Wednesday 30 March 2011

A Night at the Fights Starring Mark Potter

There are those who like heavyweight boxing for one reason and one reason alone; that is no matter how adept the favoured fighter is and how inept his opponent is perceived to be, one punch and one punch alone delivered by a homo-sapiens weighing over 15 stones is capable of levelling the other man. 

This adage is of course disputable and perhaps bears the ring of truth in relation to all weight division; any decent fighter has the proverbial 'puncher's chance.' And when South African unknown Osborne Mashimane, weighing in at seventeen stone and five pounds, caught British Southern Area champion Mark Potter in the first round with a series of combinations and Potter was first staggered and then dropped, one ringsider at Bethnal Greens York Hall was forced to quip the following question: "Was this in the script?"

The Jim Evans-Robert Waterman promotion on December the third, though billed as 'The Night of the Contenders' did not unearth any potential world title contenders but still provided a series of interesting and hard fought battles by grass root battlers of the ilk of light welterweights Nathan Ward and Dean Larter, Ian Eldridge and Christian Hodogear, middleweights Dean Powell and Thomas DaSilva, Lee Hodgson and Leigh Wicks and light heavyweights Jamie Hearn and Mark Phillips.

However, it was the featured bout of Potter and Mashimane that offered the crowd the most entertaining bout of that Tuesday evening. Potter, who was stunningly knocked out by Danny Williams for the vacant British heavyweight title in October of 2000, was the putative favourite in a bout he took in order to keep himself well-oiled for showdown with someone like Keith Long if Williams were to vacate his British title.

The fight started theatrically with Mashimane's stocky trainer barking high-pitched staccato-phrased encouragements in what sounded like Zulu from his corner to the bemusement of the on looking press corp. It jarred a British Boxing Board of Control official so much that he walked over twice in abortive attempts to calm him down. 

Nevertheless, Mashimane appeared to benefit, at least temporarily, as he distanced himself from Potter with a long left that set up a number of scoring combinations which towards the end if the round had the Englishman bleeding and finally reeling into the ropes and dropped to his knees for a standing eight count. It was the clanging tones of the bell ending the inaugural round that saved him.

Potter's corner shrewdly bought some precious seconds at the din of the second by 'forgetting' to put Potter's gum shield in the required location. This ploy appeared to be ineffective when Mashimane again dropped Potter with a solid delivery of combination punches. Yet, as the crowd hushed in astonishment at the presumed impending dislocation of the native fighter, Potter underwent an incredible change of fortune by digging deep into his reserves, staying low and bulling into the taller South African with short, powerful hooks to the ribcage and head. 

The roar which accompanied each surge from the Walthamstow based champion was deafening in its intensity and although the ensuing exchanges were short and quickly followed by clinches, the damage wrought on Mashimane was evident in the sudden down turn in the South African's work rate and enterprise. Potter staggered him with a right hook and ended the round in the ascendant.

In the third, urged on by the crowd, Potter stalked and pressed forward finally putting his opponent down with a body punch. As he kneeled in his corner, his trainer, all but a few inches from him, let out a scream and drummed his right hand heavily on the canvas. Mashimane looked at him and wistfully shook his head indicating that he could not overcome his tiredness and his pain. Referee Ken Curtis completed the count and waved the fight over.

Where then does this bout leave Mark Potter? On the one hand, he demonstrates courage and fortitude in coming back from near certain defeat to stop his opponent and on the other, the naysayers would claim that he ought not to have been troubled by a fighter of Mashimane's pedigree in the first place, and is perhaps on a downward spiral in his career.

Only time will tell.

(C) Adeyinka Makinde (2002)

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