Thursday night saw London’s packed York Hall venue welcome home a British Knockouts side coming off the back of two big WSB Season VI opening away wins. Victory in Miami in Week 2 and then in Casablanca a fortnight ago had put the hosts top of Group B, and a resounding triumph against Mexico Guerreros cemented their position after Week 6.
The light flyweights were the first to face off, with the Guerreros’ Joselito Velasquez using his left hook brilliantly in the tight opening exchanges. Lions’ WSB debutant Galal Yafai also found the target several times early on, and midway through the second round Velasquez pulled up with a shoulder injury, leaving a grateful Yafai to open his WSB account with a TKO win.
Commonwealth and European Confederation silver medallist Qais Ashfaq stepped in to the team’s bantamweight slot with confidence, taking a superb contest against Mexico’s Sergio Chirino by unanimous decision. At 2-0 up, Pat McCormack had the chance to seal the win against Mexico’s Rio 2016 qualifier Raul Curiel, and was composed in the opening exchanges as he sought away through his opponent’s solid defences. Curiel found his range in the third round but McCormack was picking his moments to attack brilliantly and a unanimous judges’ decision put the hosts into an anassailable 3-0 lead.
The biggest cheer for the evening so far then came with the return of Anthony Fowler to the British side as he looked to banish a difficult 2015 and focus once more on WSB and his Olympic preparations. Fowler looked strong against Misael Rodriguez and controlled the ring as both boxers landed some big blows in the second round, and even as Rodriguez delivered a rousing finale, the Lionhearts star had done enough to guarantee a unanimous decision in his favour.
At 4-0 up, Lionhearts’ local hero Lawrence Okolie stepped in to the hall to a rapturous response, and took less than one round to dispose of Mexico’s debutant Jared Barraza, putting him on the deck within moments and giving the referee no option but to end the bout early.