There is no question that Josh Warrington drew the large and vocal crowd to Headingley, to watch him try and avenge his loss to Mauricio Lara. But the majority of the crowd filed in early to watch a card that was high on quality. The assembled throng saw elite level champions, local heroes, future superstars and popular cult figures on a great night of action before the main event hit the ring.
Katie Taylor dropped former IBF featherweight ruler Jennifer Han on the way to retaining her undisputed lightweight championship, but she did not have everything her own way. Han boxed well on the back foot at times, and it took the Irish ring legend a couple of rounds to time her punches and start forcing her way into the fight.
Beyond the knockdown in the eighth round, a flurry of punches leaving Han on the floor claiming she slipped, Taylor never had her challenger in significant trouble. But she enjoyed the majority of the success, working her way in with the jab and looking to land short left hooks on the inside.
Her old rival Jessica McCaskill was in attendance, and with ‘CasKILLA’ now holding the undisputed welterweight championship, a Taylor match-up would be a real superfight were it to happen. Unified featherweight champion Amanda Serrano has also been talked about as a potential opponent, with everyone wanting a piece of the Bray-born boxer.
Jennifer Han made Katie Taylor work hard for this win, but her quality shone through and it was a thoroughly deserved win for the unbeaten lightweight.
Conor Benn negotiated his way through an excellent learning fight against the durable Adrian Granados. The Mexican has been in with Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner and Danny Garcia, and he taught ‘The Destroyer’ some valuable lessons over the ten-round distance.
Benn was comfortable on his way to earning a unanimous decision, but Granados offered stubborn resistance throughout. Benn tried to take his experienced opponent out in the first round, noticeably excited by the packed stadium, but never looked like shifting a fighter who has only been stopped once. Granados never looked like having enough power to damage the 19-0 prospect, but he did land significant leather when Benn’s punching got wild.
A concussive right-left combination in the third would have taken most of Benn’s previous opposition out, as would some of the left hooks to the body he threw down the stretch. But Granados would not be moved, and Benn beckoned him on in the final round in hopes of sparking a war.
At this stage of his career, these sort of nights are exactly what Conor Benn needs. The shadow of his illustrious father, the great Nigel Benn, is behind him. It is clear Benn has what it takes. But what is in front of him, is some more tough nights in a busy welterweight division.
Hometown boy Maxi Hughes pitched a near-shutout over devastating puncher Jovanni Straffon, winning a unanimous decision in front of his vocal fanbase. Straffon had blown James Tennyson away in one round in his previous outing, but ‘Maximus’ boxed the perfect fight to avoid the Mexican’s power.
Hughes enjoyed his greatest moments in the fifth, as he wobbled Straffon with a crunching left. ‘Impacto’ was sent flying from pillar to post for the duration of the round, as Hughes emptied his tank in pursuit of the stoppage. Incomprehensibly, the thoroughly-rocked Jovanni was still standing at the bell to end the round.
It truly was the Maxi Hughes Show, roared on by an already-packed Headingley, the reigning British Lightweight king boxed beautifully from behind a high guard. Hughes controlled matters with a resolute southpaw jab, throwing rights to head and body then gliding away elegantly whenever the Mexican got close to him. Only one of the three judges gave Straffon a round, as Hughes revelled in what was a career best performance. On this display, Maxi looks ready to step beyond domestic level in the near future.
Ebanie Bridges fought through injury to eke out a decision win over French Bantamweight champion Mailys Gangloff. The New Zealander looked fortunate to pick up the referee’s nod, as her opponent appeared to have done enough thanks to her fast combinations and excellent footwork.
Bridges started well, looking for openings to land her vaunted right hand. Gangloff, now 5-3 (2 KOs) put her stamp on the fight from the fourth round onwards, after Bridges had appeared to pick up a wrist injury in the previous stanza. Certainly, the ‘Blonde Bomber’ appeared to throw the right hand less, usually pawing with the hand while trying to land left hooks to head and body.
The precise southpaw jab caused bad swelling around Bridges’ right eye, though thankfully not as gruesome as in her loss to Shannon Courtenay last time out. As the fight wore on, Gangloff opened up with sharp left-right combinations. The French fighter finished the stronger, with Ebanie breathing heavily as the finally round drew to a close. It was not enough to secure the win though, and Bridges moves to 7-1 (3 KOs).