Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Night at the Fights starring Peter Oboh

York Hall, situated in the East London district of Bethnal Green, is one of the legendary venues of British boxing. It is, perhaps, the only remaining venue of this stature given the demise of Liverpool Stadium in the 1980s.

But the halls reputation is not one that is based on architectural magnificence like the octagonal grandeur of 'The Ring' in Blackfriars or the massive environs of the Johnny Best era Liverpool Stadium or the big fight opulence of Madison Square Garden, rather York Hall, a picturesque Victorian edifice is small and understated.

Like the late American 'farming' arena's such as New York City's St. Nicholas Arena, it's enduring charisma derives from it's hosting of those smaller promotions of the debutants, up and coming, the rising star and the champions-in-waiting.

The latest instalment of the halls fight tradition was provided on the Friday evening of September sixth by a joint effort of Adrian Ogun's Lion Promotions and Dave Lewis' Golden Fists. Top of the bill was the London based Nigerian, Peter Oboh who days earlier had being scheduled to face Neil Simpson, the former undefeated British and commonwealth light heavyweight titleholder.

Simpson, however was forced to pull out of the bout due to a shoulder injury sustained in a sparring session and his stead the promoters installed the Kenyan, George Adipo who represented his country as a middleweight at the 1988 commonwealth games held in Kuala Lumpur.

But before both these Africans came to blows, the spectators were treated to a number of matches. First up was a light welterweight contest involving Scott Lawton of Stoke. The idea behind most boxing matches is to match a promising fighter, in whom much hope and money and attention is invested in, with another fighter who ranges from ex-contender status to solid journeyman pedigree.

Here Lawton (as would Ryan Barrett in a later fight with Jason Gonzalez) appeared to fit the former with his opponent, one Ben Hudson, seemingly the latter. If appearances are anything to go by, one could at a glance identify Lawton, attired in long, silver trunks (acting as an illuminant under the gaze of the bright strobe lights) and white sockless shoes as the 'golden boy' to be.

Tall and lanky, he served as a contrast to the black-trunked Hudson's stockiness. He boxed with assurance and confidence and to the consternation of his supporters was not afraid of mixing it with the bulling Hudson.! This fact was not confined to the exchange of punches. When for instance Hudson grabbed him in a clinch and started pushing him, Lawton countered with a grappling move of his own, and shoved Hudson against the ropes. Lawton won 40 points to 37, his sixth straight win in the professional ranks.

The second bout between heavyweights Pele Reid and Derek McCafferty was also a study of opposites. Reid, who was touted some years ago as a great prospect, has disappointed in recent years. But while he has maintained an impressively sculpted physique, McCafferty had rolls of flesh around his waist that wobbled at his slightest movement.

Reid was decidedly the prettier sight, a detail emphasised by his smooth movements and the frequently accompanied shouts from his trainer of "You look beautiful." Reid also found time to step in with an array single power shots consisting in the main of left hooks and uppercuts, all of which McCafferty absorbed.

Reid appeared to hold McCafferty in utter contempt feigning hurt when one of McCafferty's blows caught him square in the face and executing the occasional Ali quick step. Yet, reacting perhaps in frustration at failing to knock his opponent over, Reid's game began increasingly to be punctuated by inane antics that began to earn him t! he animosity of both the referee; who issued him a series of warnings, and his own trainer who slapped, punched and exhorted him to straighten himself out.

It seemed, for a moment at least, that the better fight was being fought in the corner a scenario reminiscent of the purported tactics used by Al Braverman to 'encourage' Frankie DePaula to do better. While Reids behaviour did not impress, it was still something of a shock to see the referee declare the fight a draw. Did Reid drop any points following the referee warnings? Or did the referee adjudge his opponent's resilience in equal proportion to Reid's more authoritative punches?

Next up was the talented South African Super Featherweight fighter Phillip Ndou. Flamboyantly attired in all white, ostrich feathered trunks and tassels; Ndou totally outclassed his Russian opponent Andrei Devyatakin. Ndou started the fight fast mixing his jabs with left hooks and bloodying his opponent's nose in the first round.

The Russian fought back but in the second Ndou's uppercuts and hooks rip Devyatakin apart to the point where a knock appeared imminent. In the third Ndou steadied the pace, giving an excellent exhibition of hand speed.

His offensive and defensive manoeuvres were staged with much aplomb and it was apparent to onlookers that he could end the fight as and when he chose. As the Russian bled increasingly from his nose and progressively wilted, the referee's stoppage of the bout after forty seconds of the fourth was a timely act of genuine compassion.

Then the main event. George Adipo walked towards the ring to the accompaniment of a throbbing reggae beat and completed his entrance with the unfurling of the Kenyan national flag. Then came Peter Oboh attired in Leopard print trunks. His boyish looks and slender looking, though hardened physique, in themselves perhaps do not inspire the unerring observer to palpitate with fear.

But appearances can be deceiving. Oboh, who overcame heavyweights in the earlier part of his career in Italy, punches well above his weight. Indeed it is this reputation for punching hard, which has made potential opponents wary of meeting him. No surprise then that this is to be his first fight since January of 2001.

His response to the authors query two days before the fights as to what his game plan would be was an earnest riposte that he did not pre-plan his fight strategy and instead adapted to the style presented to him once the action commences in the ring. At the sound of the inaugural bell Oboh almost broke into a run as he charged at Adipo and unleashed a stern left hook which sent the Kenyan into retreat and up against his back in a corner of the ring.

Oboh fights out of a D'Amatoesque posture of gloves held high in front of the head from which he throws a typical south paw jab and a left hook cum left cross. He pushed the Kenyan from pillar to post before momentarily changing strategy to occupy a defensive position in a corner. When his opponent came to him he threw two left, uppercuts, both of which failed to connect before resuming the 'chase.'

Still, it would only be a matter of time before the stalker caught his prey. A vicious body shot accompanied by an accidental elbow to Adipo's head sent the Kenyan sprawling to the canvas and referee Mickey Vann had no hesitation in stopping the fight.

Oboh, celebrating his thirty-fourth birthday on the day, fell to the canvas on his back punching his hands in delight. Mutterings from the Kenyan camp about the! suspected elbow to the head temporarily created some doubts that were resolved by BBC television monitors which confirmed the damage done by the body shot.

The last fight of the night was perhaps the nights most engrossing. This was a middleweight contest between Bournemouth-based Steve Bendall and a Brazilian transplant to Canning Town called Thomas Da Silva.

Both men, southpaws, fought a tense battle, which in the early stages, was relatively equal until around the fourth when Bendall's better conditioning and superior technique enabled him tally up an unassailable lead. Bendall, the boxer from whom better things are expected of is thoroughly unspectacular in his modus operandi but is strong and accurate with his punches which are particularly damaging when thrown short.

The Brazilian made matters difficult with his awkward stance and propensity for twisting and bending low. He even cut Bendall in the opening minute during one of several furious exchanges between both fighters, but this detail, Bendall avenged soon after. In the fifth, Bendall pinned Da Silva to a corner of the ring and reigned in accurate hooks crosses across! the Brazilians body and face, but amazingly Da Silva survived.

Again in the sixth Bendall blows delivered a short range thudded off his opponent who seemed always to pause to draw in large quantities of oxygen before throwing back punches of his own. By now the outcome of the fight was determined and if the referee was going to stop the fight it should have being during one of Bendell's damaging outbursts, so it was to some considerable surprise that the referee decided to discontinue the proceedings in the final round while Da Silva was still proving a game opponent.

It was one of those nights when the action went according to the script. No shocks for the up and coming Lawton and Barrett, no upsets for the established Ndou. And for Peter Oboh, a man trying to make up for lost time, there will be much personal satisfaction at achieving the commonwealth title. This however may be tempered by the realisation that it was won against a fighter who is essentially a blown up super middleweight and he will face a sterner test against Neil Simpson whom he is due to meet in the near future.

Still, the man who, according to the fight programme, likes to be known as the Real Deal Fist of Steel did, as he predicted, have his birthday cake and ate it.

Adeyinka Makinde (2002)

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