I'm sure there have been several fights in the middle of the dance floor at Equinox nightclub in Leicester Square, London but few can have matched the intensity, courage and action displayed by Crawley's Alan Gilbert and Kent-based South African Ruben Groenewald on Sunday night. The WBF's Intercontinental Super Middleweight title was at stake over 10 rounds and both fighters must have really wanted the belt!
Photo © Tom Casino/ SHOWTIME
Groenewald started fast and landed a powerful left hook after only about five seconds to make the crowd sit up and take notice. He continued loading up and looking to land big hooks and uppercuts over the first two rounds with no little success. Gilbert always returned fire and got through with several punches of his own in the second. Into the third and Alan sustained a cut by his right eye, but it didn't really cause him any trouble and he started to work well off a stiff jab that hadn't been connecting in the opening two rounds.
In the fourth the crowd started to get behind Alan and cheered every success but Ruben landed two big right hooks and continued to dominate. Things turned right around in the fifth as Gilbert forced Groenewald onto the back foot for the first time in the fight and started landing with more authority from his southpaw stance. Into the sixth and both fighters really went at it hammer and tongs, Ruben trying to wrest back the initiative and Alan trying to erase the early deficit. Both men got through with hurtful looking hooks but neither slowed for a second and the mostly pro-Gilbert crowd loved every second.
Ruben began to turn the tide once again in his favour in the seventh and eighth, when Alan began to show slight signs of distress when he lost his gumshield after another Groenewald flurry. At no point did his work-rate drop however.
Neither man has a reputation as a big puncher, but the sheer volume of shots that both had to absorb was bound to start having an effect and Gilbert lost his gumshield again twice in the ninth. Groenewald pressed home his advantage, despite appearing to tire slightly, and moved further ahead.
The crowd came to their feet as the fighters touched gloves for the tenth and final round. They expected a big finish - but the brave Gilbert was spent. Again he lost his gumshield and his arms dropped as Ruben rained in several hurtful and unanswered punches, leaving referee Richie Davies no option but to save Alan from further punishment after 1:08 of the round. Some at ringside complained that the stoppage was early but they were few and I felt the referee got it spot on.
An excellent fight that should lead to better things for former WBU middleweight champion Ruben Groenewald and, one would hope, a few more paydays for Alan Gilbert, who showed great heart and ensured that the crowd got their money's worth.
Steeds edges past veteran warrior
The chief support was an eight-round heavyweight contest between old warhorse Julius Francis and the East End's Micky Steeds. Micky seemed to have brought most of the Upton Park faithful with him and enjoyed loud support from the opening bell. Steeds was the busier in a cagey opener and got through with some good body shots in the second - there being plenty of Julius' body to aim at these days - but the former British champion always fired back to prevent Micky from gaining too much of an advantage.
Over the next couple of rounds Steeds began to connect with his jab more, which prompted a rousing chorus of ‘I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles’ from the attendant Hammers fans.
As both men tired the clinches became more frequent and Francis got through with several uppercuts whenever the pair got close, but they lacked conviction. Steed's faster hands and busier jab kept him in front despite Julius enjoying greater success on the inside. Both men looked for a big finish, winging in some heavy shots, most of which missed. Julius looked disappointed not to get his arm raised at the end, but Steeds looked worth his 77-75 decision.
A ripple of anticipation went round the arena when Deptford's Anthony Small first appeared in his now infamous Scream mask, for his four-round middleweight contest with Russia's Dimitry Donetskiy. Dancing to the ring, accompanied by David Haye, Anthony played the crowd for all they were worth.
Small began with his hands by the side of his trunks that were emblazoned with SRCJJ (Sugar Ray Clay Jones Jr) and only ever lifted them to throw punches. Anthony gyrated and bent at the waist, looking for angles to throw his shots but couldn't really connect as cleanly as he would have liked despite racking up the points. His wide-footed stance again caused him to slip more than once.
A frustrated Dimitriy rallied for a while in the third causing Small to go into a weird looking crouch. This prompted referee Richie Davies to stop the action and boom "What is that?" at Anthony. Suitably chastened Small went back to trying to land the big one in the fourth but without much success. It was another entertaining show from Anthony Small which earned him another 40-36 win but he will have to land a little more leather in future if he wants to keep the punters happy. A Scream mask and James Brown impersonations won't do it alone.
Belfast's Martin Lindsay and Ukrainian Rakhim Mingaleev both came to the ring at 9st 6lbs for their four rounder. Lindsay had the upper hand for all four rounds putting a superior reach to good use. Martin scored with a good left hook and then an eye-catching combination in the first, which set the tone for the rest of the fight. A right uppercut in the second illustrated a good array of skills and another slick combination in the fourth dropped Rakhim to earn the Ulsterman a 40-35 scoreline.
The first fight of the night saw Paddington's Ashley Theophane take on the rugged David Kehoe over four threes at welterweight. Theophane controlled the action from the off with superior hand speed, but Kehoe always made life difficult for him with some rough tactics and a good work-rate.
A left hook-straight right combination in the second brought a cheer from the many supporters that Ashley had brought. Further impressive combinations in the third emphasised Theophane's superiority even though David never let himself be out-muscled on the inside. Fast hands on the outside in the fourth continued to please his fans and earned Ashley a 40-36 verdict from Ian John Lewis in the middle.
The Boxing wasn't the only entertainment on Joe Pyle's show. We were also offered a couple of musical combos between fights - with mixed success. But when Jocelyn Brown climbed into the ring to perform ‘Someone Else's Guy’ the place nearly erupted and even the normally sullen faced wives and girlfriends that are dragged to boxing events sprung to life. I'm sure some of the more old school members of the crowd weren't impressed, but the vast majority loved it.
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