Joshua - Molina : The unsung heroes
You will read thousands of words about Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko over the coming months. In fact, you have probably read more than a few hundred today. I’m not going to inflict any more upon you. Instead, let’s bring a few of the heroes from last night’s card at the Manchester arena out from the shadows created by the bold headlines announcing next year’s mega fight.
Dereck Chisora has proudly carried the Union Jack throughout his career. He has used it as a bandit like face mask and carried it on his shorts. The Zimbabwean born heavyweight collects British antiques. Phoneboxes, postboxes, buses, Only Fools and Horses memorabilia. He even drove a Robin Reliant. Until the middle rounds of his titanic battle with Dillian Whyte, Britain has never reciprocated the love Chisora has for his adopted country.
Chisora will be upset at suffering a split decision loss to his London rival but I wonder if - in some ways - the sound of 18,000 fans chanting his name meant more to the eccentric 32 year old.
I have always liked Chisora. His exploits and efforts in the ring have always made more of an impact on me than the his frequent incidents outside of it. Admittedly, the scenes at last week’s press conference went beyond what is acceptable and for many, Chisora is more well known for his infamous skirmishes than the skill and bravery he showed in his fights with Sam Sexton, Robert Helenius, Vitali Klitschko and David Haye. I had started to wonder if the Chisora that rolled forward in those fights had gone forever but last night, he re-emerged.
‘Del Boy’ threw the kitchen table at Whyte and rather than throwing boos and jeers back in his direction, the fans finally took him to their hearts.
There will be many more big nights in Dillian Whyte’s career. His penchant for a grudge and exciting style will always draw interest and ensure he remains a mainstay on television but, for me, last night was all about Dereck Chisora.
Maybe I’m entirely wide of the mark, but Kal Yafai probably envisioned beating Luis Concepcion by utilising his superior height and reach. As it was, the fight became an inside battle and it was Yafai’s strength, poise and cleaner punching that carried him to the WBA super flyweight title.
Sporting red, gold and green, Yafai was the calmer chameleon. He adapted to the landscape of the fight better than Concepcion did. While the Panamanian became frustrated and ragged, Yafai held himself together and worked with what was available. It wasn’t pretty at times but as an exercise in neutralising an opponent and finding a way to make his advantages work, it was pretty much perfect.
Yafai becomes one of the serious players - and the only highly ranked European - in one of boxing’s hottest divisions. ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, ‘Monster’ Inoue and ‘El Gallo’ Estrada are now his contemporaries at 115lbs. He is right in there amongst the bigs boys, figuratively if not physically.
Frank Buglioni had to move his head to beat Hosea Burton. He had to avoid getting caught by the bone jarring long right hand that ‘The Hammer’ possesses. He had to close the distance and drag Burton into a war. Well, Buglioni only managed to accomplish one of those things but, somehow, he also managed to rip away Burton’s British light heavyweight title.
I’m lucky to have been at ringside for hundreds of fights over the last few years but Burton - Buglioni is the best I have seen at first hand.
The fight became a technical war and both fighters had success when fighting on their terms. Burton couldn’t miss with his right hand during the opening three minutes and when he was able to dictate the range, he marked up Buglioni’s face badly. When ‘The Wise Guy’ lived up to his nickname and got out of the way of Burton’s long arms, he was able to land hard combinations to head and crucially as it turned out, body. Close is safe, as Billy Graham is fond of saying.
The fight was logged as a classic long before Buglioni floored Burton in the penultimate round but a final round to and fro which saw Buglioni first in trouble and then triumphant elevated it to a special level.
Burton was a rising force before this fight and there is no reason for him to drop either his head or level of opposition after such a fight. Buglioni has jumped between trainers with each attempting to make adjustments and fix the flawed elements of his aggressive style. Last night, he relied on the qualities that can’t be taught or tampered with to get him through: a huge heart and an unshakeable belief.