Sian O’Toole cemented herself as one of the sport’s most exciting prospects Wednesday night when she claimed the vacant Midlands featherweight title with a wide-point win over Beccy Ferguson at the Eastside Rooms in Birmingham.
Headlining the BCB Promotions ‘Fight Before Christmas’ show in just her third professional bout, the 24-year-old from Droitwich had to handle a cut and a highly motivated opponent before coming away with the belt.
Ferguson came into the fight off the back of three wins, and she had previous experience at the championship distance up at super featherweight and made a confident start. Fighting out of the southpaw stance, she made for an awkward target as both women struggled to close the distance in the early rounds.
O’Toole, who had an extensive amateur background, began to control the bout with her movement and counterpunches. In what was her first ten-round contest, she was doing well to pick her shots accurately rather than overexert herself by throwing volumes of punches.
The sixth round saw a warning for O’Toole for use of the elbow, but both girls came out of the round cut, Ferguson with her hairline and O’Toole with a more significant cut above her left eye. Both were fine to continue, and it seemed to energise Ferguson, who tried to target the affected area.
However, the clearer, cleaner shots were coming from O’Toole, and with partner Frankie Gavin and family cheering her on ringside, she closed the fight down the stretch with some slick punches and failed to slow her pace, showing the lack of championship distance experience wasn’t going to hamper her.
Referee Chris Dean scored the contest 98-92, with most observers ringside seeing it in a very similar way. Ferguson, as always, gave a great account of herself and will possibly look to step back up to super featherweight in 2024.
For O’Toole, she showed she was ready for the step-up in opponent, and this could well be the first of many belts heading home with her and her son Michael.
“It was my first ten-rounder; it’s only my third fight, but I wanted the challenge. That’s what I said when I started my career. My coaches knew Ferguson well, so we had a good game plan. My first two fights gave me a good warm-up, but this was definitely up a level.
“I don’t want to put labels on what I am going to do next, but this is my first big win, and I want to get to the top of the sport. There is no time limit; it will take however long it takes, but I want to go all the way.”.
The undercard saw some mixed results for some of BCB’s young talents, including a class showing from one of the best welterweights in the world, and the sport said goodbye to Liam Richards, who fought for the 107th and final time.
Ben Collins made his much-anticipated professional debut in the show’s chief support slot, going the distance with the experienced Genadji Krazneski. The 19-year-old Haringey Box Cup winner looked right at home in the paid ranks as he dominated the action against his smaller opponent. Boxing at light heavyweight, the Stourbridge native displayed a variety of punches and looked to press the action throughout.
Krazneski boxing for the 19th time this year is rarely stopped, so it was no surprise the fight went the distance with Collins coming away with a 40-36 win. The Pumpkin Gym owner can take a lot from his debut performance, and his army of fans in attendance will be out in force again when he makes his next appearance.
Brandon Bethell made it two wins from two and, in impressive style, took every round against Liam’Rocco’ Richards on route to a 40-36 point win. It was a different sort of fight to his show-stealing debut against Logan Paling, but he showed good patience, stamina, and timing as he saw the final bell for the first time.
Richards has been one of the sport’s most active fighters since he turned professional in 2010. He won five of his first six bouts and challenged for an English title, but after that loss, he adopted the life of one of the sport’s busiest journeymen, providing a stern test for many young prospects like Bethell. Everyone at BCB wishes him well in his retirement.
Women’s boxing headlined the show, and that’s a position Omarah Taylor wants to hold in the future, as the former GB amateur got her professional career started with a points win over Ester Konecna. Boxing in her home city, she handled her tricky Czech Republican opponent with relative ease, only dropping one round on Kevin Parker’s scorecard and taking the 59-55 victory.
Fans in attendance got a surprise treat as former world title challenger David Avanesyan was added late to the card in a rematch with Serge Ambomo. Last seen boxing pound-for-pound great Terrance Crawford, the Armenian welterweight needed a keep-busy bout, and he showed his class, forcing his Cameroonian opponent to quit on his stool after four one-sided rounds.
There was disappointment for Jamie Edwards, as he had to settle for a draw against Stuart Greener in a fight of two halves. In his first fight back in October, Edwards made light work of Stefan Vincent, and he made a similar fast start in this one.
Greener is an experienced operator who soaked up the early onslaught and started to land shots of his own as Edwards appeared to tire. The fight became a bit raggedy towards the end as both men stood toe to toe, trading blows. At the final bell, it looked close, and the referee agreed, seeing the contest 38-38. The 25-year-old from Coventry will learn a lot from this experience and will be back out again soon.
Macaualey Owen is a frequent fixture on televised shows, and he showed his quality and spite by dispatching Engel Gomez inside two rounds. The slick southpaw was sitting on his shots early, drawing plenty of oohs from the packed-out crowd.
A left hand did the damage as the Nicaraguan sank to the canvas, and he was duly counted out by referee Ryan Churchill. A big 2024 awaits the Telford-based lightweight, who moves his perfect record now to seven wins from seven.
Nico Ogbeide opened the show against MJ Hall in what turned out to be a real four-round classic. Hall boxed superbly throughout, and Ogbeide matched him punch for punch in a competitive contest that the 1-0 prospect was unlikely to be expecting. A draw early on is a tough thing to take, but Hall is far better than his record would show, and Ogbeide will have taken a lot from the contest, which the referee saw 38-38.