Review by Gianluca Di Caro
Photographs courtesy of Alistair Campbell.
On Saturday 24th April History was made when six time, five division World Champion and Promoter Lee Mcallister promoted the first ever all female professional boxing event, titled LET BATTLE COMMENCE – THE LIONESSES, to take place in the United Kingdom. The event, which took place behind closed doors at the Northern Hotel in Aberdeen and was broadcast live and free to view on FITE TV as well as globally on numerous linear and digital channels.
Back in September last year, when McAllister originally announced the history making event, which then was due to be co-headlined by WIBA Minimum Weight World Champion Denise Castle and returning MBC International Champion Marianne Marston it went viral, female fighters and boxing fans around the world retweeting and sharing the social media posts.
However within weeks of making the announcement fate dealt the Aberdeen Assassin a massive blow, as both the British and Scottish Government announced that the countries would go into full lockdown for the entire month of November.
McAllister set a new date was for January 2021 but just three weeks prior to the new date the UK once again went into lockdown. Frustratingly McAllister had to reschedule the date once more, this time to the 24th April 2021.
Early in April it looked like the event may have to be rescheduled again, as it was clear that, due to the pandemic, travel restrictions were introduced, a number of the overseas boxers contracted to fight would not be able to travel to the UK.
It wasn’t just ‘away’ fighters affected, such as the proposed opponents of the co-headline fighters Castle and Marston, but also Ellie Coulson, Hollie Towl, Sophie Varley and Jaime Bates’ opponents Ester Konecna, Angela Cannizzaro, Ivette Garcia and Jane Kavulani respectively, but also ‘home’ fighter Swiss based World Boxing Council (WBC) Muay Thai World Champion Natacha De Almeida, who was due to make her Professional Boxing Debut was unable to travel due to local restrictions.
Undaunted McAllister decided to continue with a reduced card of just six fights featuring UK based fighters only, well that was until just a week before showtime, when Manchester based Sophie Varley and Nicola Hopewell’s opponent Juliette Winter, who had been preparing for the fight in France, both had to pull out.
If that wasn’t enough for McAllister to contend with, just the day before the event Ellie Coulson’s replacement opponent Sarah Smith pulled out.
Frantic phone calls by McAllister and others already in Aberdeen including matchmaker Giles Carter, eventually paid off and a new opponent secured for the highly talented Coulson, but the new line-up was dramatically different from the original one planned for last year, as now the event featured only five fights and no big names or title fights to head up the card.
As Tasha Boyes’ original fight against Sophie Varley was off and Juliette Winter couldn’t get back from France McAllister decided that the planned future rematch between Hopewell (2-0-0) and Boyes (0-2-0) would be bought forward and headline, Coulson (1-0-0) would now face pro boxing debutante Becky Jameson, a Glasgow based pro BKB fighter. Hollie Towl would face Belfast’s Cara MacLochlainn, a former Kick Boxing star and Irish Amateur Champion making her pro boxing debut, debuting Angelica Finch would now face Jaime Bates (1-3-0) and the original match-up between two former elite Amateur stars Estelle Scott and Kirsty Biswas remained the same.
The aforementioned former amateur stars Scott and Biswas was the opening fight of the night, and boy oh boy was it a close fought all action affair.
Right from the off both protagonists went at it hammer and tongs, letting rip with big shots to body and head throughout, the round reminded me of the wickedly intense first round war between Graham Earl and Michael Katsidis back in 2007.
As with the first stanza both returned to Gladiatorial ways and continued to battle at close range in both the second and third rounds and whilst the action slowed a little in the fourth the action was just as intense, just now the big bombs were flying.
The pace of the action clearly affected Biswas more than Scott, as the Middlesbrough based warrior slowed considerably, which opened the door for South Shields based Scott to take control and dominate the proceedings in style, backing Biswas up on occasions and letting rip with big flurries of shots.
At the end of the fifth Biswas looked very drained, so much so that on returning to the corner her coach voiced his concerns and following a short discussion with Biswas summoned referee Carla Fox and retired his charge in the corner.
Wow, that was one helluva battle, the battling Scott and Biswas threw down the gauntlet to the others competing on the night, and sure as eggs is eggs they did.
Next up see Worksop’s Ellie Coulson (1-0-0) face very, very late replacement Becky Jameson.
Coulson, a three time national finalist and England amateur boxing national youth middleweight champion, wasn’t fazed one iota facing a bigger fighter from a different pro discipline, she calmly picked her shots each time Jameson came into range.
Jameson is a plucky as they come, clearly outclassed by the elite former Amateur star she kept coming forward wanting to make a fight of it, but at a cost, Jameson was sent down just under a minute into the fight and after that Coulson’s class shone through.
The Worksop lass landing big shots to Jameson’s head each time she came forward, when I say big shots I mean seriously solid straight rights that sent Jameson’s head back. As the fight went past the ninety second point Coulson landed yet another Exocet that rocked the Glaswegian to the core, Referee Carla Fox was clearly concerned at the amount of powerful shots Jameson had taken in the first ninety seconds or so and stepped in and waived the fight off on the one minute and forty two second mark.
Jameson was game taking the fight at such late notice, no question about that, she came to fight BUT Coulson is a seriously class act, personally think even after only two pro fights she’s definitely one of the best Female fighters in the Super Welterweight/Middleweight divisions worldwide and it’s just a matter of time before everyone in the division will begin avoiding her.
Third fight of the night pitted the sensational teenage former five time National Amateur Champion Hollie Towl (1-0-0) against the seriously tough former Kick Boxing star and Irish Amateur Champion from Belfast Cara MacLochlainn, who was making her professional boxing debut.
Initially both protagonists began cautiously feeling out the other and then the fight just exploded into action and when I say action, wow what a round, these two Warriors exchanged blow after blow. it was pure poetry in motion. As the round progressed Towl’s class began to shine through, as she started creating openings before firing scintillatingly fast and hard body shots at the torso of her Irish opponent.
Round two started similarly to the first, however Towl shifted up a gear and started targeting the body of the ‘Belfast Bomber’ and landing wickedly vicious shots MacLochlainn is one talented and tough cookie as not only did she just shake off the shots but would fire her own Exocets in return.
Round three was a WAR, both Warriors went in hard and fast, once again Towl shifted up another gear and began landing massive bodyshops, this time though MacLochlainn appeared to be struggling coping with the onslaught, at around midway through the second half of the round Towl landed a massive shot that sent the MacLochlainn reeling across the ring, I honestly thought the fight was over as it seemed her legs had gone, but somehow the tough Irishwoman managed to make it to the end of the round.
MacLochlainn looked drained when she came out for the fourth, which only encouraged Towl to come in hard and fast and land even more body shots, seemingly at will.
After such a hard round I was surprised when MacLochlainn came out looking ready to go to war again in the fifth, she put up a good fight but again Towl landed some incredible shots throughout the round.
The sixth and final round mirrored the second to a degree, without doubt Towl won the round with her incredible skill, but MacLochlainn kept the teenager honest and made a great fight of it.
No surprise that referee Carla Fox’s scorecard showed Towl as victor, by a 59-55 points margin, but plaudits to MacLochlainn she went the distance, a big surprise considering the amount of vicious body-shots she absorbed in the fight.
Quite rightly Towl-MacLochlainn was declared Fight of the Night and Hollie Towl the Fighter of the Night. The quietly spoken Towl seemed surprised when Sportanarium Radio’s Trevor Lake announced the accolade before presenting her with the Sportanarium ‘Fighter of the Night’ Belt.
Next up was Boston, Lincolnshire’s former three time ABA Champion Angelica Finch, who was making her Professional debut, against York’s former PBC international Champion Jaime Bates (1-3-0).
This was looking to be a sensational match-up in the first minute or so as both protagonists approach virtually mirrored the other, literally as Finch was fighting in a southpaw stance and Bates boxes orthodox.
Just as the action was really warming up, Referee Carla Fox signalled Finch into the neutral corner where the doctor awaited to check a bad cut sustained shortly before.
The doctor advised the contest be waived off and as such the result was declared as Referee Stops Contest (RSC) on the one minute and forty two second mark of the first round.
Following the result Finch’s corner requested a review of the result, as they believe the cut came from an accidental clash of heads just before the final exchanges of the shortened contest. Their request has been submitted to the British & Irish Boxing Authority competition panel to review and ascertain if the result should stand as is.
Regardless of the result of the review, Finch vs Bates II is being discussed between the teams and promoter with the anticipated rematch coming in the very near future – I for one can’t wait for that as this fight had all the hallmarks of being a classic Battle Royale.
Time for the main event – Nicola Hopewell versus Tasha Boyes II.
Back in September last year Hopewell vs Boyes took place on LET BATTLE COMMENCE II – here’s my write-up on the first meeting between them.
OK, now were onto the fight I was really waiting for, Worksop’s Professional Boxing Council (PBC) International Silver Champion Nicola Hopewell versus York’s Tasha Boyes.
I’ve been particularly looking forward to this contest since hearing about Tasha Boyes performance against Maria Cecchi in Italy a few weeks ago, which had earned high praise from the Italian media and I know just how good Nicola is, as was lucky enough to be ringside when she beat Ghana’s Anita Addy to lift the PBC crown back on March 7th.
This fight had all the makings of being a classic, and the way it started out it surely would have been, Hopewell came out hard and fast and let rip with fast double handed combinations, which coincidently is how I had anticipated Boyes would approach things!
Boyes is as savvy as they come and soon began to use her height and reach advantage to get back in contention, but Hopewell’s magnificent ringcraft and oodles of talent soon put an end to that and as the round was heading to its conclusion backed Boyes up and began letting rip with a barrage of shots, somehow Boyes managed to find a way out but only a temporary respite as Hopewell went in for the kill and let rip once more to send Boyes to the canvas.
Boyes must have landed awkwardly on her arm and aggravated the training injury she sustained in the week, as when she rose to her feet she was holding her arm and clearly in a lot of pain, her coach Giles Carter was so concerned he summoned Referee Graeme Beauly and retired her in the corner at the end of the round.
Have to admit that was a disappointing end to the highly anticipated contest, but there is some good news for Boyes as Hopewell has agreed to a rematch, I for one am really looking forward to that.
OK, the scene is set so now let’s get to Saturday night’s Hopewell-Boyes II showdown.
Right from the opening bell both fighters moved to centre ring, initially just feeling out the other but seconds later Boyes moved in and let rip with a straight left followed by a left-right combination, Hopewell responds with a big right to kick off the proceedings. What an absolutely fantastic highly technical, all action first round.
Thoroughly enjoyed the first stanza, however the second was even better as Hopewell shifted up a gear and used her fantastic ring craft to circumnavigate Boyes’ superior reach to land some seriously awesome shots.
Don’t get me wrong Boyes landed some first class shots too but Hopewell’s class and experience really shone through, especially in the second half of the round, culminating in a scintillating powerful body-shot that sent Boyes to the canvas. Boyes surprisingly raised to her feet before the count reached its conclusion, but clearly was still in a lot of distress, so much so that Referee Carla Fox didn’t hesitate to waive the fight off on the one minute forty two second mark of the second round.
Some nine years after amateur Female boxing hit the headlines at the London 2012 Olympics, finally the first female professional event took place in the UK, interestingly LET BATTLE COMMENCE – LIONESSES was not only the first all female pro boxing event in the UK, but I believe is also the first event to be officiated by female official in the main roles – these were; Supervisor/Official Recorder Alejandra Ramirez, Referee Carla Fox and Chief inspector Jennie Boyle.
The entire event is still available free to view on FITE.TV (go to replays)
My final words on this historic event is that it was a great show, one that goes to prove you really don’t always need big names or Championship fights, even for a televised event, especially when the fights are as good as these were.