For the second week in a row, Scottish boxing fight cards took a beating before the opening bell. After St Andrews Sporting Club suffered a late pull out on Martin Harkin’s headline title bout, this week it was MTK Global’s turn.
The card was set to be topped by a Battle of Britain as Kieran Smith was to put his WBC International Silver belt on the line against English champion, Adam Harper. Unfortunately, due to issues with his medical, Adam had to pull out on fight week.
One man’s misfortune is another man’s gain as Michael McGurk took his rival’s spot on the top of the bill, facing off against one of the ‘Chopper’s’ previous opponents, Evaldas Korsakas. The Lithuanian had given Kieran a tough outing in his last fight, even dropping him the third round. Scottish fans welcomed this fight, hoping to use it as a yardstick against Smith’s performance, with hopes the two Scottish light-middleweights will eventually meet in the ring.
Korsakas again proved to be more than a journeyman and an excellent learning fight for any prospect. His movement and awkward style caused Michael some problems with landing many clean shots. None the less, it didn’t deter the Uddingston man from pressing forward and keeping his opponent on the back foot. McGurk looked impressive when he maintained a high tempo – dominating the centre of the ring and forcing opportunities through the Lithuanian’s tight guard. Korsakas enjoyed some of his own success when the pace dropped, frustrating McGurk with decent counter punching and mobility. Although he walked away with a bloodied face, it wasn’t quite the ‘war’ that Michael McGurk had hoped for as he coasted to a points victory, winning 79-74 and moving his record to 12-0.
Although the main event was more chess match than tear up, its prelude between David Brophy and Vladimir Belujsky certainly made up for it in possibly the most exciting six rounder I have ever witnessed. As the two faced off in the ring, the size difference was apparent with the Irish-based Slovakian looking a weight division above. From the opening bell, Vlad showed he was there to fight, trying to use his size to back David up and unleash chopping combinations on him. Brophy started slow, assessing his opponent and staying cautious of the big overhand rights coming his way that were occasionally landing . As I sat amongst David’s friends and family, you could feel the tension every time Vlad launched an assault but the Caldercruix super middleweight kept his cool and commanded the centre of the ring throughout.
As the fight wore on and the Slovak became weary, the Scot in turn became more confident. Although he was always a danger, all of Belujsky’s shots began to be telegraphed and Brophy’s class began to show and he took over the fight. Brophy picked and landed a nice variety of shots taking him to a tough but deserved points victory. At times throughout he had to dig deep and any concerns over his previous injuries were surely diminished as he proved to take some heavy shots from a strong opponent. It was a perfect preparation fight as he now targets a shot at the British super middleweight title this year.
Kieran Smith was fortunate enough to get a last minute replacement for Adam Harper, however it was exactly the kind of opponent you’d expect on a few days notice. Jan Balog; an out of shape middleweight from the Czech Republic, whose losing record heavily out weighs his winning column. Smith took out his frustrations on him with precise, hard hitting shots to the head and body as if working a heavy bag. It was looking like the durable journeyman might be happy taking the continued punishment until he failed to respond to the start of the sixth round. Hopefully Kieran will have some better luck in the coming months and land the big fight he craves.
Iain Butcher was at the centre of controversy before his fight. He was originally scheduled to face off against local rival Scott Allan for the Celtic Bantamweight title. However, it was announced that Butcher could not make the weight limit a few days before and attempted to make a catchweight fight. Scott rejected the offer, claiming he was offered it at featherweight, an unattractive proposition which left him without a fight despite putting in a 12 week camp. Butcher, however, was lucky to get a new bout, facing off against Irish Super-Bantamweight, Carl McDonald. The Motherwell boxer was put down in the first round but got up to grind out a close decision. Butcher is undoubtedly talented, experienced and well-liked in the Scottish boxing scene. He was hoping this show would have marked a return to winning ways and the re-emergence of his name in a thriving bantamweight division. However, with the late opponent change, and disappointing weight issues, answers to questions will have to wait.
‘Kelty’s Hero’ Craig Morgan wins fan base of the night, hands down. Despite being the furthest travelled boxer in the blue corner, his fans followed him in numbers. Around 140 friends and family from Fife made the trip to cheer on the highly decorated amateur but sounded like an arena full. His performance was impressive, filled with fancy footwork and flashy combinations as he made easy work of his opponent, winning every round. After the fight, his fans crowded him and cheered him on, lifting him above their shoulders. If this is the reception the 19 year old is getting after going 4-0, we can only imagine the excitement if he reaches the levels that many within the business believe he will.
Lewis Benson returned to winning ways after two close decision losses. The Edinburgh man looked eager to impress, and once he settled down began to box well, picking his shots and cruised to a dominant points display. He took to Twitter after the fight to say he has accepted a big fight next. Watch this space.
Many grooms have various ideas for things to do the night before their wedding. Reece McFadden must be one of the few to spend it in a professional boxing ring. I hope he enjoyed his wedding day as much as he seemed to enjoy the fight, smiling as he landed rapid combinations, living up to his nickname Fasthands. His opponent didn’t seem keen on engaging and was punished with a bundle of body shots any time he attempted to hold. McFadden eventually got the stoppage in the fourth round but left the fight with a small cut, hopefully it wasn’t too bad for wedding photos in the morning!
After a frustrating year with medical issues, Jack Turner finally got the opportunity to make his professional debut. Jack looked eager to impress but his opponent was repeatedly frustrating, looking to spoil and smother Turners work. He did his best to not get caught up in it and we saw glimpses of his excellent upper body movement as he dodged and countered well. Either way, it was an easy and dominant points win for the debutant.
There isn’t much to write about Callen McAuley’s performance as he didn’t waste any time getting his opponent out of there. From the opening bell he went out with intent, looking to create openings with his jab. He quickly cornered his man, landing a big left hand causing him to stumble into the bottom ropes. The referee gave the opponent a count, giving him time to find his bearings, but Cal was ready to pounce and continued his assault before the referee stepped in and waved the contest off.
Nathanial Collins opened the evening’s boxing, and although he is at the start of his career, performing at hotel dinner events, it was evident that ‘The Nightmare’ has the charisma and ability for these big hall shows. Nathanial didn’t get the stoppage but he couldn’t put a foot wrong in the ring, landing various combinations at will as he pivoted off and around his opponent. With his masked entrance to ring, his flashy skills in the ring and fortnight dances post fight, he has star potential.
Despite the last minute cancellations, the card was a success. The packed Emirates Arena made for a great atmosphere, while the flowing, back to back fights provided plenty of value for money for any avid boxing fan. With the Scottish boxing calendar bulging, MTK Global has a deep roster providing packed cards, a venue where there’s not a bad seat in the house and strong coverage with IFL-TV and, in future, ESPN. They’re setting a high bar for competitors.