounds appeared to belong to McIntyre, but the margin was so small they could in truth have gone either way. McIntyre appeared to be getting stronger in the seventh but his recklessness caused him to take some punches he should have avoided. This was Shinkwin’s biggest round, who bravely continued to show no indication of the discomfort caused by the broken rib while boxing smoothly and landing some good punches. There was drama in the eighth as Miles suffered a nasty cut over the right eye from a head clash, causing the referee to refer to the ringside doctor. There was real anticipation that the fight was about to be stopped which would have been a terribly unfair way for the fight to end, but fortunately Shinkwin was waved back into action despite the blood continuing to stain his features.
In rounds nine and ten Shinkwin’s work deteriorated as exhaustion caught up with him and McIntyre came on strongly. While Miles’s jab continued to play a significant part in the action, Joel applied the pressure and poured in his shots to have Shinkwin clinging on at the final bell. While the decision caused consternation in some quarters there can be no doubt that the result did no harm to either man as they provided an absorbing spectacle that meant both warriors exited the contest with their pride intact. Graciously, both men talked to Boxing News of their experience of the blistering bout.
Trained by the highly respected Jason Rowland, the Bushey man (9-0) spoke of his pride in delivering such a great fight: “The fact that so many people were entertained makes it more special. We never had a game-plan going in. You’ll think I’m mad saying that, but we never have planned any fight because we don’t think game-plans work, you’ve got to feel your way in. We knew Joel would be strong, everyone told us he would be. I went out in the first round and wanted to feel for myself what he was like, and he was strong I’ll give him that. I figured the best way to beat him was to bring him on and make him miss. On the night I thought it was six rounds to me, three to Joel and one even, but we’ve watched the fight again and a couple of those rounds were even or could have gone eitherway. Scoring shots win rounds, and I felt that in every round I was landing more, apart from the last which was tough. My style of boxing is sharp and crisp and I potshotted him. I like to think my better boxing won it. Joel’s a tough kid and he gave me a tough fight, and not to put him down but I think he only knows one way to fight. I’m not saying it’s a bad way to fight, I’m sure he looks at me and thinks I just hit and run. You could see him getting impatient with waiting (for Shinkwin to lead) but I’d wait for eight rounds if I have to.
“There’s been a lot of talk saying I was holding, I was this or that, but he head-butted me and you didn’t see me complaining. The cut was from a butt and the first thing he did after that was head-butt me on the nose! To be fair Joel didn’t moan either about the low blows. I think my jab won the fight didn’t it? I hit him with it a hundred times and he didn’t know what to do with it. I’m not sure but I think he may have underestimated me. We were both confident, but I could tell from the look on his face that he thought he was going to blow straight through me and after that first round it was a shock to him. I thought I won the first five rounds although the fifth was close. But boxing’s about opinions, I know that, and now that Joel’s said to me personally that it was fair enough, if I win by half a point, one point or ten points a win’s a win. When they said “..and the new, in the red corner” I thought don’t you dare do this to me – I thought I was in the blue corner!
“I broke my rib in the second round but I’ve a giant pair of balls. The punch didn’t really hurt but I just felt it crack. I sat down at the bell and said to Jason I’ve broken it. He asked what I wanted to do, but what can you do? I went out and won the third after that, but the rib caused me pain through the whole fight. The doctor afterwards said there was nothing he could do about it, I’ve just got to let it heal. I had six stitches in the cut and the blood was going in to my eye. But when we train Jason will say to me things will happen in a fight and you’ve just got to learn to get over them. Afterwards he said to me in just one fight your rib broke, you got cut, head-butted and overcome them all in a ten round brawl and I’m proud of you. I was happy with that. Do you think those people who said I had no heart will be saying that now? Joel and his team knew the only way to beat me was to get me to fight his fight. All that stuff was said to just wind me up.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to Joel but I think if it wasn’t for the rib it would have been a completely different fight. I became very defensive after that, but he’s a tough, tough kid. A couple of right hands hurt him I think but he didn’t bat an eye. I don’t want to take away from the fight that he fought though because he should feel proud as well. I think it was abundantly obvious that he was stronger than me.
“If you knew me personally you’d know I don’t tell lies, and at no point did he hurt me. When I watched it back last night it did look like I was hurt a bit in the tenth, but I honestly wasn’t. It was just exhaustion. I didn’t feel the heat to be honest. Whether I was so focused on what I was doing it never crossed my mind, and there were two of us in there so it was the same for both of us. The hot weather training I did in Marbella helped massively I think.
Shinkwin carried his hands very low but it seemed to work for him in the same way it did for David Haye: “A few people have said that. My dad trained me for fifteen years or so and he always went on and on about my hands being low, but I never really got them up. Then when I turned pro Jason said from now on the hands have got to be up. We went through a phase of maybe six months where I did that, but I didn’t like it or feel comfortable. But you saw it in the fight – when I need to have them up I do, like when I was on the ropes. I’d say that throughout the ten rounds I only got hit cleanly five or six times, so with my hands being down that’s not a bad return is it? I’m not in a massive rush to do anything, I’ve been a pro for eighteen months and I’ve won two belts. I’m going to take a little break now and I’m getting married in six weeks. In your career you can’t have too many fights like that anyway, they take a toll in the end. Not just the fight, but the twelve week training camp. You can’t do it to your body all the time.”
With characteristic positivity, the affable McIntyre (11-1) was able to reflect on the fight with optimism. Trained by Harry Andrews, he said: “He’s got a good amateur pedigree and he’s a good fighter and now I think I can mix it with anyone in the division. With a little bit more effort from myself or a change to my game-plan I think it would have been a completely different fight. What matters is that everyone enjoyed it, it just needed me have a bit more belief in myself and step it on a bit more and I could have come away with the victory. But I wouldn’t have learned so much from the victory as I did the loss, as now I know I should have stepped it up, thrown caution to the winds and unloaded. He’s a good, fast boxer but he seemed very fragile.
“I’m my own worst critic and I train harder than anyone I know, I just need to transfer it over from the gym to the ring and the loss has taught me that I should take one round at a time. If you break it down, I’d rate my performance as a five out of ten. It could have been a hell of a lot better, but then it could have been a lot worse too. Miles executed his game-plan. He did what he was good at and he didn’t get into a fight with me, he stuck to what he had to do so he would score highly in my book.
“I didn’t have enough urgency at the beginning. I’ll tell you, it all went so fast. In the corner Harry said to me you’ve two rounds left, you have to knock him out. I looked at the ringcard girl and it was the final round! I said Harry, I’ve got one round and he said you better hurry up then! I’ve only got myself to blame for the slow start. I was trying to feel him out in the early rounds, but it does take me a while to warm-up. I think it’s psychological – towards the end of fights I step it up and put everything into it, but what I’ve learned from this is that I can do that all the way through the fight, I don’t have to wait until the end of a fight to do it. That’s what it comes down to and I’ve just got to apply it.”
“His jab was fast, but it was his countering that gave me trouble as his reflexes are really, really good. He’s very fast. I kept my hand out in front so he couldn’t get his combinations off that well but he wasn’t bothered by it as much as we thought, maybe it was his experience which to be fair is unbelievable. That’s why I should have walked him down more with a lot of head movement and just gone for it.”
“He was very fast and very elusive and he’s got freakishly long arms so he was always in range. He moves very well too. I know – shoulda, woulda, coulda – but I really should have pressed him more and adjusted mid-fight which I failed to do. But it’s all experience.
“I think with even just a few more seconds it could have been stopped. He may have weathered the storm, but to be honest I don’t think so. He looked so wary in the last couple of rounds, and although he’ll probably tell you differently I could see it in his eyes.
“He didn’t hurt me at all in the fight but on four or five occasions I hurt him. I heard I’d broken his rib but I wasn’t aware it had happened at the time. I know I caught him with a good right hand in the second and although I don’t have a lot of KO’s on my record I’m clearly damaging people when I hit them. He obviously took it and dealt with it well because at no point did I know I’d done it. I can only imagine how much it hurt. I’d never deliberately head-butt the man but he was moving so much. He was down low and has long arms, it was just a clash of heads.”
“I want to fight again as quick as possible. I’m having this week off and then I’ll be back training Thursday. I don’t want to get fat! I think after that fight more people will want to watch me fight, and before to be honest I didn’t really give them a great reason to get excited when I fought. I needed the challenge to get up for it, but now I realize when you do put the effort in and the people see it they start to respect it.”
There have already been various calls for a rematch given the closeness of the decision, but it’s highly unlikely this will happen at least nor for some time. Miles says: “We’re both young pros, and I’ll fight anyone. My team will put the best in front of me, but unless they offer a good, good wage for the fight I don’t think it’ll happen.”
For the winner, other opportunities await, while the proud McIntyre can reflect on the fact that he has proved he belongs in championship class. As for opinions, we’ve all got them haven’t we?