As I’ve written recently, these are heady times in British Boxing. The breadth and depth of exposure fighters and events are being afforded is unprecedented. This weekend, a host of shows were available to viewers across various channels and platforms and it was hard to know where to bring your shekels and attention to rest. Within the quietness of Sunday I like to reflect on the high points from the weekend; this one came packed with super-sized lightweights, knees to the nether regions and the arrival of a new fighter to my roundtable of favourites.
Personally, I opted for the British Lightweight title fight between Robbie Barrett and Lewis Ritson on Saturday, Chris Eubank Junior’s demolition of Avni Yildirim on Saturday and from Friday, I enjoyed Sam Sexton’s emotional win over Gary Cornish. I tried to simultaneously stay abreast of the Essex card covered by IFLTV on Saturday too, to catch the returning Ashley Sexton specifically, but it proved to be a fight too far.
The Barrett v Ritson fight was a curio, pitching the lightness of Barrett’s movement and combination punching against the welter of Geordie Lewis Ritson’s heavier punches. Ritson’s potential has been burnished by many who saw him walk through the determined but inadequate defence, and offence, of the Darfield man. There was much to like, but this observer is holding counsel until an opponent who represents a threat to Ritson has been found.
There were moments when the disparity in strength and power between the two made me anxious; the presence of Stefy Bull in Barrett’s reassured me sufficiently to relax and enjoy the cat and mouse of the contest. Though the outcome was inevitable from the outset, Stefy relayed only last week to the Sky boxing podcast – in the aftermath of Tom Farrell’s extended battering at the hands of Ohara Davies – that he would never leave a fighter ‘in’ too long. In fact, he went as far as to say he would have quit were he the fighter in such unsurmountable circumstances. Barrett was in safe hands.
Steve Bunce, who did a note perfect job of hosting Friday’s coverage for Boxnation, said during his podcast with Mike Costello last week that “there is a point in some contests where a fighter appears to grow larger and his opponent can suddenly look smaller [and more fragile]”. This was just such a bout.
As Ritson dropped his hands and walked forward, utterly dismissive of Barrett earnestly thrown combinations he looked two weight divisions bigger and in the end his strength prevailed. For those who indulge in a wager on boxing, there was a breadcrumb trail back to an Amateur career in which Ritson frequently boxed at Welterweight.
He now holds a belt variously lifted by mess’s Watt, Buchanan, Schwer, Berg and Welsh. If he achieves nothing else, that is a prize of deep historical significance. For those screeching about including Billy Schwer in this list, I nearly put my old mate Bobby Vanzie in there, so, pipe down.
Back on Friday’s card, in which Sam Sexton emerged from some dark moments in his own personal life, to resurrect a career which had been fitful since the promise of his twenties, another fighter of note arrived in view. At 28, Stephen Tiffney is is not young, particularly at the lower weight, but new to me he certainly was.
The flame haired Scot delivered a performance which belied his novice 7-fight status and served to dismantled the usually awkward and elusive Troy James. For context, James extended Terry Flanagan, the current WBO Lightweight Champion, to ten rounds in the then emerging Mancunian’s 15th bout.
With poise, a wonderful judgement of distance, great head movement and crisp, precise offence Tiffney peppered James and may well have found a stoppage with a round or two more distance available. He constantly confused the more experienced man by seamlessly switching from orthodox to southpaw. Once again, I caution against swift conclusions but rather like fellow featherweight Reece Belloti last year, he has become a fighter I will follow.
A breadcrumb trail here leads back to the fact Tiffney fought as a Lightweight in the Amateurs.*
Neither Tiffney nor Ritson captured me the way Eubank Junior did but Tiffney will, I’m confident, box for the British title next year.
*Thank you Stephen Tiffney for the clarification.