© Jane Warburton / Saddo Boxing
On Friday night, Irish-man Martin Rogan became the first ‘Prizefighter’ winner after successfully defeating Alex Ibbs of Stoke in the quarter-final, Dave Ferguson of North Tyneside in the semi-final and bookies favourite - David Dolan of Sunderland, in the final.
Ironically, aged 36, Belfast Boxer ‘Rogie’ was the oldest of the eight boxers! Rogan received a cheque for £25,000 and the Prize-fighter trophy as well as significantly increasing his profile in a short space of time.
The York Hall, Bethnal Green, England, was packed with an excited crowd awaiting the first of this new style boxing tournament billed as ‘The Prize Fighter Series: The Heavyweights’ promoted by Barry Hearn of Matchroom Sports. Consisting of eight boxers, four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final - each contest of three x three minute rounds, all on the same night.
Rogan’s first opponent was Alex Ibbs of Stoke, aged just 22 - it was a match-up of the youngest versus the eldest contender!
Rogan ‘The Entertainer’ entered the ring alongside his trainers, former Commonwealth and Irish Light Welter Champion Eamonn Magee and Belfast's John Breen.
Alex ‘El Torro’ Ibbs made his entrance flanked by stable-mate Scott Lawton and trainer Les Tharme of Stoke‘s Impact Boxing.
Tough guy Rogan gets straight to work on the youngster and mid-way through the first round, lands a short left to the face of Ibbs, which makes Ibbs flinch but he then backs Rogan in to the corner.
It's a bit of a wild slug-fest in this quarter-final, which sees a cut under the right eye of Ibbs in the last 20 seconds of the first round and as the end of the frame draws near - Rogan lands two big right punches and Ibbs looks in trouble.
Seconds later, another big right punch sends the young Stoke man to the canvas. He takes the count as the bell signals the end of the round and he walks unsteadily back to his corner.
In the opening minute of round two, Ibbs takes another big right from Rogan and topples backwards against the ropes. Referee Phil Edwards steps in to stop the contest.
Both boxers hug each other in respect and Rogan goes away to prepare for his semi-final clash against North Shields man, Dave Ferguson, a former soldier who, like Rogan, is undefeated.
Both men get straight to work right from the bell, but Ferguson looks in trouble in the closing seconds of the first round as he takes a barrage of shots from Rogan. Using big rights and bodyshots - the Belfast man goes to work on Ferguson,who does well to cover up and then comes back with some shots of his own.
In the last minute of the round, Ferguson opens up on Rogan - now backed in to the corner - and 'Rogie' covers up tight. But Ferguson almost stumbles backwards having exerted so much energy during the onslaught. Rogan lands a right punch just as the bell signals the end of the second frame.
Watching from our ringside position - we wondered whether Ferguson could find the energy to compete in the final - if he was to have won this fight. His nose bloodied, Ferguson looked exhausted at the end of the contest.
Rogan wins by unanimous points decision, 30-27 on all three cards, and looks ahead to the final against favourite - David Dolan. Both men are 9-0.
Rogan - also a part-time actor and taxi-driver - looks to be enjoying the occasion as he walks to the ring to the sounds of “Let Me Entertain You”. David Dolan also looks focussed as he makes his entrance.
In the opening seconds of round one, a swinging right lands on the temple of Dolan and he falls to the canvas. Looking surprised, he springs back up to his feet to take the count from Referee Marcus McDonnell.
Moments later, the referee warns the boxers to ‘watch your heads’ but it’s too late and Rogan has sustained a cut to the right eye. It starts to get a bit scrappy in there and the referee calls the two men together asking them to ‘keep it clean’.
Rogan has a lot of blood on his face from the cut. Dolan seems to be all over the place while Rogan is trying to throw as many shots as he can get in there.
Dolan lands a good left punch on Rogan mid-way through the round as he starts to settle in, but Rogan looks like he wants it more. A shot thrown by Dolan after the bell causes a reaction from Rogan and he shoves his hand into the face of his opponent and the crowd boos their disapproval.
Round two and Dolan starts off better, landing a few shots. But Rogan continues to walk forward with gloves held high. A barrage of shots erupts between both men but Dolan looks determined to go through them. A good right from Dolan lands in the last 40 seconds of the round and gasps ring out from the audience around the York Hall. It’s been a better round for Dolan.
As they come out for the final round of the competition, Rogan lands a right followed by a swinging right and Dolan goes down to the canvas. The hall erupts as Dolan takes the standing eight count.
The fight continues and it’s punch for punch in the closing minute. In the last 30 seconds, Dolan stumbles over to the floor and Rogan overbalances slightly, seemingly they catch each others foot, and the crowd roars but the referee waves it off as a slip.
Cheers ring out as the bell signals the end of the contest and both men receive a standing applause. It’s been a fantastic final.
Winning by unanimous decision, 29-25, 29-27 and 28-27 ), Martin ‘Rogie’ Rogan was named the first ever Prizefighter winner and was clearly overwhelmed by the win, saying “It means the world to me”.