Unsung Heroes: Chris Edwards Gets The Jump On Shinny Bayaar; Ashley Theophane Digs Himself Out Of A Pit Against Super Game Ben Murphy

PETERLEE, CO. DURHAM – On a perishingly cold Saturday night in the North East of England, flyweights Chris Edwards and Shinny Bayaar punched lumps out of one another through 12 hectic rounds on this Maloney Promotions card. Edwards, the brisket-tough veteran from Stoke, banked the first eight of those and stood firm when Bayaar, Oldham by way of Mongolia, rallied late to record a unanimous victory via scores of 116-113 and 117-112 (twice). In doing so, Edwards tallied the first defence of his British championship while avenging the split decision loss Bayaar had hung on him back in 2009.

Edwards (110 ½ lb.) made a mess of Bayaar (111 lbs.) in the opener when a pair of accidental headbutts split the challenger along the bridge of his nose and across his left cheek. Edwards’ attacks were more direct. His straight leads allowed him to tunnel into his man to score freely, whereas livewire Bayaar relied on a whipping left which he hurled as if he were on a Basque pelota court.

Edwards bossed the early going expertly, a busy bee in no hurry. Bayaar rattled home a volley of lefts in the 3rd but Edwards was the proverbial rolling boulder; nothing bothered him nor slowed him up. By the mid-point Bayaar’s left cheekbone had swollen to the size of a golf ball and he looked in imminent danger of being given the hook, especially after Edwards worked him over again in round 7.

Bayaar sparked into life, though, in the next. In no mood for rebellion, Edwards slugged him in the groin in a bid to dampen his spirits, yet it was the challenger who claimed the session. Bayaar came on in the next, winging left hands with abandon and he positively tore after Edwards in the 10th, bouncing his head around in exchanges and appearing to freeze the champion stock-still with a left hook before the bell.

The challenger began shoe-shining in the penultimate frame. Edwards, not a man for such flourishes you imagine, landed enough to share the round and the champion spurred himself on the 12th to cement a solid win.

On the final bell, both fighters felt triumphant enough to hold their arms aloft and in truth, neither could be termed a loser after this scuffle. Edwards, Staffordshire’s very own bull terrier, improves to 17-14-3 (4) while Bayaar slips to 15-6-2 (4) — although those numbers shouldn’t mask the quality of each. Pocket dynamos that fans seldom show an interest in; these fellows are worth their weight in gold.

Original headline act, Ashley Theophane, Britain’s junior welterweight boss, appeared to be in for a relatively straightforward assignment on paper after 8-4-1 (4) lightweight novice, Ben Murphy, was drafted in to replace local fighter Nigel Wright (who had failed his pre-fight medical). It was an assumption that couldn’t have been a more off-beam as Murphy, here on only a few day’s notice, put forth one of the gamest efforts in recent memory.

Bristling with power, Murphy (139 ½ lbs.) went after Theophane (140 lbs.) like a rottweiler — an approach almost cartoon-like in its execution. Ringsiders were at first tickled with Murphy’s kamikaze tack, which soon gave way to astonished appreciation and then, as the rounds ticked past, pensive bewilderment. As Murphy savaged Theophane against the strands, the champion, unable to shake the Hove man from his trouser leg, dropped rounds while the challenger picked up momentum.

Theophane, fighting with a grimace that intimated he’d eaten something unpleasant, put on a Floyd Mayweather skit in round 5, covering up on the ropes before flashing accurate counters. Murphy trampled over this attempt at artistry from the Kilburn man, whitewashing it as if trying to ape the brushstrokes with a roller. Theophane did manage to clinch the next and, although he let round 7 slip through his fingers, a left uppercut punctured Murphy’s right eye and brought the champion into the fight.

As Theophane found his range and some space to work within, he began rattling off the combinations which had marked him out as a man to watch. Uppercuts ricocheted off Murphy’s eye, who merely grinned and kept thundering forward — but they were beginning to make a dent.

The remainder of the contest resembled British athletic great Steve Ovett’s attempts to reel in over-ambitious pacemaker Tom Byers in Oslo in 1981. Theophane began eating up the ground, yet he needed every point left on the table in order to win. Murphy looked as though he had it in him hang on until the final bell until the champion fired off an urgent, two-handed salvo in the 10th and then stunned him with an overhand right at close of session.

Surging now, Theophane began to tee off on his man in the 11th and referee Howard Foster closed in for a lingering look before terminating matters at 2:33. “Treasure” sank to his knees after this soul-searching examination and has much to ponder should he intend to move on from domestic level. He stretches his record to 31-4-1 (9). Murphy showed unparalleled determination, hunger and drive to rise above his limitations. This was genuinely inspirational stuff.

Darlington’s Stuey Hall rebounded at featherweight, outpointing the fit-as-a-greyhound Welshman Dai Davies over 6 with a score of 59 points to 56. After falling short in his bantamweight summit meeting with Jamie McDonnell back in September, Hall rolled on to 12-1 (7) to the delight of his raucous following.

Further down the card there were a host of four-round decision victories for local fighters such as Gary Fox, Jonson McClumpha, Robert Dixon, Peter Cope and Paul Archer. Cope especially brought vociferous support with him. Fishburn’s Fox and Easington man Archer struggled somewhat against determined opposition in Billy Smith and Sean Gorman respectively.

Geordie prospect Mark Clauzel showed good power in halting Nottingham joiner Andy Hardy in three, although it was Clauzel’s neighbour Martin Ward who proved best in show (among prospects at least). Southpaw Ward is a rarity among men at this level. He is well-schooled, wields a cultured right hand and also feints artfully before striking. He gave an example of this in round 2, threading home a straight left that left Andy Roberts thinking things through for a split-second before slumping onto his back to be counted out. Time of the stoppage was 0:54.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.