Gary Buckland struck a mighty blow to Derry Mathews’ ribs to win the Prizefighter Super-Featherweights tournament at York Hall, Bethnal Green on a memorable night for British boxing.
The Welshman destroyed British champion Gary Sykes with a devastating knock out in the opening round of their semi-final before claiming the trophy and £32,000 winner’s cheque with a clinical second round knockout of Mathews in the final.
Mathews had already exorcised personal demons by defeating Choi Tseveenpurev in the first semi-final of the night, out-pointing The Mongolian Warrior in a fantastic tussle to avenge his title defeat at the hands of the popular Mongolian in April 2008.
But the unfancied Buckland took to Prizefighter from the first bell and when he faced Mathews the result was never in doubt – he crashed into the Liverpool man in the first with rights that first wobbled him then floored him, before a brutal body shot in the second round was too much for Mathews.
“I'm on top of the world – it hasn't really hit me yet and I don't know when it will,” said Cardiff’s Buckland. “Nobody thought I was going to win this but I had a great build up and I always believed in myself – it's the biggest thing I've ever won as a pro but I don’t think it will be my last.
“I couldn't get into my first fight (against Steve Bell) he was such a great amateur that this was always going to suit him. Gary came towards me on the semi and I caught him really well - I just felt really strong all night and I knew that I would beat Derry in the final, especially as he'd given a lot before our fight.”
Tournament brainchild Barry Hearn was amongst the packed crowd gripped by the non-stop action in east London, and he declared that the night was just what British boxing needed.
“After last Saturday we really needed a night of British boxing at its best, and tonight we saw eight fighters at their best and a very, very worthy winner,” said Hearn. “All credit to the British champion for participating, because that's the type of endeavour. Prizefighter has really puts the spirit back into British boxing.”
Mathews was bitterly disappointed to lose to Buckland but after gaining revenge over Choi the Liverpudlian was happy with a night’s work that has convinced him he can make waves in the sport.
“I said I wanted Choi in the first round but I had to wait,” said Mathews. “That was a real war, and my quarter-final with McArthur was too, even though I decked him a few times. Gary is a deserved winner but after how I performed tonight, I know I have more to offer the game.”
Choi won the opening bout of the night – his class enough to out-point Hove fighter Ben Murphy by a point with all three judges. The semi-final clash with Mathews happened after the Liverpool man saw off Scotsman Gary McArthur after putting the man with Prizefighter experience down in the first and second rounds before polishing off the Scotsman who was desperate to make up for his previous Prizefighter experience when a cut ended his chances in the Lightweights in Glasgow 2009.
British champion Gary Sykes stamped his authority over his scrap with Scott Lawton, dominating from the first round with ferocious combinations and closing the fight out in three rounds with a points decision in his favour from all three judges. Sykes was a massive favourite as he clashed with Buckland in the semi-final but he was met with a stunning right hand that ended his unbeaten record and blew the tournament right open.
The fourth quarter-final of the night saw former England Commonwealth Games captain and Coronation Street actor Steve Bell face Buckland in a competitive bout that Bell could claim he began very well, but admitted later that his Welsh opponent was busier and quicker as he nabbed a unanimous decision 29-28.