Matt Thirlwall defeats George Hillyard
By Daniel Cann at ringside (May 23, 2009)  
In an interesting middleweight competition on the undercard of the Barker v McDermott title fight, friends and sparring partners Bermondsey’s Matt Thirlwall fought George Hillyard in a scheduled ten rounder.

28 year old Thirlwall was hoping to secure a lucrative match with either the winner of the Commonwealth bout later that night or British Champion Matthew Macklin. He had to get past the chunky looking Hillyard first. The younger man started brightly taking the fight to his taller opponent. A good left hook from Hillyard caught Thirlwall cleanly.

Thirlwall was still looking to settle down as Hillyard kept pressing forward, setting the pace. Thirlwall knew that this was to be no glorified sparring session; he had a fight on his hands now! Thirlwall landed well to the body towards the end of the round, but Hillyard’s aggression took the first session.

The second started with Thirlwall jabbing and snapping with it more. Hillyard was still rolling forward, his soft looking body and baby face features brought to mind the former British light heavyweight champion and heavyweight trier of the 1950s Don Cockell. Hillyard was certainly putting in a lot of effort. He picked his shots carefully, keeping Thirlwall on the back foot all the while exerting steady pressure. Hillyard landed a decent right left combination, rare for any boxer to lead with the right hand from an orthodox stance, but somehow it worked for him.

Hillyard continued his effective pressure, backing Thirlwall up. Hillyard landed another good left hand that Thirlwall walked straight onto. Both fighters touched gloves in a mutual show of respect at the bell.

Hillyard continued the confident work to start the third round brightly jabbing and moving with bounce and vigour. Thirlwall landed a great right but Hillyard kept rolling forward. Hillyard even tried a right uppercut on the inside that just missed its target by a whisker! Thirlwall responded with a great left hook, at last he was stepping up a few gears after a slow start.

Hillyard planted a few good shots to the body and even switched to southpaw in the last minute of the round. He managed to back Thirlwall up with another spirited assault. A good body and left hook combo from Thirlwall scored. They touched gloves again at the bell and at last Thirlwall had won a round.

The fourth began with Thirlwall on the offensive and looking sharp as he darted in and out throwing fast punches to head and body. Hillyard responded with a meaty body shot of his own. It was nice to see two professionals mix it up instead of just head hunting. There was a nice variety from both during the fight. It was even going so far with Thirlwall getting the better of it now. He landed a good right hook to the body pressing his advantage. Shortly after that success he followed with a left to the body. He was placing his punches well. A right to Hillyard’s head spurred him on and he drove Thirlwall to the ropes with a two fisted attack but Thirlwall countered off them well.

Suddenly Thirlwall found the punch he had been looking for as he caught his spirited opponent with a perfectly timed left hook just before the bell dropping Hillyard heavily. Hillyard bravely got back to his feet and made it to his corner but he was on shaky legs.

Between the interval Hillyard’s corner with chief second Jim McDonnell (not a bad boxer himself in his day) decided to pull their man out. He had not recovered sufficiently from that devastating left hook and looked unsteady. Referee Ken Curtis waved the fight off. It was a surprising but acceptable decision as although Hillyard was giving a good account of himself Thirlwall was getting on top and that hook had taken all the fight out of Hillyard. The young fighter had given it all he had and was saved from further unnecessary punishment.

For Thirlwall it was the kind of fight that was good to shake off some ring rust, whether it was good enough to get him ready for the likes of Darren Barker and Matthew Macklin remains to be seen.

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