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Hellraiser Duo Defend Titles in London

by Adam Thorn

Hellraiser fighters Asinia Byfield and Darryll Williams both looked to retain their respective Southern Area super welterweight and English super middleweight titles on Saturday night in a packed Copperbox Arena in London’s Olympic Village. Both were in big tests with plenty of needle in the build up between them and their opponent’s teams.

A stacked card provided for BT Sport by Frank Warren and Queensbury promotions featured top British talent and prospects, and once again the Hellraisers on the bill delivered excitement to a big audience at home and in the venue. Forest Hill’s Williams, 15-0 (6), won his title in April, ripping it away from Leicester’s Jahmaine Smyle, 14-5-2 (6), in a thrilling fight the latter’s home town. The contest was so close and enthralling that an immediate rematch was ordered.

Having linked up to be trained by Ricky Hatton, there was strong support for Darryll to go one better than last time and stop his opponent this time out. Williams also had huge and very vocal support as one would expect for the Londoner nicknamed “Ferocious”.However Jahmaine boxed very well, initially keeping the shorter Williams on the end of his jab and looking to take the opening two rounds. However in round three Williams whipped a right over the top which crashed into Smyle’s temple and caused him to touch down briefly.

The knockdown invigorated the champion and he upped his workrate, looking to press home the advantage. To his credit, Smyle rallied and the fourth round was a very close affair which could have gone either way. In the fifth the referee Steve Gray warned the fighters for clinching, encouraging some space to open up for punches to be landed.

The sixth round was the clearest one for Jahmaine as he moved well and frustrated his foe. Darryll came on strong in the last few rounds, showing remarkable stamina and was noticeably the fitter of the two men down the stretch. Ferocious really went for it towards the end, almost looking like he might get the stoppage in the final stanza. The fight did go the distance and to the cards, as the Copperbox crowd chanted “Darryll, Darryll!”

The result took a while coming, it became evident the tallies were close and being checked and  recounted. Much of the fight could have been scored either way, but Darryll’s pressure, greater power and harder chin impressed. A majority decision was announced and a look of tension appeared in the fighter’s faces; both men had put on another great show and both also knew it was tight. However, 95-95, 96-94 and 96-94 was read out, followed by, “and still!” provoking an embrace between the two, which was nice to see. Williams retains his belt and will be looking to keep on improving.

Reading’s Asinia Byfield, 12-1 (5), had been very confident in the build up to his Southern Area title defence, stating that he didn’t think opponent Sammy McNess was in the same league as him. McNess has good amateur pedigree but had been largely untested in his 7-0 (3) career leading to Saturday’s bout. While he likes to come across as brash and cocky Byfield, known as “D’Ghost”, studies the sport like a professor and had been saying he’d be far too soon for the hugely popular West Ham fan. There had been lots of back and forth on social media with McNess supporters, too, and as expected they showed up en mass to back their man, effectively taking over a whole side of the Arena, covering it in “Ghostbuster” flags and singing jovially.

The stage was set for a dramatic clash to test how far both men have come as pros. Asinia won the title last year, outpointing the durable and experienced Erick Ochieng in October, then dominating and stopping John Brennan in five rounds this February. Confident his power is coming along, D’Ghost was prophesying the day before the fight that McNess was lacking in self belief, being protected by his trainer Mark Tibbs and that when the going got tough, they would pull their man out of the fight.

Rounds one and two saw Asinia switch hitting and dancing around McNess, landing from awkward angles and not allowing the challenger to find any rhythm or range. Then midway in the third a straight right crashed into Sammy’s chin and he staggered forward, grasping Asinia and putting him against the ropes, desperately holding on to stay in the contest. Byfield’s belief skyrocketed and he went looking for a stoppage, landing shot after shot, moving a desperate looking Sammy around the ring. McNess did occasionally land single punches as Asinia walked in but they didn’t bother the champion.

In the fourth round Asinia seemed to be waiting for McNess to come in and make a mistake, which with half a minute left he did, walking in too square on and being repaid with two big right hands from Asinia. McNess took the shots admirably but backed off, smarting from the blows. It looked like just a matter of time and as he was in the corner Asinia assaulted him for the remainder of the round, McNess was lucky the referee didn’t step in before the bell.

In the corner Tibbs told his charge to “liven up” but it felt like his best shot was Byfield, a man who trains as hard as any athlete, somehow punching himself out. The writing was on the wall and although Sammy did bravely try to engage and show more of himself, Asinia began varying the bombardment, winging left hooks and right uppercuts into a now very wobbly opponent. Sammy staggered forward under the weight of punches and got caught more as the Reading man didn’t let up, it was going to be a horrible stoppage but the towel come flying in from Tibbs to end the contest. Exactly as he had predicted he would, “D’Ghost” gave “The Hammer” nightmares, and this loss may well haunt him.

Rightly ecstatic, and doing no more than another away fighter would do on winning, Byfield jumped on the ropes to celebrate, and gave his trademark “dab” dance move. His celebrations were cut short as trouble broke out in the stands. Security intervened but the scuffles took a while to damper down and sadly for Team D’Ghost they were denied being awarded the title in the ring.It was sad to see, not to mention worrying for the innocents simply out trying to watch the boxing caught up in it.

For his part, McNess will be gutted, but showed a lot of heart under a sustained period of power punches landing from his conqueror. Byfield wants to move up the rankings toward world level and who could say they don’t want to see more of the two Hellraiser fighters who both gave gutsy and exciting performances in the East End.

Posted: 10th Jul 2017

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