Lightweight Derry Mathews (38-9-2, 20KO’s) has given the boxing faithful more than his fair share of excitement, thrills and spills throughout a 49 fight career, and last night gave them his greatest moment yet.
Fighting to a twelve round unanimous decision against tough Canadian Tony Luis (19-3, 7KO’s), Mathews captured the vacant interim WBA world lightweight title in front of a partisan crowd at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, UK.
Judges ringside produced scores of 112-114 twice and 112-115 in favour of the crowd favourite, which sparked joyous celebrations in the crowd as well as in the ring.
“Dirty” Derry boxed well behind the jab and picked his shots nicely in the first half of the fight, catching the onrushing Luis as he bulled in, trying to rough up his fellow challenger.
With Mathews building up a nice lead as the fight progressed, Luis reacted in the middle rounds by upping his work rate and trying to stick the pressure on the Liverpool man. A number of occasions saw the Canadian pin Mathews against the ropes and go to work to the body and head with uppercuts and hooks often drawing gasps from the crowd.
Both fighters were deducted points in round eight; Mathews for persistent holding and Luis for excessive use of the head. Often Luis would finish a combination with his forehead, trying to bloody up his opponent on the inside, with some of the rough housing causing Mathews problems.
However, the more clean work was always coming from Mathews right throughout the night, utilizing the jab well, shooting a looping over hand right hook which seemed to halt and stagger Luis on numerous occasions.
As the fight drew to a close in the final rounds, Mathews pulled the victory out of the bag showing excellent fitness and poise to finish the contest on top and sway the onlooking judges with his cleaner, more accurate work.
Speaking after the fight, an ecstatic Mathews said, “All credit goes to my team. My trainer Danny Vaughan had the plan and it worked down to a tee. The lads out at MGM Marbella have been superb, and Taff [Jason Lowndes] has got me in the best shape of my career.”
Pressed on whats next, he said, “Spend some time with my family and this little man here [Derry Jnr]. Listen I will fight anybody. You all know that. I’ve never avoided any fighter. I feel like I’m the hardest hitting lightweight, not just in Britain but in the world. I’ll leave my next move down to my manager and trainer – they always do whats best for me.”
Mathews was originally scheduled twice to fight full WBA champion Richar Abril, only for the slick Cuban to pull out of the contest on both occasions with an injury at short notice. “It is what it is. [Richar] Abril is a bottle job in my eyes. He never wanted to fight me. I’m a champion now and people will be calling me out”, Matthews finished.
The World Boxing Association (WBA) decided to elect Darleys Perez as full champion and declare Abril ‘Champion in Recess’ allowing Mathews to contest for the interim belt.
In the chief supporting contest, Liam Smith (20-0-1, 10KO’s) picked up the WBO inter-continental title with a punishing seventh round technical knock out of David Ezequiel Romero (11-6, 5KO’s).
The Argentinian really didn’t stand a chance against a supreme Smith performance, which saw Romero down once in round three, twice in round five and once in round six.
Smith 26, will now look onwards and upwards with a potential shot against IBF light middleweight champion Cornelius ‘K9’ Bundrage, a possibility on the horizon, later this year.
Talented local favourite Joe Selkirk (13-0, 7KO’s) made his long awaited ring return after 16 months on the sideline with an impressive stoppage of tough Spanish campaigner Yuri Pompilio (7-10-2, 2KO’s).
Despite feeling a twinge in his right hand in the second round, Selkirk took his opponent apart almost one handed, closing the show with a barrage of left hooks to the head, which caused referee Steve Gray to call a halt to the action.