Nov 01, 2011 Sports
O’Neil out-punches London in ‘Thirst Park Explosion’
By Michael Benjamin
A heavy downpour just after the final bell of the second bout forced a temporary lull to the proceedings and sent the small but boisterous crowd rushing for shelter but when the skies eventually cleared, Edmond DeClou pounded out a majority decision over Howard ‘Battersea Bomber’ Eastman and relieved him of the National Middleweight title when the two fighters clashed over 12 rounds for that accolade at the Banks DIH Thirst Park ground, Saturday evening last.
In the main supporting bout, Gwendolyn ‘Stealth Bomber’ O’Neil defied similar conditions and eventually retained her Women’s International Boxing Association (WIBA) light/heavyweight belt after a hectic bout that earned her a close split decision verdict over a game but outclassed Pauline London, while Simeon ‘Candy man’ Hardy made mincemeat of Barbadian Julian Tannis, dumping him on the canvas for the full count at 1:40secs of the second stanza of their jnr/middleweight bout.
Trinidadian based pugilist, Iwan Azore also turned back the challenge of Troy Lewis and captured a close split decision verdict at the end of their 8 rounds middleweight battle, moments before Jermaine King and Mark Austin turned in an entertaining and gutsy display with the latter boxer carting off the spoils. In the night’s opener, Orland ‘Pocket Rocket’ Rogers was clearly no match for Dominican based Guyanese, Clive Atwell and predictably dropped a unanimous verdict in their 4 rounds catchweight affair.
Eastman and DeClou engaged in the obligatory feeling out process in the first round and it was the former fighter who seized the initiative in the second stanza with several combinations that forced the latter backwards. DeClou, a noted late fighter, attempted to work himself into a rhythm and in the interim; Eastman used his vast experience to nose ahead. He punished DeClou with some telling right crosses that forced the Lindener backwards, even as he (DeClou) attempted to assert himself.
DeClou began to come into his own at the start of the fourth round and opened his account with a sharp left hook that surprised the ‘Battersea Bomber.’ The latter pugilist responded with a flurry that pushed his man backwards but by then DeClou had decided to punch off his back foot and successfully danced his way out of danger.
Round five saw an aggressive Eastman using his experience to full advantage and forcing DeClou backwards. It was a ploy that forced the Lindener to cover up while the former European champion hammered away relentlessly at his body and head. By now, most of those in the small crowd remained convinced that DeClou was out of his league.
DeClou defied the odds and came out slugging in the sixth frame. A series of right crosses surprised Eastman who wisely clinched to stem the ferocious assault. Both boxers then took as much punishment as they got but it was DeClou that made the stronger statement when he connected with several unanswered salvoes near the end of that round.
The new middleweight champion really came to life at the sound of the bell to signal the start of seventh round.
He received several telling body blows but instead of recoiling, took it like a man and dished out a healthy serving of his own. Several combinations landed on Eastman’s body and head as the lanky Lindener changed his tactics to a punch and move strategy.
His confidence grew, going into the eighth frame and he unleashed a series of well timed combinations to Eastman’s body and head. To his credit, Eastman continued to advance and stemmed the barrage with several right crosses to his opponent’s head.
Round nine saw Eastman resorting to his vast repertoire of ammunition and his general knowledge. He dug into his armory and came up with several ramrod punches that had DeClou recoiling, but by now the latter pugilist had decided to shelve his attacks for a counter punching strategy, backpedaling and punching. It worked to some extent but Eastman underlined the experience garnered from his productive years of plying his trade in Europe and North America. He unleashed several long ranged combinations that had DeClou scuttling backwards while he (Eastman) pursued relentlessly.
The ‘Battersea Bomber’ eventually succeeded in trapping the Lindener in the Southern neutral corner and pasted him to the ropes with telling body and head blows. Some of the punches slipped past his defence but DeClou managed to block a few before escaping into the center of the ring.
DeClou really came to life in the tenth frame and lashed out at an advancing Eastman with every punch in the book. At one time, he surprised Eastman with a three punch combination and was dancing away before the ‘Battersea Bomber’ could reassert himself.
Thereafter, a fit DeClou took control and even though most of his punches, lacked venom, they were landing and building up points. Both fighters engaged in exchanges in the final round and though Eastman scored with several telling combinations, it was DeClou that finished the fight in grand style. A well timed right cross landed smack on Eastman’s jaw, simultaneously with the bell.
It was a methodical display by DeClou and despite Eastman’s experience, bolstered by courage and determination; it was DeClou that exited the ring with the spoils. Judges Clairmonte DeSouza and Francis Abraham saw the bout 117-111 in favour of the new champion while Carlton Hopkinson recorded a 114 stalemate which gave DeClou a majority verdict and the national middleweight belt.
London, who spewed verbal pre-fight venom, discovered that talking and walking were two vastly different propositions. O’Neil, clearly the stronger and more experienced, pummeled her from the onset with hard combinations.
To her credit, London withstood the onslaught and dished out a healthy helping of her own.
The stocky fighter fought out of the blue corner and strangely elected to launch most of her attacks in this area despite the presence of water that made the area slippery. One could reasonably surmise that the ploy was to take advantage of her coaches’ instructions but O’Neil ignored the ploy and literally overwhelmed her opponent in her comfort zone.
Indeed, it was an O’Neil reminiscent of the Kathy Rivers encounter a few years ago and though London demonstrated remarkable courage, she possessed neither the skills nor determination of the ‘Stealth Bomber.’
She was defeated in every department but must be commended for a determined and gutsy display.
In the end, judges Francis Abraham and Clairmonte DeSouza both scored the bout 99-91 in favour of the defending champion, while Andrew Thorne had London ahead, 97-93 to hand the ‘Stealth Bomber’ back her title.
Tannis was all mouth at the pre-fight press conference, underlining his toughness. In the end, Hardy hardly had to work up a sweat on his way to an emphatic victory. Several ‘chin checkers’ strayed to the Bajan’s temple and had him swaying like a troubled ship on the high seas.
He was never allowed to display the wide array of punches that he claimed he possessed but to his credit, backed up his pre-fight boasts that he would turn in a courageous display even if it meant visiting the hospital afterwards.
The Barbadian did not keep the former promise but true to his word he ended up in the nurses quarters where he was made to stay for the better part of half an hour for a cursory observation.
Atwell’s victory over Rogers was as predictable as it was definitive. The vast disparity in skills and ring generalship was apparent as Atwell kept his man at bay with telling punches.
Despite his best efforts, the ‘Pocket Rocket’ was simply unable to match the superb display of his opponent and surrendered the split verdict.
Lewis and Azore failed to produce the promised explosion, while King and Austin turned in credible performances but the former fighter, despite an improved performance from the last bout faded away in the latter rounds, gifting Austin the verdict.
Indeed, the card was labeled ‘Thirst Park Explosion’ but after the culmination of two bouts and no indication that the boxers were willing to support the label, the rains came and shortly afterwards a loud explosion interrupted the electrical flow and left Thirst Park in temporary darkness. Upon resumption, the remaining boxers took the cue and transformed the arena into a battlefield.
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