Last night represented the first of a series of upcoming ‘NXTGEN’ shows from Matchroom Sport – which delivered in its promise to offer exposure for a handful of young prospects on a national stage. Fighters such as Reece Belotti, Isaac Chamberlain, Felix Cash, Jake Ball and Craig Richards were given the opportunity to develop and shine in what was a cauldron of atmosphere inside York Hall. Though (as you’d expect) most of the youngsters weren’t matched too toughly, the fight of the night – which turned out to be a real 50/50 – was undoubtedly Craig Richards vs. Alan Higgins for the Southern Area Super Middleweight title.
Both men went into the bout undefeated, and after ten rounds of back-and-forth action, the general consensus was that Higgins had done enough to come away with the win. The 28-year-old was the aggressor throughout the fight, and caught Richards clean on the ropes on several occasions. In spite of that, Richards had his moments and moved well on the back foot in spells – leading to him coming away with a debatable 97-95 victory. Higgins, visibly distraught with the outcome, told BNTV:
“I thought I won it by a few rounds to be honest. A lot of his work was on the arms. The amount of shots I caught him with was unbelievable. I’m not going to be bitter about it, but I did think I won. Eddie Hearn said I won, I think Johnny Nelson said I won, but it is what it is. I knew my shots were getting through. What was demoralising him was when he caught me, I was coming straight after him and catching him again. I could see it in his eyes. I was certain that I was winning rounds.”
Elsewhere, Isaac Chamberlain returned to York Hall for the first time since boxing his way to victory over Wadi Camacho in spite of a dislocated shoulder back in September. Chamberlain, who had spoken to BNTV in Miguel’s Gym earlier in the week, was relieved to get back to winning ways after picking his shots cautiously en route to a measured 3rd round stoppage over the rangy Imantas Davidaitis.
“The injury was in the back of my head,” He said. “I had to approach it professionally. I couldn’t just go and start unloading. I had to just take my time and see what was in front of me. It was nerve-wracking, but it felt good putting him away like that. I’ve been working hard in the gym on my strength, punching power and smartness. My fundamentals are improving in the gym day-in day-out – I don’t take any days off. I’m really happy that it went like it did.”
Jake Ball was also back in action for the first time since being stopped in stunning fashion at Wembley Arena last November. Back on track, ‘The Blade’ made light work of journeyman Olegs Fedotovs – putting him away in just over a minute. Ball put his devastating loss to JJ McDonagh down to complacency – something he insists will never be an issue again. As he told us, it felt nice to put the whole ordeal behind him. He said:
“Tonight, I was just back to myself. In my last fight, I was focused, but not focused on the fight in-hand. I was too worried about what was next and what was going to be, and obviously I took my eye off the ball (excuse the pun). It was a tough lesson to learn, but I’m improving on it. Now, it’s just fight-by-fight. I’ll be approaching things one at a time. That will never happen again in my pro career – never. Fedotovs was a tough, durable lad, and to get rid of him in a minute felt really good. When I’m focused and I’m on it, there’s no beating me.”
Paul Hyland Jnr and Felix Cash also extended their respective unbeaten streaks with points victories, before Reece Bellotti closed the show in explosive fashion – scoring a third round knockout over Dai Davies. All-in-all, the show had plenty to offer. The atmosphere was electric, the fighters got some well-needed exposure and rounds, and we got a cracker between Richards and Higgins – which a lot of people would love to see again. Promoter Eddie Hearn viewed the night as a success, and says he expects to take the NXTGEN series around the country in the coming year. Following the event, he finished by telling us:
“It was good wasn’t it? It takes you back to your roots. This is what it’s all about really. We’re blessed to go to these big arenas, but this is a big part of boxing. I loved it. I loved the atmosphere, and there’s plenty more to come.”