Boxing has returned to one of London’s most famous venues, the Royal Albert Hall, with Frank Warren’s Queensberry promotions.
The bill featured the return of highly-touted prospect Anthony Yarde, Daniel Dubois and British middleweight champion Liam Williams.
The grand old arena hosted many memorable British bouts throughout the 90s with fighters such as Frank Bruno and Prince Naseem Hamed, but has seen a massive reduction in fight nights.
This is the first card held in this prestigious hall for seven years and only the second since the turn of the millennium.
As with most fight nights, the masses didn’t enter the venue until the headliners came out. Despite the subdued atmosphere, the few fans that were present early on witnessed some amazing undercard bouts, including a destructive performance by British super-flyweight Harvey Horn.
The 23-year-old Londoner took his professional record to 5-0 with a terrific first-round knockout, and appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
The super-flyweight division is very competitive, but Horn have the talent and potential to upset the apple cart.
Heir to AJ’s throne
As the night wore on, the fans slowly started to pile in, and the venue’s 5,000 seats began to fill. It was then the turn of heavyweight prospect Dubois to take to the ring.
Still only 21, the Greenwich-born fighter is already seen by many as the heir to Anthony Joshua’s throne, and was taking on former world title contender Ravzan Kajanu.
Dubios came out to prove a point, going to war from the first bell, which brought the entire arena to their feet. Both heavyweights were trading leather in the centre of the ring, but it was the Londoner who was getting better of the exchanges.
The British heavyweight showed absolutely no respect for Kajanu’s power and it was only a matter before he got the stoppage.
The animated crowd, wishing the war could go the distance, was left disappointed when Dubois stopped the experienced Romanian in the second round.
However, the fans didn’t have to wait long to witness more explosive action as the next contest, between Johnny Garton and Chris Jenkins, was easily the fight of the night.
Garton was defending his British welterweight belt in what was billed as a crossroads fight for him.
Is the South Londoner ready for world and European level fighters, or is he still better off at domestic level?
Despite these doubts, he was still seen as favourite to win the contest. However, Jenkins was looking to claim the title at the third time of asking, so wasn’t lacking in motivation.
From the first bell, the champion was getting out-worked and it was clear that Jenkins had come for his belt. The Welsh fighter won plenty of new admirers as he dominated the champion and pressed the action.
However, as the bout entered its later stages, Garton started to take over and attempted to regain some momentum. The pair left it all in the ring until the final bell which triggered all in attendance to rise to their feet and applause.
Despite being a huge underdog, Jenkins rightfully won the contest by unanimous decision.
Emotions were running high after that contest, and reached fever pitch as the co-main event boxers came out. The No.1 British middleweight, Williams also had his British title on the line against Joe Mullender.
Despite the pre-fight chat billing this as a 50-50 fight, Williams refused to waste any time and went to work from the first round. Keen on putting the contest to bed early on, the Welshman, 26, got the stoppage late in the second round.
The final fight saw the No.1 prospect in the country in action as Yarde returned after five months out of the ring to take on America’s Travis Reeves.
Based on how the night had gone so far, the fans was expecting nothing but action from the start. Unfortunately, Yarde’s entrance was the only thing that brought the crowd to their feet.
‘The Beast’ definitely was trying to work off the ring rust and ease his way into a fight which wasn’t expected to go beyond two rounds, and this only served to dampen down the excited crowd.
It wasn’t until the fifth that Yarde started to push on and land clean shots. Unfortunately, for the eager audience, the fight was stopped before he really began firing off his deadly combinations.
Overall, the return to big-time boxing to the Royal Albert Hall was a big success, with some amazing action and an electrifying atmosphere. It raises the question, why isn’t this a regular venue for the sport?
The venerable arena, unlike others in London, wasn’t built upwards which allows everyone in attendance to get a great view of the action.
Its intimate seating arrangement makes it feels like the crowd is right on top of the ring, which creates a much better feel as a fan. Hopefully, this prestigious arena will host more nights like this and boxing doesn’t turn its back on a great place.