More important than the header is the news hometown puncher, Carl Johansson successfully repelled the gutsy challenge of Scot Ricky Burns to defend the British Super Featherweight title at the Leeds Town Hall on Friday night. And the fight was compelling viewing.
Watched amidst the din and smoke of the Windmill Inn, Thorne the fight came close to capturing the attention of the local crowd as they sipped their Tetley’s, shaking heads at the price and the quality of the brew. The jukebox’s persistence and with the sound of leather on cheek and intervention of colour commentary muted, the fight failed to cross the floor and grab the casual fan by the lapels.
The fight was a curious one. Burns, who I marginally favoured going in appeared too willing to engage in close-quarter exchanges, sacrificing his significant reach and height advantages in the process. At 5’10, Burns is extraordinarily tall for a Super-Feather, but he planted his feet and threw flurries to respond to Johanneson’s heavier shots. Johanneson was certainly the more authoritative puncher, and despite switching camps in the lead up to the fight – now guided by the famous Ingle gym – he stuck to his punishing style. Using good hooks to the body, Johanneson kept Burns from running and the investment in a body attack paid off with three knockdowns along the way. Nobody could fault Burns’ heart though, as he repeatedly tried to wrestle the initiative or even a round from the softly spoken champion. Simply put, Johanneson covered up well when he needed to and Burns lacks the crack to match his pluck. Despite being close to exhaustion, blood seeping from his nose from around the seventh the game Scotsman continued to seek an opening, a glimpse of weakness to hearten him.
The champion offered neither. Purposeful, and a menacing figure at this level, the champion should go on to secure the Lonsdale belt for keeps on this form and a crack at European honours would also seem within his grasp. It will be interesting to see how the change in gym, and the inevitable tweaks in style change or improve him, but for now Britain has a very credible Super-Featherweight champion and should feel heartened by the willingness of two fighters to reach deep within themselves to try and win a domestic belt.