The big undercard fight on the huge MEN Arena bill was to have been Johnny Nelson in a 12 round cruiserweight fight with Enzo Maccarinelli. This match had the British scene buzzing, as Nelson is the elder statesman of the cruiserweight division, having gone 21 fights unbeaten since his last loss (a controversial decision loss at heavyweight in 1995). He is coming to the end of his career now at age 39, and would obviously like to close out with a world title shot. The Maccarinelli fight would have been the final obstacle before a projected world assault.
However, a spanner was thrown into the works in the form of a badly injured knee for Nelson, and one of Britain’s most anticipated fights was scrapped. The light at the end of the tunnel, however, proved to be British and Commonwealth champion Mark Hobson, 24-3-1 (12), who jumped at the chance to take on Maccarinelli instead of Nelson. Hobson’s two belts were not on the line (a meaningless minor world belt took their place), but the thousands in attendance at the MEN Arena, and millions around the country watching live on ITV Sport, got a thrilling punch up that saw Wales’ Enzo Maccarinelli clinch a close points decision.
Hobson, trained by the north of England’s respected Chris Aston, gave as good as he got, and it was only a third round knockdown scored by Maccarinelli that separated them on the scorecards. The Welsh-Italian, on a 19 fight winning streak since losing his unbeaten record to journeyman Lee Swaby, had to battle back from the brink several times. The 6’5” Hobson rocked him with long right hands throughout the fight, and Maccarinelli, a natural puncher, was forced to fight it out over the distance for the first time since Ismail Abdoul went 12 rounds with him in 2004.
At the final bell, the scores were 116-112 and 114-113 twice, which accurately reflected the closeness of the fight, and Maccarinelli can go on to other big domestic matches with the likes of Nelson (if he recovers), fellow-puncher David Haye, or rugged veteran Carl Thompson.
Also on the card, world ranked jr middleweight contender Wayne Alexander looked like a fish out of water as he plodded to a 12 round split decision win over defensively minded Thomas McDonagh.
Alexander, who is genuinely one of the biggest punchers in the division, likes to meet a man head on and let his heavy handed bombs go. McDonagh, however, fiddled him about for the full twelve rounds, switch hitting, swaying and swerving his way to the final bell.
Alexander, 32 years of age and from Croyden in the south of England, had hardly landed anything of substance…but McDonagh’s negative display counted for even less on the score cards. At the end of twelve repetitive and tedious rounds, Alexander got the nod by scores of 116-111, 114-113 and 114-115, improving to 24-2-0 (18) after a night he’ll want to forget. Manchester’s McDonagh, just 25 years of age, drops to 27-1-2 (6).
World ranked super-middle Chad Dawson, trained by Dan Birmingham of Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy fame, got some target practice in as he stopped England’s Jamie Hearn in three rounds. Dawson, just 23 years of age, improved to 22-0-0 (15).
Former British welterweight king David Barnes is on the comeback trail after a horrible 2005, which saw him spoil his unblemished record with a draw and then a Commonwealth title loss. His second win of 2006 saw him score a pretty insignificant 4 round points win over Silence Shaheed of Nigeria, who’d lost his last five fights previous to this. Referee Howard Foster scored it 40-36 to Barnes, who moves to 19-1-1 (10).
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