Anthony Small retained the British and Commonwealth junior middleweight titles with an awful performance against Thomas McDonagh, winning on unanimous decision scores of 115-114, 115-114 and 116-113. Bad Left Hook scored the numbingly dull fight a 114-114 draw.
Small will rightly meet plenty of criticism for his (non-)performance tonight, and will surely complain about that and cry about what a showman he is.
But the fact of the matter is when you land 39 punches over 12 rounds, and land those 39 punches at a 12% clip, you're not a showman. You're a dancer. You're an imitator. You're an actor.
Small (23-1, 16 KO) is nicknamed "Sugar Ray Clay Jones Jr.," and he possesses the entertainment value of none of his idols. Yes, Ray Leonard moved a lot. He also punched a lot. Yes, Ali moved a lot. He also punched a lot. Yes, Roy Jones moved a lot, was extremely awkward, and lived on speed, reflexes and even some healthy taunting.
He also didn't land 39 punches in a 12-round fight.
Small is so far off of the standard he attempts to meet that it's almost impossible to properly describe it. He sort of fights like an actor in a Roy Jones Jr. biopic. He does OK getting the trademark stuff to look decent, but you can also clearly tell the difference between the two. Maybe with some Hollywood sound effects and score, Small could be a convincing Jones, but when you compare their fights, not really. Even the ancient Jones is more enjoyable than Small.
To Small's defense, McDonagh (34-3-3, 7 KO) did nothing either. In fact, the fight was really only close because McDonagh won a handful of rounds almost by default for landing a punch or two. Like Small, McDonagh landed just 39 punches in the entire fight, though he did beat Small in accuracy (14% to 12%).
After I had Small winning the first, I tallied off six in a row (rounds two through seven) for McDonagh. After that, McDonagh gassed, got nervous, or both, because Small upping his aggression even a very tiny bit allowed him to easily take over the fight. The rounds Small won were, in my estimation, all quite clear, and I gave him the 8th through the 12th to add to the first frame. A couple of my McDonagh rounds could have gone to Small, and that wound up being the difference.
It was a terrible, awful fight, and Small is nowhere near the top ten class worldwide at 154 pounds. When watching him fight a guy like Thomas McDonagh or Matthew Hall -- no offense to McDonagh or Hall -- you notice he can be entertaining, and he can be quite clever at moments. But he's so wrapped up in himself as The Big Entertainer that he loses sight of even looking like a boxer in there. He's deluded himself into thinking he's got talent on par with his idols; he doesn't. He also doesn't appear to have the grit of Ali or Leonard, who won some wars, and he's damn sure no Jones in the speed or reflexes department, which is most of what he strives to showcase.
If Small ever steps beyond the British class of fighters and into a fight with even a guy like Deandre Latimore, I think he'll find out very quickly he's not as fast as he thinks he is. I think Yuri Foreman would pretty much toy with him, same with Cory Spinks. We're not talking about GREAT fighters here, either. 154 is a weak division with several guys all at roughly the same level.
I think even Ryan Rhodes, the best of the British fighters at 154, would probably eventually knock him out, and Rhodes is no world-beater.
Small will draw crowds in smaller venues like this because he's a pro wrestling character, and he's fairly OK at it. He's all cheap crowd heat and personality, but there's going to come a point where he's going to have to actually prove himself a fighter who can survive a real test, and I just don't think he has that in him. If he's content to fight on the domestic level, cheers to him, and he could make a nice career doing that. But keep him away from the guys like Rhodes or Jamie Moore who will bring a fight to him, because whatever aura he's selling could be beaten out of him pretty fast.
On the Undercard:
- Anthony Crolla (15-2, 6 KO) stopped veteran Michael Brodie (36-4-1, 24 KO) in three. Brodie, 35, left the sport in 2005 after being knocked out in consecutive fights against In-Jin Chi and Scott Harrison, and came back earlier this year. Crolla, 23, may have sent him back into retirement.
- Scott Quigg improved to 16-0 (10) with a a sixth round stoppage of Yuri Voronin.
- Manchester prospect Joe Murray (5-0, 2 KO) stayed unbeaten with a second round TKO of Barrington Brown.