Contrasting wins for Ward and Okolie
- Credit: LAWRENCE LUSTIG
Former Dagenham amateurs celebrate in Manchester
Martin J Ward battled through 12 tough rounds to keep his British super-lightweight title, while Lawrence Okolie blasted his way to a debut win in just 20 seconds in Manchester.
They were the contrasting victories for the former Dagenham BC amateurs on Eddie Hearn’s world title promotion as Ward came back strongly after a slow start to outpoint old rival Maxi Hughes after stopping and drawing with the Leeds boxer in earlier clashes.
Ward was pushed in the early rounds by the tough Yorkshire southpaw, but took full control after the halfway mark and punished his tiring rival in the ninth round.
The ringside judges were unanimous that Ward had kept his title and the WBC international belt by margins of 116-112, 118-111 and 116-113.
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“I am pleased I got the job done, now I want another win to get the Lonsdale belt then step up for some bigger titles,” said the 25-year-old Ward who launched his career at Dagenham but is now trained by east Londoner Tony Sims at Brentwood’s Matchroom gym.
Meanwhile, Olympian Okolie is hungry for more cruiserweight action after flattening Hammersmith rival Geoffrey Cave in quick time.
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The 24-year-old had been kept waiting in the Arena dressing room for his delayed fight, but wasted no time with preliminary sparring before landing powerful rights to send his rival crashing.
Cave collapsed unconscious on the canvas with referee Victor Loughlin not bothering to take up a count as Okolie celebrated his triumph.
“The whole experience was invaluable,” said Okolie. “In the pros, sometimes you don’t have a scheduled time so you have to stay warm and get ready to be switched on.
“I managed to keep my focus and not get overawed by the situation, that’s important to me. It’s not just go in and fight, there’s so much more to boxing in the build-up and on the night, and I need to learn about all of it.
“I just relaxed and caught him with a right hand, then I threw another right and ended it.”
0kolie is set for his next bout on another world title bill in Scotland next month.
The third ex-Dagger in action in Manchester, Sonny Upton, was convinced he did enough to win the English super-welterweight belt on Friday but ringside judges disagreed as Matt Ryan took the vacant title.
One judge voted the fight a 96-96 draw, while others gave it to Ryan 97-93 and 96-95 to cost Upton a history-making win to match brother Paul’s Irish title success at the weight.
“I know I won that fight, now I just hope Matt is a man of his word and gives me the rematch he promised,” said Upton, a member of the Dagenham-Irish fighting clan trained by Barry Smith at the West Ham gym.
The fans who witnessed the all-action clash certainly enjoyed the duel and would welcome a return between the well-matched rivals.
Upton landed some telling shots in the closely fought exchanges and clearly thinks he had extended his eight-fight winning run, but hometown boxer Ryan took the verdict and belt.