Photo ©Jane Warburton/SaddoBoxing
It may have been a cold night but there was warm support at the Kirkcaldy Ice Arena, Fife, Scotland for British and Commonwealth Welterweight Champion Kevin Anderson as he faced challenger Ali Nuumbembe last night on a Barry Hearn Promotion televised by Sky Sports.
This marked the third occasion that local hero Anderson was putting the Commonwealth belt at risk since defeating Ghana's Joshua Okine by split decision for the title at this same venue a year and a half ago.
Originally from Namibia, Ali "Silent Assassin" Nuumbembe has been living in a caravan behind a pub in Glossop and training out of Shannon’s Gym. Nuumbembe's promoter Frank Maloney had said that this was Ali's last chance, that he could do no more for him if he lost and expected that Nuumbembe would go back to Africa if he didn’t get the win against Anderson.
As expected, round one was full of action from both boxers with Anderson looking to impress the home crowd, although he sustained a mark to the bridge of the nose by the end of the round.
Round two was much the same, but Anderson seemed to be edging slightly ahead. The champion's shots are clearly landing on target as blood starts to flow from the nose of Nuumbembe midway through round three.
So far it’s a close contest. There are a lot of punches coming from Nuumbembe but Anderson constantly comes forward and looks to be landing more shots, although not throwing as many.
There is blood on the top of Nuumbembe’s head in the last minute of the fourth but it’s been a better round for Nuumbembe, who has increased the pressure on Anderson.
There’s so much noise at the end of round five that referee Phil Edwards didn’t hear the bell and both boxers, looking confused, are ushered to their corners.
The pressure is constant from both fighters as they battle on in round six. Anderson's left hook is a peach of a shot and the crowd shows their approval as it lands on Nuumbembe. More confusion breaks out as with 40 seconds of the sixth to go, referee Edwards calls the end of the round, yet no one heard a bell. Both boxers look bewildered again as they are called back to their corners.
Round seven and Anderson looks strong as he lands a combination which forces Nuumbembe back on the ropes briefly in the first half minute of the stanza. It's a good round for Anderson, but still both boxers are very evenly matched. There’s no confusion this time as the bell clearly sounds the end of the round!
In the first 30 seconds of round eight, Anderson sustains a cut to the left brow, following an accidental clash of heads. Nuumbembe also dabs his own eye after the clash, but there’s no cut.Both men are spurred on by the incident.
Midway through the round, Anderson grimaces at a body shot from Nuumbembe and now the "Silent Assassin" is on the front foot. Anderson has been weakened by the shot and hangs on to finish the round. The laceration across the brow of Anderson is a bad one and cut man Benny King works to control the bleeding.
Anderson comes out with fists flying in the first 20 seconds of round nine, but Nuumbembe has confidence now. "Come on Ali!," trainer Bob Shannon shouts from his corner. In the last half minute, the Scotsman looks tired as he hangs on to the waist of Nuumbembe and topples forward. Nuumbembe gains more confidence as he sees Anderson weaken.
Round ten and Nuumbembe takes more control of the fight. He has the better workrate but Anderson, who is throwing less shot, has more land on target. "You want it more than him, don’t you? Then come on!", Shannon urges Nuumbembe. Ali nods, replying "I want it more".
In the first half minute of the eleventh, the two fighters are locked together head to head as they move across the canvas. Anderson throws a wild left hook as Nuumbembe edges into the corner but in a neat little side step, the African dodges the champion and now Nuumbembe is throwing punches at Anderson, who is forced back on the ropes.
Both fighters are entwined in the ropes as referee Edwards stops to break them apart. Nuumbembe still looks fresh on his feet while Anderson looks tired now and the cut to his left brow is still bleeding.
Nuumbembe throws more body shots, which visibly weakens Anderson who hangs on to his opponent to gain some strength. It’s been a great round for Nuumbembe.
It’s a messy twelfth and final round with short flurries of activity, but both men look tired now and hang on to each other during much of the frame.
The atmosphere is tense at the Kirkcaldy Ice Arena while the crowd awaits the result. Announcer John MacDonald congratulates both boxers then declares that there is a split
The scores are then read as follows: 116-115 for Nuumbembe, 115-114 for Anderson and then 116-112 for Nuumbembe.
Ali Nuumbembe wins by split decision and is crowned the new Commonwealth Welterweight Champion, the first ever to to come out of Namibia. The "Silent Assassin" climbs to 17-2-1 (6), while Kevin Anderson suffers his first loss and drops to 18-1 (11).
Afterward, a delighted Nuumbembe said "I’m so happy...this fight meant a lot to me...I was going to go home, but now I’m going to stay".
Frank Maloney said of Nuumbembe’s next opponent, "We want Matthew Hatton, that’s the fight we want, so we’ll be phoning you on Monday, Matthew!"