Moroccan stuns Junior Witter to claim the trophy at York Hall
Yassine El Maachi lived up to his nickname ‘The Showman’ as he beat former World Champion Junior Witter to win the Prizefighter Welterweights II crown at York Hall, Bethnal Green on Tuesday night, and says he’s ready to gatecrash the British Welterweight scene.
Moroccan-born Finsbury Park man El Maachi had been the centre of attention throughout the build-up to the night and he continued to hog the limelight in east London, seeing off Kevin McIntyre and former finalist Colin Lynes to face Witter in front of a packed out east London crowd.
Witter seemed to have the better of El Maachi in the opening moments of the final with a burst of action that looked to expose a gulf of class and experience between the two.
But El Maachi came right back at the former World Champion and appeared to floor him inside the opening 90 seconds of the first round, but the referee called it a slip. Either way, both men made an impression early-doors to stoke up the crowd and would go into their corners thinking they were on top.
The styles of the two fighters made for a close-up scrap that was as untidy as it was compelling, with a tetchy second round giving way to a mad last three minutes.
Neither fighter could be confident of their position in the fight, so the final round would always be decisive and while a farcical moment when Witter fell out of the ring and collided with a cameraman. Thankfully he bounced straight back into the ring, but solid body shots from El Maachi and a left towards the end may have been enough to get El Maachi the trophy, and get him the attention and big fights he craves.
“I had a lot of fans here tonight and this is for them,” said El Maachi. “I want to fight the best in the country and the best in Europe. No-one wants to fight me but now I’ve won this they cannot hide and I’ll face anyone.
“I knew Witter wouldn't be able to beat me. We have the same style but I've got faster hands than him and I've got more skill than him and I was the best fighter on the night.
“I loved the crowd – I had lots of supporters and I thank them for turning out tonight. A lot of people see what I can do and now those guys who avoided me will have to fight me. I got tired of chasing people, I've been doing that for so long now, but I won't have to do it anymore and I will take anyone on.”
It was a vicious body shot in the opening round of his semi-final against Kevin McIntyre that saw Witter through as the Scotsman took a knee. He got back to his feet but was unable to make an impression and the former World Champ cruised into the final.
Any hopes of a same-venue rematch between old rivals Lynes and Witter were dashed in the semis as El Maachi edged a tight affair against the Hornchurch fighter. The Moroccan’s bravado was replaced by caution and respect against Lynes, and as a result, it was a nervous nine minutes of action which ended in a split decision. One judge awarded Lynes the fight 30-28, but it wasn’t enough as the remaining judges gave it to El Maachi 29-28, 29-28.
El Maachi cut his shin on the entrance to the last quarter-final against Peter McDonagh, but that was the sole low point in a magical night for ‘The Showman’, who saw that all four quarters would be won by the favourites.
The first three quarter-finals saw the bookies tips dish out boxing lessons to their opponents with clinical wins. Kevin McIntyre boxed well in the opening fight of the night against John-Wayne Hibbert to claim a points decision with all three judges scoring the fight 29-28 in his favour.
Witter looked cool and composed in seeing off the challenge of Nathan Graham in the second quarter final of the night and Colin Lynes had far too much class for Bobby Gladman in the third bout of the night.
But it was the fourth quarter final that sparked the full house into life, as El Maachi and McDonagh crossed swords. The pair had words at the weigh-in on Monday and there was no love lost until the pair embraced as they waited for the decision. In the nine minutes they duelled for a semi-final spot, El Maachi roared out of the traps and looked like he wanted to finish things early against the Bermondsey-based Irishman, proving to be every part ‘The Showman’ as he exuberantly set about his rugged opponent in the opening salvo.
El Maachi acted the pantomime villain with more jibes at the end of an opening round that he dominated, and that seemed to rile McDonagh, who came out fighting in a scrappy second round – but again, the flashier El Maachi came to life at the right time and ended the second well. The third looked like the last chance for McDonagh to impress but as with the opening six minutes, his southpaw rival unloaded upper cut after upper cut to take the unanimous decision and start his march to glory.
Prizefighter Welterweights II results:
Kevin McIntyre beat John-Wayne Hibbert – unanimous decision 29-28, 29-228, 29-28
Junior Witter beat Nathan Graham – unanimous decision 30-28, 30-28, 39-28
Colin Lynes beat Bobby Gladman – unanimous decision 30-27, 30-27, 30-27
Yassine El Maachi beat Peter McDonagh – unanimous decision 30-27, 29-28, 29-28
Junior Witter beat Kevin McIntyre – unanimous decision 30-27, 29-27, 29-27
Yassine El Maachi beat Colin Lynes – split decision 29-28, 28-30, 29-28
Yassine El Maachi beat Junior Witter – majority decision 29-29, 29-28, 29-28