Liam Davies won the vacant European junior featherweight (122 lbs) title today in Telford, England, winning a decision over Ionut Baluta in front of a hot crowd.
Davies (13-0, 5 KO) took the belt on scores of 116-112, 117-111, and 118-110. Bad Left Hook had it closer but still for Davies on an unofficial score of 115-113.
Baluta (15-4, 3 KO) did what he always does, making fights awkward, rough, and testing his opponent’s gas tank. The rounds that went his way came when Davies sort of didn’t do so much and got out-worked, which Baluta forces sometimes.
But when Davies was active with his jab, he did look sharp and effective, and there aren’t many guys who fight like Baluta, anyway. There are better boxers, yes, and quite a few, and there are still many levels to go, but styles do make fights, and Baluta makes opponents work. He was a good test on paper and turned out to be one.
Anthony Yarde KO-3 Steffani Koykov
Yarde returned for a rust-shaker, an easy win over an aggressive but over-matched Koykov (14-2, 12 KO), whose paper record didn’t prepare him for a huge leap in competition.
Yarde (23-1, 22 KO) is now set for his mandatory shot at WBC/WBA/IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev, which is now official for Jan. 28, and was supposed to have happened in late October, before Beterbiev got hurt in camp and had to postpone. Yarde has been mandatory a while; he stepped aside to allow the Beterbiev vs Joe Smith Jr unification, with the guarantee he’d get the winner.
Yarde will be a major underdog against Beterbiev, his hope lying mainly, I’d say, in Beterbiev’s age and injury history finally, truly catching up to him. I’d expect a firefight and a slugfest, and in that sense, yeah, anything can happen, because Yarde can crack. But so can Beterbiev, and Beterbiev’s skills are a level above.
That said, Yarde has never feared any matchup. He went to Russia and fought Sergey Kovalev without ever really fighting anyone else first, and he gave a solid showing before getting stopped. Beterbiev will be a huge mountain to climb, but it’s the fight he has set, and he will go there to win. He’ll also have home field in the UK.
Undercard highlights and results
- Eithan James PTS-10 Keanen Wainwright: A debatable decision. James (10-0, 0 KO) was meant to be facing Connor Parker, but Parker pulled out late and was replaced Friday morning by Wainwright (8-2, 5 KO), who was set to fight at lightweight (this was at 140) in Rotherham this weekend. Wainwright’s Rotherham fight was scrapped, he was available, we got this. Wainwright put in great work in the first half, including an early knockdown, but he did fade some and James made a case for himself. The referee’s card was 96-94, which comes from some rounds scored even, surely. There is also the simple fact that James was the house fighter here, and that weighing into a decision wouldn’t be the first time. Not to say that was the case here, of course.
- Ezra Taylor TKO-2 Mohamed Cherif Benchadi: Taylor goes to 4-0 (3 KO) in his young boxing career. He’s 28 but took the sport up late. Has the look, clearly has power, has a lot of personality (cocky). We’ll see what’s what when the fights get real, because the 38-year-old Benchadi (4-20-2, 0 KO) provided zero resistance.
- Willo Hayden PTS-6 Marian Marius Istrate: Hayden is a 20-year-old from Ireland, goes to 5-0 (1 KO) with this win. He was an amateur standout in his home country and, of course, because he is an Irish fighter of the modern age, he is reportedly just great mates with Conor McGregor, who was definitely, totally gonna come to Telford to see this, but gosh, of all the luck, he actually had a prior engagement. Ref’s card was 60-54.
- Owen Cooper PTS-10 Jamie Stewart: Cooper (7-0, 2 KO) dominated this fight to win the Midlands Area welterweight title from Stewart (3-3-2, 0 KO), but it was a good fight to watch, too, high effort from both men. Stewart always gives a good scrap, and he did everything he could here, but Cooper was just too good, scoring a fifth round knockdown and winning every round to take it on a 100-89 referee’s card. A really nice 10-round showing for the 22-year-old prospect.