IF THERE is one man not buying into the hype that is surrounding Hamzah Sheeraz right now, it is the man himself. The recently elected British Young Boxer of the Year took another step along the route to the stars all prospects try to follow as he stopped Francisco Torres in five rounds at the Copper Box in East London.
It was a dominant display, although Sheeraz did have to pick himself off the floor in the third round, having been caught wide open when he was going for a finish after scoring a knockdown himself.
Sheeraz knocked Torres down three times (twice in that third round). At 6ft 4in, the 23-year-old, who moved to 16-0, has massive physical advantages and, as he showed against Torres, even his jab can knock people over.
There is talk of matching Sheeraz with British champion Denzel Bentley, which would be a big step forward. But sometimes it is difficult to keep expectations realistic when it can feel like anyone with a natty pair of shorts is being labelled as a “future world champion”.
BT Sport, who broadcast Saturday’s show, have never knowingly undersold anything, but their caption, declaring Sheeraz, presumably in error, as the new WBC middleweight champion, omitting the word “silver”, was definitely putting carts before horses.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I know I have got a long, long, long way to go and I’m going to keep my feet on the ground,” Sheeraz said.
Sheeraz did little more than test his range in the first round before imposing himself in the second. Early in the third round, Torres was on the floor from a left jab, but as Sheeraz went for the finish, he was caught by a right and dropped himself.
Sheeraz looked more annoyed than hurt and, remarkably, he had the Argentinian over again in the same round, as a right hook knocked him down along the ropes.
The fourth round proved to be quite dull by comparison, as Sheeraz walked Torres backwards, working the jab well, but he finished in style in the fifth, landing two good chopping rights, before dropping Torres hard with a big right. Torres beat the count but referee Mark Lyson waved it off at 1-56.
Mark Heffron became a British champion at the third attempt as he stopped Lennox Clarke for the super-middleweight title in a thriller, having previously lost to Liam Williams and Bentley at middleweight. He also won the Commonwealth title and a minor IBF belt for good measure.
Clarke endured a torrid first round, as Heffron landed repeatedly with hard, short hooks. Clarke was rocked consistently, as Heffron could not miss, but somehow he stayed uptight.
The minute’s rest seemed to do wonders for Clarke, though, as he came out to take the fight to Heffron in the second, as he began to walk through Heffron’s punches.
Heffron edged the third and fourth rounds, before taking total control in the fifth. When one left hook staggered Clarke back to the ropes, Heffron pounced, landing two more hard head punches before referee Bob Williams jumped in to stop it at 2-28.
Clarke was furious, though, as he twice pushed Williams and then shoved Heffron as he ran around the ring in celebration.
It was a difficult call, Clarke had taken plenty of heavy shots and been rocked, but he had generally shrugged them off. You could understand the frustration of Clarke, for whom becoming British champion had meant so much, but you could also appreciate Williams’ view.
Dennis McCann is a name that many speak of as a future superstar, but at 21 he is a lot nearer the start of his journey than his destination. He recorded his best win to date by stopping former British title challenger Jimmy Beech Jnr in the eighth round of 10 at featherweight.
McCann started like a whirlwind, knocking Beech down in the first. He seemed to switch off in the middle rounds, but he regained control, softened Beech up and dropped Beech with a clubbing right hook in the eighth, then picking his shots well to have Beech in trouble on the ropes, the towel flying in from Beech’s corner, prompting Loughlin to wave it off. The time was 1-34.
Nick Ball forced a stoppage against Nathaneal Kakololo 93 seconds from the final bell in their 12-round featherweight fight.
Ball gave away plenty of inches to Kakololo, but beat him to the punch throughout and timed his attacks well, drawing in the Namibian.
Kakololo was tough, though, taking plenty of stick before finally being stopped in the twelfth, referee John Latham stepping it at 1:27, as the Namibian turned away from a Ball onslaught.
Masood Adbulah moved down to super-flyweight as he extended his unbeaten record to five fights with a hard-earned eight-round decision over Buglaria’s Tinko Banabakov, referee Williams scoring it 77-75.
Pierce O’Leary lived up to his nickname of Big Bang as he uncorked a big right hand to stop Spain-based Nicaraguan Robin Zamora in the second round of a super-lightweight eight. Zamora picked O’Leary off in the first round, but a big right hook left Zamora standing but defenceless. Referee Sean McAvoy was quick to weigh up the situation and waved it off at 1-01.
Light-heavyweight prospect Karol Itauma stopped over-matched Michal Gazdik, of Slovenia, at 0-50 of the fourth round.
Ryan Garner boxed at a high pace to outpoint Christian Lopez Flores, a Mexican living Spain, at super-featherweight, referee McAvoy scoring 80-72.
Khalid Ali blasted out Des Newton in the second of their super-welterweight six-rounder. A big left dropped Newton, the back of his head hitting the bottom rope, which was a cue for a ringside doctor to jump into the ring, only to then be pushed away by referee Bob Williams who had decided to count Newton. He did make it to his feet, only for Williams to then wave the fight off at 0-54 of the round.
Umar Khan had to get off the floor in the second round before extending his unbeaten record to four fights with a six-round decision over Engel Gomez, from Nicaragua, via Spain. Referee John Latham scored it 58-56 to Khan.
Sonny Liston Ali claimed a 60-55 decision from referee McAvoy over Chris Adaway at super-lightweight. Sean Noakes stopped MJ Hall at 2-45 of the second round at welterweight.
THE VERDICT: Sheeraz confirms his quality and Heffron shows ongoing improvement