There are few periods in British boxing that stand comparison to the current buoyancy and popularity of the sport. Within this on-going euphoria it is easy to become desensitised to the merits of a good old fashioned ‘scrap’. The Dennis Hobson card which appeared on FreeSports here in the UK, live from Ponds Forge, Sheffield, offered just such an opportunity to remember the value of evenly matched opponents intent on securing a victory over their foe. Small purses, but gallons and gallons of courage, determination or, to make best use of age-old boxing parlance, heart.
Luoa Nassa, the favourite, succumbed in the final round of 10 to a desperate onslaught from Brad Watson. Rallying from a knockdown in the 6th, apparent fatigue and a potentially fight ending cut on the bridge of his nose, Watson eventually overwhelmed Nassa with a series of flush right hands.
Having struggled to secure viewing rights in my local hostelry in the face of apathy and a solitary vote for Rugby League, the fight eventually captured the attention of most of the gathered throng – as boxing invariably does. This, despite neither contestant being recognisable to all but the most devoted of, well, devotees, the weight being unclear as the negotiation with the locals cost me the opening round and any title or status of the fight remaining unknown and hard to decipher from the coverage afforded. For context the entire fight was viewed beneath the sound blanket of a busy Friday night and a soundtrack of thudding, wealth-creating jukebox choices. I couldn’t hear Glenn McCrory but it was good to see him back on the microphone.
From the third Watson, a fighter of slender means, an arching spine and a gaunt, vulnerable visage looked tired, despite the defiance of his smile and a deep cut to the left side of the bridge of his nose. Opponent Nassa had echoes of the firtive style of other members of Sheffield’s pugilistic past, and benefitted from the wisdom of Ryan Rhodes – the former World-Title challenger, but lacked the power or precision the greatest of that Ingle lineage possessed even when he had the momentum to do so.
Watson belied his youthful and vulnerable looks to demonstrate resistance and presence of mind to survive, return from a 6th round knockdown to put Nassa down too, overcome the deluge of pressure in the interim and silence the scream of resistance from his aching limbs to turn the tide of the contest in the subsequent rounds too. It was a remarkable achievement and one which teased attention from the reluctant and a nod or two from those with more than a fleeting interest in the fight. There are half a dozen British referees I could suggest who would have stopped Watson in light of his fall to the canvas in the sixth such was the clear evidence of exhaustion he was presenting, Shaun Messer deserves credit for offering Watson opportunity to prove he could respond.
By the closing rounds, Watson looked the more determined and resolute and imposed that will upon Nassa, knocking him down twice in the final round and in doing so, encouraged a timely stoppage and secured himself the English Super-Flyweight title belt in the process.
It was a welcome reminder that boxing, as a spectator sport, doesn’t need ‘beef’, or the exchange of insults, or pyrotechnics or Instagram campaigns. Just two ‘good boys’, as Enzo Maccarinelli might say, evenly matched with something to prove to the gathered, to their opponent and most of all, to themselves.
Congratulations to Watson, and to Nassa too, for sacrificing slivers of their whole in proving their mettle in a fierce and enthralling contest. Subsequent research illustrated the enormity of the mountain Watson had conquered and the depth of his will to prevail; his victory preceded by 15 months of inactivity and just two fights, both lost, at Super-Bantamweight in the preceding two years.
In the main event, Josh Wale retained his British Bantamweight title with a 9th round stoppage of a game Bobby Jenkinson.