Okolie wins ‘British Beef’ but fails to impress; Buatsi, Cheeseman and Bellotti prevail
In an eagerly anticipated all-British cruiserweight fight, Lawrence Okolie won a wide decision over Isaac Chamberlain in a grudge match at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
The bout was billed as puncher (Okolie) vs. boxer (Chamberlain), however, from the get-go, 2012 Olympian Okolie was too much for his compatriot in front of 8,000 fans.
Okolie (8-0, 6 knockouts) dropped Chamberlain (9-1, 4 KOs) in the first and sixth rounds and used his greater height and reach to win an often awkward encounter on the scorecards by unanimous decision: 98-89, 96-90 and 97-89.
“This is good as a benchmark,” Okolie told Sky Sports. “He tested me in a different way. I hurt him early and if he’s brave enough he’s going to keep coming and it’s going to turn into a long night. I have nothing but respect for him for his mental toughness and fortitude.
“I’m going to have a little rest, then fight on the Joshua undercard against someone like Craig Kennedy.”
Rising welterweight prospect Ted Cheeseman (13-0, 8 KOs) navigated a few awkward moments against wily American veteran Carson Jones (40-13-3, 30 KOs) en route to a 10-round unanimous decision.
Both men fought on near-even terms early on; Jones bloodied the Brit’s nose as early as the second but was unable to capitalize on it further.
By the mid-rounds Jones — who missed weight by four pounds — had faded and allowed the younger man to use his skills and edge ahead in the fight. With the fight seemingly in hand, Cheeseman was caught late in the ninth and lost his shape and looked ragged. To his credit, he gathered himself and won the final round.
It was a good learning curve for the 22-year-old Brit, who was awarded the verdict by a verdict wider than it should have been: 99-91, 99-91 and 100-89.
“At times I though I could get him out of there, but I didn’t want to take too much of a risk because I knew he was a good fighter,” Cheeseman told Sky Sports afterwards. “I thought I boxed exceptionally well and got the job done perfectly.
“This was a career-changer, this win. It’s going to push me on to big things. I didn’t want to take risks to muck that up; I’ll take risks when I need to take risks. All tonight was about was winning. I wanted to get him out of there, but I never pushed for it and gave him a boxing lesson.”
2016 Olympic light heavyweight bronze medalist Joshua Buatsi (4-0, 3 KOs) continued his development with a second-round stoppage of Jordon Joseph (7-2-1, 2 KOs).
The 24-year-old university graduate almost got his opponent out in the first round before referee Bob Williams called a halt at 2:43 of the second round. Buatsi looks to have a high ceiling, and although it is early in his career, much is expected of him.
Heavy-handed Reece Bellotti (12-0, 11 KOs) successfully retained his Commonwealth title for the first time with an impressive sixth-round stoppage over Ben Jones (22-7-1, 10 KOs).
The title was only on the line for Bellotti because Jones failed to make the 126-pound weight limit at Friday’s weigh in. Bellotti had too much power for the perennial contender, dropping him in the fourth round with a bodyshot before getting the stoppage two rounds later with a huge overhand right.
Bellotti and promoter Eddie Hearn hope to face the winner of Isaac Lowe-Ryan Walsh, who meet on February 17 for the British title.
Former IBF bantamweight titlist Paul Butler (26-1, 14 KOs) stayed active with a workmanlike display, finally stopping journeyman Jefferson Vargas (5-8) at 2:02 of the eighth and final round. Butler, who weighed 124, will doubtlessly be hoping for a world title shot at IBF 115-pound titleholder Kal Yafai at some point this year.
Former world title challenger Charlie Edwards (12-1, 5 KOs) stopped Ricky Little (3-2-1, 1 KO) in the opening round of their junior bantamweight fight. The 24-year-old Londoner has won four fights since losing to Johnriel Casimero in an IBF 115-pound title fight in September 2016, on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin-Kell Brook.
Heavyweight hopeful Nick Webb (12-0, 10 KOs) returned from a year’s inactivity and wasted little time knocking Croatian journeyman Ante Verunica (3-5-1, 1 KO) flat on his back at 2:45 of the second round with a huge right hand, after which he was counted out by referee Robert Williams.
In super bantamweight action, Gamal Yafai (14-0, 7 KOs) warmed up for next month’s domestic battle with Gavin McDonnell with a third-round stoppage over Spanish-based Nicaraguan Jose Hernandez (4-17-1, 3 KOs).
2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Sean McGoldrick (4-0, 2 KOs) continued his progression with a third-round stoppage over Michael Barnor (14-20-3, 10 KOs).
Up-and-coming middleweight Felix Cash (8-0, 6 KOs) stopped James Hagenimana (8-7-1, 6 KOs) at 1:27 of the fifth round of a scheduled eight.