Lee Selby claimed the European Featherweight title with a classy sixth round stoppage win over Rendall Munroe on a fantastic night of action at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff – where Anthony Joshua MBE recorded his fourth professional win and Gary Buckland edged Gavin Rees in an early contender for fight of the year.
Welshman Selby picked up the Euro strap and defended his British title for the fourth time in front of a sold-out crowd in the capital and set his sights on landing a World title eliminator by the end of 2014.
Selby looked the boss from the opening bell and shook Munroe at the end of the first round. The Barry stylist continued to impose himself and pick off the former World Super Bantamweight title challenger at will with variety and venom.
Munroe looked livelier in the fourth and fifth rounds but Selby soon regained his dominance as he caught the 33 year old with a solid right hand early in the sixth round and went in for the kill, pinning ‘2 Tone’ on the ropes before unloading a barrage of punches that forced referee Ian John Lewis to step in and halt the action.
“Rendall is a quality operator but I had a nice rest after a hard year in 2013 and I felt fresh and back to my best,” said Selby.
“I was peppering him with a lot of shots and he wasn’t coming back, now and again he’d throw two shots and then cover up again. I caught him with a big shot at the end and it was game over.
“I am still learning and maybe I didn’t understand the importance of having a rest. I was constantly in the gym with four big fights but I had a good rest and it proved tonight that the rest has been good for me.
“I hope I can get out in April or May and back here again. The crowd was sensational, they were chanting my name and that is the stuff dreams are made of, I want more of it. I want to defend the belt against good European fighters and move towards a World title eliminator by the end of the year.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn added: “Before we signed Lee I was told he sold about 50 tickets for a fight in Newport and on Saturday we were sold-out and turning people away on the door,” said Hearn. “I’m so pleased for him, he won every round, he looked great and he has got a big year ahead of him.”
Fight of the night belonged to Welshmen Gary Buckland and Gavin Rees who served up classic in their British Lightweight title eliminator.
With both men coming into the fight on the back of damaging defeats, they gave everything in a compelling 12 round war that swung back and forth. The pair, who have sparred countless rounds in the past, embraced before the final round which was as dramatic as any of the previous 11.
Rees looked in charge in the opening rounds but Buckland, who had to cope with a cut near the right eye from the first round, dug in and pushed the former World Light Welterweight king back towards the middle sessions. Rees peppered Buckland with plenty of shots to the body but the Cardiff man would not budge and
Judges John Keane and Ian John Lewis scored the contest 116-113 to Buckland and Rees respectively, with Terry O’Connor having the decisive card and favouring Buckland 115-114. He now eyes a clash with British champion Martin Gethin, while Rees will take some time out to consider his future after previous losses to Adrien Broner and Anthony Crolla.
“Gavin is a true champion and we pushed each other all the way, it could’ve gone either way and I’m just glad I got the nod,” said Buckland. “I am sure everyone would want to see it again and I’d be up for it too, but we’ll see what the Board say as I really want to win the British title again.”
“Gary is a top fighter and it was a great battle,” said Rees. “I just couldn’t get going in the first six rounds. I think I came back quite well and pushed him towards the end, but he got the decision. I have to go away and see what I am going to do with my career. I’ve lost three in a row now and I’m nearly 34 so I’ll have some time with my family and see what happens.”
Before Selby’s clash with Munroe, there was a fourth fight for Joshua against Welshman Dorian Darch. The Olympic Gold medal hero was hit by niggling injuries at the end of 2013 but took little time warming to the task in hostile territory, with a stinging attack in the final ten seconds of the first round almost got Darch out in the opener. The 24 year old didn’t have to wait long for his fourth stoppage win in the paid ranks though, with a stiff right and stinging left ending the action inside a minute of the second round.
“I rushed a few things and there is still a lot that I have got to work on,” said Joshua, who returns to action on March 1 in Glasgow.
“It’s upsetting when you want to get in there and produce a spectacular performance and you come out with the feeling that it was an average performance.
“Every heavyweight can punch hard, but that’s not the point of heavyweight boxing, who can hit the hardest. It’s about who can hit the opponent and get hit less.
“But it’s all about learning and I learnt and came out in the second round and found my range a bit, that’s when I started to land my shots a bit cleaner.
“I caught him with some good shots in the first round and I think that if it had gone on a bit longer, I would have got the stoppage then.
“It could sound a bit cocky, but I just want to improve that much. I want to be good, and if I’ve got any chance of doing well then it’s about being spectacular. Why would I spend hours and hours in the gym to get it wrong or do mistakes out there?”
After the main event, Jason Cook rolled back the years with a dramatic stoppage win over Tony Pace to claim the vacant Celtic Welterweight title. The former European Lightweight title said that it would be his last fight and Pace began well, but in the fourth round Cook landed a stunning right hand that stopped Pace on his feet.
Chris Jenkins took his step-up in class in his stride as he landed the vacant WBC International Light Welterweight title against Christopher Sebire. Prizefighter king Jenkins was composed throughout a fight he dominated against the durable Frenchman, and claimed a fine win two judges scoring the bout 100-90 and one 100-91 for the Swansea man who moves to 13-0.
Earlier in the night, Dale Evans claimed the impressive scalp of Erick Ochieng. The Londoner was making his debut at Welterweight against the former Prizefighter finalist from St Clears, and it was the Welshman who enjoyed success in the first half of their eight-rounder that forced Ochieng on to the back foot and causing the awkward Londoner plenty of problems.
Ochieng grew into the contest in the closing rounds and had Evans in plenty of trouble in the seventh, with the hometown favourite looking ready to go at times, but the 22 year old dug in to fight back in the final round and claimed a great win in a cracking battle by 77-76 from referee Clarke Joslyn.
Elsewhere on the bill there were points wins for former European Middleweight champion Kerry Hope, Swansea’s Super Middleweight Tobias Webb and unbeaten Reading Welterweight Tamuka Mucha.