TO say that Sunday’s inaugural Johnny Lewis Ultimate Fight Night was well received would be an understatement.
The sleeping giant that is Sydney’s domestic boxing scene has been awoken after the stacked seven-fight showcase, which featured a healthy mix of veterans, prospects and legitimate contenders all in competitive match-ups. This is something the state has missed since the promotional prime of Grange Old School Boxing almost a decade ago.
With that in mind, we recap a memorable afternoon for Australian boxing, summarising the rising or falling stock of the stand-out fighters.
We knew the prodigious talent had ability, but little did we know that the Sydney-based prospect and son of a legend had maturity beyond his years too.
For the first time in his professional career, Tszyu (7-0, 5 KOs) tasted the canvas after a scrappy opening round with the traditionally upset-minded Wade Ryan. Expectedly with only six professional outings under his belt, Tszyu appeared to get comfortable too early, showing a distain for any potential power Ryan possessed.
To his detriment, the 22-year-old rushed in with Ryan against the ropes and was caught square. However, as the talented fighters do, Tszyu made adjustments and despite getting tagged continually with Ryan’s left hook from the southpaw stance, found ways to dictate the pace and work his way back into the fight.
It was the first acid test of his fledgling career, and Tszyu passed in all the important categories, showing the will to win as well as the ability to come back from adversity and make adjustments mid-fight.
The majority of pundits believe that Kris George was issued with a get-out-of-jail free card against Jack Brubaker.
The reigning Commonwealth welterweight titleholder (now 13-1, 7 KOs) made the first successful defence of his reign, halting the momentous Brubaker with an anti-climatic win at 2:20 of the sixth round, due to a cut under the left eyebrow of Brubaker, which even leading cutman Brian Wilmot couldn’t sever.
However, it must be noted that George showed wrinkles to his game that most previously hadn’t seen, which appeared to surprise Brubaker, as the general consensus was that George didn’t possess the ability to outbox Brubaker, which he did in patches during the opening three rounds.
The Toowoomba resident also showed a superior poker face, masking what he admitted to be a broken knuckle, which he appeared to suffer in the fourth round. Boxing in many ways is mental warfare and in this element, George did reign supreme, masking a major handicap.
As the 28-year-old showed in previous wins over Ozan Craddock and Bowyn Morgan, Kris George’s right hand continues to be his great equaliser and Sunday afternoon proved to be no different.
The scar-tissue of the Cronulla native continues to haunt him in major fights.
Brubaker has the mettle to hang with the best in the country and has the ability to take a punch unlike many others. Kris George acknowledged this in his post-fight interview, stating that he didn’t know of any other fighters that would’ve absorbed the power of the right-hand that Brubaker did.
The 25-year-old (now 13-2-1, 7 KOs) will live to fight another day, but will face a stint on the sidelines while his cut heals. Although Brubaker has publicly stated he intends to pursue a rematch, it appears unlikely with George chasing bigger opportunities abroad that accompany holding the Commonwealth title.
Brubaker can consider himself unlucky as he appeared to have all the momentum in the fifth and sixth rounds after George suffered a hand injury. At the time of the stoppage, two of the judges favoured George by margins of 49-46 and 48-47, while the third had Brubaker ahead 50-45.
“To tell you the truth, I was pretty happy with the way it ended,” said a relieved George in his post-fight interview with Rick Powell. “I sorta thought that early I was controlling the fight, boxing well and using my jab to keep him off.”
“In about the third or fourth round, I think I’ve broken my knuckle, I usually have this problem. Without the jab to try and keep him off me, it made it really difficult. So I was trying different things, but as he got a little bit of confidence and momentum, he started he started coming forward.”
“I didn’t really have much of an answer, other than the fact he got a bit over keen and started coming in a bit hard. I knew he started going for the body, he was coming in down and he was going to walk into a big shot. So I was slowing off my work-rate and looking for the one big shot, the bowl over right hit him clean on the eye.”
“And I don’t know anyone else in Australia that would’ve stood, hats off to him.”
Photo: Louie Abigail/Photography by Rockfingrz