English amateur boxing looks in rude health after a team of the country’s best fighters comfortably beat a squad from the USA at the annual tournament between the two nations at Tower Hamlet’s York Hall on Sunday.
Spurred on by a vocal home crowd, England won seven of the ten bouts on the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) card, and many of those victors will now have their sights set on competing in the same city for Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics.
Bethnal Green boxer Martin Ward was the highlight of the day, putting on a ruthless display to defeat New Jerseyan Ricky Edwards; the event was a showcase of premier amateur boxers from each nation across a range of weight classes.
With his Repton club’s gym just round the corner 18-year-old Ward seemed determined to demonstrate his full ability and he did just that, mixing some powerful punches with a technical nous to leave his opponent flummoxed. After three 180-second rounds, the judges scored the bout 21 points to 5 in Ward’s favour.
Such was the English fighter’s supremacy the referee was forced to administer two standing eight counts to Edwards who, by the final bell, had begun to bleed. In amateur boxing the referee will count to eight for a knockdown, which is when a boxer touches the floor or hangs onto the ropes, and if a fighter secures three in a match they are automatically awarded the win.
“If I could’ve got one more of them he would’ve been out of there,” featherweight Ward said after the fight. “But I didn’t want to go looking for it at all. The crowd was cheering me on but I wanted to keep a cool head and keep picking me shots.”
Ward added: “It’s always nice to have the supporters backing you but you don’t want to get too much involved because then you rush into mistakes.”
A stunning left-right combination midway through the final round was the best moment of Ward’s selective hitting strategy and it brought those in the stands to their feet.
“I was looking for that shot all the way through it,” Ward said of the blitz of fists that brought about the referee’s second intervention. “I was coming in at him straight in the first round, which was wrong. I had to step side to side and come at him with that right hand.”
Before the event his coach Tony Burns – awarded an MBE for services to the sport last year – tipped the young fighter to take part in the London Games, and his display here will only cement such claims.
“I’m with the England squad up in Sheffield every week, Monday through Thursday,” explained Ward, who in August of this year won the prestigious European Youth Championship in Poland.
He joked: “I think I’m allowed a week off now! But I’m back up there next Monday to get my head down ’til after Christmas.”
USA won the first and last bouts of the afternoon, but sandwiched between the two wins was a total domination by the home side.
Perhaps an indication of the sport’s rising popularity with women, two female bouts, at lightweight and welterweight, kicked off proceedings.
Liverpool’s Natasha Jonas was unlucky to lose a slugfest 39-43 to Californian Patricia Manuel but Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall immediately pulled her country level with a comprehensive win over Brittany Inkrote 19-4.
Flyweight Paul Butler and bantamweight Leigh Woods then secured wins to help England pull away, with Ward’s successful outing coming soon after.
By the time super heavyweight Simon Vallily lost the final bout of the event, 11-8 to Lenroy Thompson, Manchester’s Hosea Burton and Scarborough’s Danny Price had already confirmed England’s overall win with individual triumphs, 10-6 and 12-4 over Luis Arias and Lantar Fenner respectively.
Photo and video by Simon Baker.