Commonwealth featherweight champion Leigh Wood continued his good form today at York Hall, stopping decorated Irish amateur Davey Oliver Joyce in the ninth round of their main event fight, headlining the quarterfinal round of MTK Global’s Golden Contract featherweight tournament.
Wood (23-1, 13 KO) picked up his 12th straight win and fourth straight by stoppage in a very entertaining bout, handing Joyce his first professional loss, dropping his record to 11-1 (8 KO).
Wood looked the better fighter in the early going, and dropped Joyce in the second round. The 31-year-old from Nottingham looked more relaxed and calm, even under pressure from the 32-year-old Joyce in the middle rounds especially, as the Irishman battled back and tried to turn it into a dogfight.
Wood hurt Joyce again in the eighth round, with it looking like referee Marcus McDonnell was about to stop the fight with Joyce against the ropes. But Joyce managed to find an opening and hang on for a moment, before getting dropped again right at the end of the round. He did get up to fight on, but he was stopped in the ninth when McDonnell judged he’d taken too much punishment, and the referee probably made the right call.
Wood actually had first pick of opposition for the quarterfinal and made a pretty surprising choice to go against Joyce, but he explained after the fight that he never wants to take the easy road, and that he feels he’s now already beaten his biggest threat in the tournament. It’s clear he’s a fighter riding a wave of confidence at this stage of his career.
Ryan Walsh TKO-9 Hairon Socarras
Walsh gets an extra £5K, too. Walsh (25-2-2, 11 KO) is the reigning British featherweight champion, and while that title wasn’t on the line here, he keeps up his good form at age 33, winning his third straight. Cuba’s Socarras (22-1-3, 14 KO) made this one interesting, and it was a decent fight with some rough stuff thrown in. Walsh pushed him back to the ropes late in the ninth round, unloaded a flurry, and eventually referee Robert Williams had no choice but to step in. He gave Socarras, 26, plenty of opportunity to return fire, but the fighter didn’t.
Jazza Dickens UD-10 Carlos Ramos
Dickens (28-3, 11 KO) more or less dictated this entire fight, with Ramos (11-2, 7 KO) just not busy enough to make it really competitive or compelling. The 28-year-old Dickens, a former British titleholder and world title challenger at 122 pounds, is perhaps sneaky dangerous in this tournament, a young veteran with solid ability. Ramos, 24, was ruled down early in the fight, which was a questionable call — legitimately questionable, I leaned toward no knockdown on the slow motion replay, but the situation would’ve been hard to see in real time for the referee, so it’s not a horrible call or anything, at least to me. Didn’t really matter, anyway — Dickens goes through to the semifinals on scores of 97-92, 97-92, and 99-91.
Tyrone McCullagh UD-10 Razaq Najib
Najib came in as a late sub when Carlos Araujo fell ill and couldn’t make weight on Friday, and the Sheffield fighter gave it an honest effort here, but he was outclassed by Derry’s McCullagh, who improves to 14-0 (6 KO). McCullagh, 29, admitted a bit of ring rust after the fight, as this was just his second fight in the last 12 months, first since May, but overall he controlled well enough in this fight. Two judges did like the pressure effort of Najib (11-4, 2 KO) enough to make the fight competitive on the cards, with McCullagh winning 96-94, 97-93, and 98-92, but you could’ve reasonably scored this a shutout, probably. That said, McCullagh didn’t overly impress, either — he’s a crafty, solidly skilled southpaw, and he was certainly better than Najib, but the next round ought to be a tougher test.