By Rachel Aylett: The main event on the big London show last night featured the battle for the WBA super-bantamweight title between recently designated champion Scott Quigg, of Bury, England, and former amateur star Yoandris Salinas of Cuba. Both boxers entered the ring undefeated – and both boxers subsequently left the ring undefeated, following the awarding of a draw after 12 hard rounds by the judges.
Fans from outside the UK who haven’t had a chance to see the fight would automatically assume that it was another hometown decision saving the Brit’s bacon. On this occasion they would be wrong, as Quigg looked unlucky not to receive the decision. It was very much a fight of two halves, with the superior boxing of Salinas taking the first half and the more aggressive work and harder punching of Quigg taking over in the second half. The feeling at the end though was that Quigg, who clearly won the last five rounds, which was confirmed on all three judges’ scorecards, had blown his big night.
For the first three rounds it looked as though the British corner had underestimated Salinas, who slowly stalked forward, landing crisp jabs through the guard of the circling Englishman. On two occasions in the opening three rounds, jabs from Salinas landed bang on the nose of Quigg and sent him stumbling backwards. The signs were not good and the home crowd was silent. From the fourth round on, Quigg gradually established himself in the fight, winning a couple of rounds, albeit not convincingly, and landing with the occasional trademark hook to the body.
At the end of seven rounds, I had Quigg down by 68-65 and, although he was now in the fight, it seemed to be slipping away as he ran out of time. Everything changed in the eighth round, as the Quigg that we expected to see suddenly appeared. He finally began fighting on the front foot, out-muscling his more skillful opponent and landing thudding combinations to the body and looping right hands round the side of Salinas’s guard. It was clever work from here on in from Quigg, as he started each round slowly but gradually ramped up the pressure throughout the three minutes of each round, to end each round completely on top. The last five rounds all followed that same pattern and it looked as though Quigg had done enough to take the decision. Although one judge scored in his favour 115-113, the other two both had it even at 114-114. I agreed with the judge that scored it 115-113 for Quigg but it cannot be classified as a bad decision.
This wasn’t a result that really pleased anybody. I’m sure the Cuban corner felt they had done enough to take the title, and Quigg’s team were clearly downbeat, with Quigg himself looking crestfallen at the decision. In any event, he retains his title and will now go on to bigger and better things.
The best performance on the undercard came from two-time world title challenger Kevin Mitchell, who boxed superbly against Mexican, Marco Lopez. Although expected to win inside the distance, it was the manner of Mitchell’s performance whch so impressed. On his day, Mitchell is one of the finest boxers in Britain, his skill-set is a match for anyone’s. He picked his punches beautifully against Lopez with the left uppercut-left hook being the combination du jour on this occasion. The brave Mexican went above and beyond the call of duty before the referee stepped in to rescue him during the sixth round, following the second knockdown of the fight. Mitchell is due to challenge Derry Mathews for the latter’s Commonwealth title next. On this form, Mathews won’t get near him. Mitchell can then begin his charge for a third world title fight and, in a lightweight division sorely lacking in stars, don’t write him off yet.
One of the main attractions of the evening was the pro debut of Olympic super-heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua. He performed exactly the way everyone hoped he would by blitzing his Italian opponent Emanuele Leo in the first round. Joshua looked suitably awesome with his powerful left jab knocking the Italian’s head about on his shoulders as if it were a speed ball. The right hands with which Joshua finished the fight almost took his opponent’s head off. Also on the card was fellow Olympic champion Luke Campbell, in his second pro fight. Campbell, now boxing at lightweight, scored his second first round knockout and was every bit as impressive as Joshua. Campbell possesses lighting-fast speed and is now adding power to that speed. These are the two best prospects in Britain, if not Europe. Fight fans in Britain have exciting times ahead.
The only disappointment of the night was the second low-key performance in a row from British and Commonwealth featherweight champion Lee Selby. He defended those titles against previously-undefeated Ryan Walsh and, although he won comfortably, he failed to impress. This contest followed the pattern of his previous fight, a victory over Romanian Viorel Simion in July, where Selby inexplicably failed to utilize his previously successful body attack. Selby was awarded a unanimous decision and at least now he gets to retain the Lonsdale belt outright. On this form though, it would be advisable not to move Selby into world class just yet. The best plan is to secure a European title fight for him and see where we go from there.
Returning to Quigg and although he stated in the post-fight interview that he and trainer Joe Gallagher had got the tactics right, he wasn’t completely correct in saying this. The tactics were supposedly to take the sting out of Salinas in the first half of the fight and then ramp up the pressure when his opponent started to tire. At this level though, you simply can’t give rounds away and you certainly can’t give your opponent a three or four round lead and expect to win. The tactics were right therefore, but the timing of them was all wrong. Even though Joe Gallagher is considered the premier trainer in Britain right now, he should have urged his charge to take control of the fight much sooner. The big mistake was that they overestimated their opponent. As soon as Quigg upped the pace the Cuban was found wanting.
This fight can only assist Quigg in the long run, as he will have learnt so much from it, both tactically and experience wise. In that respect, perhaps a draw can be seen as a lucky escape, as he was not punished for his questionable pacing of the fight. Quigg was so dominant in the last five rounds and the feeling was that if he had started his charge sooner, Quigg would have got his opponent out of there inside the distance. As I stated in my preview, Salinas is not one of the best Cubans and although he has sublime skills, he looked in disarray when put under severe pressure towards the end.