World Series Boxing 2015: Controversial night at York Hall ends in defeat for the Lionhearts


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The Independent Online

Such were the deafening chants amidst a sea of blue and yellow, that you would be forgiven for mistaking York Hall as the Ukraine Ottomans home venue last night. The travelling fans certainly made themselves at home; their loyalty did not go unrewarded. A 4-1 overall victory was emphatic but did not tell the story of the individual bouts. 

A walkover for the away side gave the visitors an early lead after Ashley Williams was held back from competition under medical grounds. Qais Ashfaq therefore opened proceedings against rough and ready bantamweight Mykola Butsenko. In the 5th and final round, a second headbutt left Ashfaq with a cut requiring 8 stitches. The referee stopped the contest, but chose not to head to the score cards, instead favouring a TKO victory for the overseas fighter. Richie Woodhall, coach at Team GB Boxing and co-commentator for ESPN's coverage of the event, told the Independent 'There were two blatant head clashes. Butsenko was coming in with his head - deliberately in my opinion - and the referee has missed both of them. I thought it was very poor refereeing.' Ashfaq was 3 rounds up on one of the scorecards and voiced his disapproval: 'He should have either been disqualified or it should have gone to the scorecards at the very least. I'm amazed that neither the judges nor the referees didn't see that.'

Inconsistency of the officials was compounded further, when the third bout - featuring Lionhearts overseas heavyweight competitor Ionut-Mirel Jitaru - was stopped due to an accidental clash of heads, but this time the judges headed to the scorecards to reveal the Ukrainian Denys Poyatsyka the victor on all three cards.

On a night where disappointment was rife amongst the home camp, a silver lining was added to proceedings by Sam Maxwell, who was back to his best In a clinical victory over light welterweight Mger Oganisian. Maxwell controlled the centre of the ring behind his jab, comfortably finding the range that has been missing in his last two fights. 'What a great feeling this is, coming off the back of two losses was so disappointing, especially when you're away from family and friends, working so hard, so this makes it all worth while. I feel like I'm back on track now.' Maxwell will travel to Algeria to face the Desert Hawks in a fortnight. 'I've seen the kid I've got to box and I know if I perform my best I'll beat him. That's what I'm going out there to do.'

The final bout of the evening saw Commonwealth Middleweight gold medalist Anthony Fowler lose his unbeaten record to Hurshidbek Normatov. Fowler, currently 5th in the WSB Middleweight rankings, struggled to find his usual rhythm against an awkward, rangey and fast southpaw. 'He was very good, very sharp. I tried everything, but he was just the better man tonight. I've hardly had any southpaw sparring which hasn't helped either, I just couldn't get my head round his style.' Fowler remains 3 places outside of the automatic qualification quota for the Rio Olympics next year.

Next Thursday sees the Lionhearts entertain the Morocco Atlas Lions at York Hall, where Super heavyweight Joe Joyce will be looking to extend his unbeaten run in the WSB.