Photographs Courtesy of Mirek Marcinski

On Saturday night somehow Derby promoter Dan Gray managed to turn what seemed to be a doomed special ‘Peaky Blinders’ themed event, into a massive success. 

Originally the event, at the Queens Hall in Derby City Centre was set to be co-headlined by two World Championship contests, however just two days before the show it became clear that the two challengers from Tanzania, Amos Mwamakula who was contracted to fight Paul Peers and Iddi Mkwera who was George McIlroy’s opponent, hadn’t made their flights, and the Tanzanian boxers promoter was avoiding any attempts of contact. 

Efforts to find suitable Championship level opponents at such short notice proved fruitless, which forced the cancellation of both title fights, however one of the headline fighters Paul Peers decided to remain on the card and box in a non-championship contest if an opponent could be secured in time, which one was.

However that wasn’t the end of dramas, as on Saturday morning the quickly arranged replacement opponent also pulled out. Gray hit the phones calling every matchmaker trying to secure a second replacement, which luckily he managed to do.

As I said above the event was themed on the hugely successful ‘Peaky Blinders’ TV series and virtually everyone turned up dressed to impress in early 1920s themed outfits, including the aforementioned Paul Peers and his team that included top hand-wrapper Michelle Pennington, who happily wrapped not just Paul’s hands but a number of the undercard fighters too, whilst dressed in a stunning 1920s flapper outfit.

OK, enough of the scene setting, let’s get to the fights themselves, starting with headliner Paul Peers, who was now facing Nicaraguan Pablo Narvaez in a six rounder.

Right from the off both protagonists came out intent on securing centre ring, and no surprise that is was Peers that won that battle. Peers looked fired up for the battle and his initial salvos were seriously slick and powerful. Narvaez is a tough battler and countered when the opportunity arose, which wasn’t that much in the first round. Good solid round for Peers, much to the delight of the fans.

Round two was a bit more open, Narvaez quite happy to absorb stinging shots to the body initially, however when Peers started targeting the head as well as the body the tough Nicaraguan decided to make a real fight of it and at the first opportunity took the fight to the Liverpudlian, which lead to some seriously fantastic toe-to-toe action.

It was Narvaez that came out hard and fast in the third, letting rip with a cracking five punch combination, Peers responded in an instant backing Narvaez onto the ropes where he proceeded to let rip with some slick combinations of his own. 

As the round progressed Peers stepped up his attacks, targeting the body of the tough Nicaraguan with some slick, seriously powerful rights. Once again Narvaez turned the tables and went on a big attack of his own starting with a very quick combination, to which Peers responded in similar vein, Narvaez stood his ground and let rip with a big right of his own, after which a pained expression was emblazoned over his face and in the moment lost concentration, Peers came at him hard and fast, Narvaez tried to counter with a big right but again afterwards had a pained expression on his face and began shaking his hand. Not sure if Peers noticed it or not as in an instant he was all over the Nicaraguan like a rash, peppering his body with big right and lefts..

Narvaez is tough and withstood the onslaught and managed to make it to the end of the round, however virtually as soon as he got back to his corner his cornerman signalled to the referee Rob Jones. Jones spoke with the cornerman and turned immediately to the supervisor and waived the fight off. 

It may have only lasted three rounds but what a fantastic all action contest, plaudits to Narvaez for not only taking the fight with a few hours notice but for getting stuck in and making it a great fight.

Preceding the Peers-Narvaez fight see the return of Leeds Bantamweight Sophie Varley, also against a late replacement Poland’s Sylwia Doligala, following her Tanzanian opponent also failing to show.

What a cracking perfectly matched fight, Varley controlled the opening stanza in style, utilising a seriously solid jab to open up opportunities for her to let rip with slick combinations and big rights, don’t get me wrong Doligala wasn’t on the receiving end for all the round, definitely not, the Polish girl often countered in style and there were some sensational close quarter exchanges, but very much Varley’s round.

Round two was fought in very similar style, as were the early exchanges in the third, however as the round progresses Doligala stepped up her attacks which lead to some even higher intensity exchanges between the pair of battlers.

Round four was a cracker Doligala taking the fight to Varley once more, it became a wee bit scrappy early on but soon Varley got behind her solid jab and began to gain control once more. 

The final minute of the round was fantastic to watch as both girls boxed beautifully even though it was fought at a scintillating pace. After four rounds of exquisite boxing referee Rob Jones scored the contest 40-36 in favour of Varley, which whilst correct really doesn’t show just how closely fought it was.

Prior to Varley-Doligala was a four round Middleweight contest that pitted Leeds’ Jack Jones against Liverpool’s Kyle McNicholas.

Jones was clearly fired up for the fight as he literally shot out of the corner at the first bell to take the fight to McNicholas, McNicholas countered but sensibly quickly covered up as Jones came back at him hard.

Jones was on the front foot for most of the first round, but don’t go thinking it was all one way traffic, far from it, OK McNicholas was on the back foot and against the ropes often but even then he would counter then cover up, cover and absorb a few shots then back with a counter then cover-up.

Round two see McNicholas turn the table on Jones and stay on the front foot, what followed next was a fantastic exchange, however it wouldn’t be long before Jones once again took control of the contest and McNicholas revert to his tried and tested cover-up and counter routine, with the occasional foray of his own.

About the minute-mark of the round Jones stepped up the pace and landed a peach of a body-shot to send McNicholas down. The Liverpudlian was soon on his feet but on the restart Jones went in hard and fast forcing McNicholas back against the ropes and then proceeded to let rip with a massive double handed attack, the attack was so fast and forceful that McNicholas was unable to find any space to counter. Referee Rob Jones watched intently and noticing no countering stepped in and waived the fight off on the one minute and twenty eight second mark.

The second fight of the night see Stoke-on-Trent’s Nathan Russo in action against debuting Darren Burns from Newry.

Right from the opening bell the compact Russo went straight on the attack and targeted the body of the much taller Ulsterman and each time Burns attempted to counter he struggled to lock in on the diminutive and highly mobile target, which ultimately left another opening for Russo to slip under the big man’s guard to land a big body-shot.

No surprise that after only a minute or so of such powerful shots peppering his body, particularly the lower rib, that Burns had to take a knee to catch his breath, however that signalled to Russo that his tactics were working, so it was more of the same on the restart. 

Within thirty seconds or so Burns was caught once more on the lower rib area, forcing the big man down once more. Again the Burns showed his mettle and raised to his feet and again on the restart Russo took advantage of his own size and agility to slip under the big man’s guard and get on the inside and let rip with a wickedly vicious shot to drop the Ulsterman for the third and final time, as Referee Rob Jones decided to call an end to the proceedings on the two minute and twenty second mark of the first round.

The opening fight of the night pitted two debuting fighters against each other, Northern Cyprus’ Metin Turunc and Sheffield’s Richard Grant in a four round Cruiserweight battle, and believe me battle is the right term.

The first round was a bit scrappy, to put it mildly, Turunc was maybe a bit too hyped up as whilst he was firmly the one taking the initiative he was trying way too hard and as such most shots were air shots, but some landed and shook Grant to the core.

The second, whilst fought at a more reasonable pace were not that dissimilar to the first, just a bit of a slower pace. Grant managed to land a couple of good clean shots, but it was Turunc forcing the pace with his big haymakers, and when I say big I reckon if one had landed Grant would have been knocked out cold for sure.

Round three was a better round, the pace had dropped and this benefitted Turunc as now he was beginning to land some good clean scoring shots.

Round four was all out war, Turunc stepped the pace up once again but retained a semblance of control and again was landing scoring shots, whilst Grant was mainly on the defence he did manage to land a couple of good clean shots of his own. After one particular shot of Grant’s landed Turunc seemed to lose control again and went in hard and fast with massive bombs, Grant grabbed hold of the Turkish Cypriot and as referee Rob Jones was separating them Turunc let rip with a massive but low blow that sent Grant reeling across the ring holding his groin.

Immediately Referee Rob Jones called time-out to the ringside officials, checked Grant was OK and proceeded to deduct a point of Turunc. On the restart Turunc went in hard and fast again Grant covered and moved but the rampant Turunc just chased after him throwing bombs once more until he corralled Grant into a neutral corner, then in a act of pure red mist deliberately head-butted Grant right infant of the referee. Rob Jones immediately stopped the fight and deducted a second point.

As with the first restart Turunc went in hard and fast chasing Grant around the throwing massive shots. I don’t know how Grant survived the onslaught but he did. So to Referee Rob Jones’ scorecards – well what can I say the score was 38-37 in favour of Grant. I can understand why Turunc’s corner team were upset with their charge, if it wasn’t for the points deduction their man would have won!

Now whilst I don’t normally cover the Amateur undercards, I have to say some of the fights, both male and female on the amateur element of the show would be worthy of being on the main pro section of the card, they were that good. 

The Tommy Doyle (Leeds) vs Paul Beech (Derby) has to have a special mention, as not only was it a cracking fight to watch but after the fight they stayed in the ring for a highly entertaining dance-off, yes I said dance-off – there is video so worth checking YouTube for that. Beech won the fight on points but the dance off honours went to Doyle.

What a fantastic night, OK it was disappointing that the title fights didn’t happen but have to say the show was that good in it’s own way it didn’t need them. Dan Gray and his team deserve real praise for overcoming adversity in such a classy way, they presented the most enjoyable event I have ever attended, it was awesome, the attending fans were fantastic and really got into the theme of the night, have to admit if there was an accolade for the most entertaining boxing event of the year there could only be one winner and without doubt it would be Dan Gray’s “Peaky Blinders” show, it was that good.

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