Anthony Joshua and the Prizefighters: Recap from Thursday's fights at York Hall

Scott Heavey

Andy Ryan attended Thursday's show at York Hall, which saw Anthony Joshua win again, Michael Sprott triumph over Jason Gavern in Prizefighter, and a sad showing from once-great James Toney.

This is a guest post from Andy Ryan, who attended the fights on Thursday at York Hall.

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Quarter Finals

Larry Olumbamiwo (UK) v Jason Gavern (USA)

Olumbamiwo looked every bit a fighter who's been out of the ring for almost two years. He was down in seconds, admittedly caught off balance rather than hurt. While he punched ponderously and connected rarely, Gavern countered efficiently. Olumbamiwo responded to Gavern's taunting at the end of the first round by catching him several times after the bell. It was the most aggression he displayed in the whole fight. None of his noisy fans disputed the decision.


James Toney (USA) v Matt Legg (UK)

Even as a shadow of an imitation of himself, the sight of "Lights Out" left York Hall starstruck. The sell-out crowd was on its feet with a hundred camera phones flashing. "I'll be happy as long as he doesn't get humiliated" was the nervous hope of a Matt Legg fan sitting nearby. Entirely understandably, Legg showed plenty of respect for Toney and spent the first round on the move and out of range. Toney made little effort to follow. Legg approached the second with newfound confidence, starting to believe he could share a ring with a former world champion. Meanwhile, Toney ambled around, showing no particular desire to take command. No one in his corner said anything to him; these days, he's beyond advice. Just when the shock was starting to look possible, Toney ignited. Legg was unable to cope with the heavy blows and the ref stepped in.


Michael Sprott (UK) v Damian Wills (US)

Perhaps the dullest fight of the night. Wills was game throughout but rarely effective. Sprott ducked his way through the first round before rediscovering his jab in the 2nd and 3rd. He didn't do much but it was enough to deserve the decision.


Tom Little (UK) v Brian Minto (USA)

With his sparkly Union Jack trunks, Little was certainly getting into the spirit of the evening. With his world weary face, Minto somehow looks exactly like a veteran fighter should. The first round was a rout. Minto was ferocious from the off and was free to land combination after combination on the static target of Little's head. The Brit looked bemused, as if he hadn't expected that someone was actually going to try to hit him. It was hard to argue with the loud shout of "the boy's out of his league."

And yet this novice of just four fights showed admirable spirit to turn a beatdown into a contest. With Minto continuing to come at him relentlessly, Little swung without fear. A couple of solid upper cuts slowed Minto down. Little ended the second round by screaming at the crowd; for all his limitations, he's not a fighter who has any trouble getting fired up. The third was a scrappy mess but the judges were correct in rewarding Minto for his better work .


Semi Finals

James Toney (USA) v Jason Gavern (USA)

Storming out of his corner with a string of power shots, Toney looked like he wanted to get things over quickly. Gavern, however, was unawed. The first two rounds were full of lively exchanges where he soaked up the odd big shot but fired back with plenty of his own.

Proof of Toney's frustration came at the start of the third when he jabbed Gavern before the bell. For the first time in the night, the volume in York Hall took off as the crowd anticipated a classic deciding round. Instead it was a rather sad affair. Toney had his moments but the man who once had some of the greatest defensive skills in the sport was picked off far too easily.


Michael Sprott (UK) v Brian Minto (USA)

Sprott took the first round without any real exertion. The second was the round of the night. Tired of being jabbed from range, Minto pressed Sprott to the ropes and landed several clean shots. No one in the crowd could miss Sprott's dazed expression and, for twenty seconds or so, he looked ready to fall. He somehow got himself out of trouble with a pair of upper cuts that killed Minto's impetus. The rest of the fight saw Sprott trying to keep Minto at distance and Minto trying to attach his forehead to Sprott's chest.


The Final

Michael Sprott v Jason Gavern

It was impossible to begrudge either of these journeymen their moment in the spotlight. Both of these guys have been around the block and then some. Unfortunately, hopes of a tight contest were ended by Gavern's elbow injury which left Sprott to cruise to a comfortable decision without any real alarm.


Anthony Joshua v Hrvoje Kisicek

As this fight began, Kisicek completely failed to hide his anxiety. Looking at the astonishing man mountain that is Anthony Joshua, it was easy to empathise. For most of the first round, the Olympic gold medallist looked bored and in no hurry to force a result. It didn't bode well for Kisicek when his only aggressive combination was greeted with indifference by his opponent and laughter by the crowd.

The moment Joshua applied sustained pressure it brought the inevitable stoppage. Joshua seemed confused by the referee's efforts to pull him away so he went back to pummelling the unfortunate Croatian until he was finally dragged away at the second attempt. Kisicek then moaned to everyone about how premature the stoppage was. I'd have thought he'd have been grateful.


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