By Matt Winsper



It took just four thrilling rounds of action for Leeds, England’s Carl ‘Ingemar’ Johanneson to punch his way to the vacant British Super-featherweight crown against co-challenger Billy Corcoran at the York Hall, Bethnal Green in London.

The historic venue has seen many great little British title fights over the years, and this was another one as Johanneson and Corcoran stood their ground and let the punches fly before the extra power of the 27 year old Yorkshireman won through. Beforehand it was seen as a 50/50 fight between two entertaining if slightly flawed prospects. Corcoran has developed a decent following with an all action style that had brought him a 14-1-1 record coming in, with the two blemishes being in a pair of relatively inconsequential novice bouts early on. He had exploded onto the domestic scene with a fourth round cuts win over former champion Roy Rutherford, and this was his first major title shot.

Johanneson, who has plied his trade both in Britain and the United States, has shown glimpses of true KO power and skills mixed with a slight vulnerability that has made him an exciting performer on both sides of the Atlantic. His first loss, to quality Koba Gogoladze, was only via a split decision verdict and is perfectly excusable, but when he was destroyed in a single round by unheralded Leva Kirakosyan (who had given world ranked Michael Gomez trouble but was not expected to defeat Johanneson) it seemed that the likeable power-hitter may not live up to previous expectations, but he quickly rebuilt with five straight stoppage wins, showing no after affects of his only knockout loss to date.

Certainly in this fight, neither fighter looked at all gunshy. From the first minute of the opening round, both men were happy to stand in range and let the punches fly, 25 year old Corcoran with quick fisted combinations and bursts of punches, Johanneson with heavy-handed left hooks and straight jabs. Whilst Corcoran was landing the odd shot, it was evident that the power advantage lay in Johanneson’s favour. A long right hand from Carl just a minute or so in knocked back Corcoran’s head and set the pace immediately. Corcoran swiped back with left hooks to head and body, but it was clear the damage was being done by Johanneson.

Nevertheless, Corcoran, energised between rounds by respected trainer Robert McCracken, came out in round two determined to stamp his authority on the fight. The trouble is, he just could not get the Leeds puncher out of his rhythm, and by the end of the 2nd Johanneson was digging in meaty left hooks that had KO written all over them.

To his credit, Corcoran refused to go down fighting, and in the third and fourth kept throwing sharp combinations to head and body. Johannson, however, was calm under pressure, using a shell-like defence to catch Corcoran’s punches on his arms and gloves, and then countering with hooks and crosses whenever a chance presented itself.

Suddenly, in the fourth, one too many left hooks caused Corcoran’s knees to dip, and he looked extremely disorganised in the follow up attack. Johannson poured on the pressure and referee Ian John Lewis suddenly stepped in as Corcoran staggered backwards into a corner, taking a good look into the London-Irishman’s eyes before waving the fight off.

It seemed a premature stoppage, considering this was a twelve round title fight and all, but it was unlikely Corcoran was going to find a foot hold back into the fight. He was the one expending all the energy yet he was the one shipping most of the punishment. British fights tend to be stopped way earlier than in the US and the rest of Europe. Whether this is a good thing or not is open to discussion, but Corcoran certainly looked bemused by the stoppage as he was led back to his corner, on admittedly rubbery legs.

Johanneson celebrated his finest victory to date with animated trainer Rick Manners, who afterwards reiterated an interest in fighting European champion Alex Arthur of Edinburgh, who relinquished this belt earlier on to allow these two to face. It would be difficult to set up, with Johanneson and Arthur fighting on different TV networks, but it would certainly be an explosive one if it is ever made.

On the undercard, Manchester prospect John Murray gave a workmanlike performance to stop journeyman Billy Smith in the 6th and final round of a jr welter match. 21 year old Murray, normally a super-feather, has been garnering rave reviews in Britain with a string of mature and impressive performances, including a win for the WBC youth belt in his last fight. How much respect can be attached to a youth’s title is debatable, but on that December night in Nottingham, Murray’s eighth round technical decision over Nacho Mendoza of Colombia was a marvellous display for a fifteen fight novice.

Smith (an old amateur sparring partner of mine who rarely wins but always puts up a good show) used his extra size and experience to fiddle his way through the rounds, but finally in the sixth, Murray broke through with a solid right hand that dropped Smith in a neutral corner. The Midlands man wearily clambered up, but referee Bob Williams waved the fight off with just a minute or so remaining, giving Murray his 17th straight win. He is one to look out for, and arguably Manchester’s finest young prospect since current two-weight champ Ricky Hatton.