Watford's Elliott Matthews (9-0-1) was delighted to be named Southern Area middleweight champion after a thrilling and bloody ten round encounter with former area champion, Surrey's Gary Boulden (7-11-2), at the Camden Centre on Friday.
As Hellraiser Promotions continued with a busy start to the boxing calendar at the Camden Centre, Matthews first title opportunity came against a gatekeeper of sorts. Despite being on a six fight winless streak, Boulden never loses easily. He's only been stopped in the UK once, by Olympic Bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo in July, and has notched up notable wins over Albanian Kresnik Qato and Cranham's Lee Markham in his five years as a professional.
Single, accurate jabs from Matthews (11st 5lbs 7oz) made the difference in the opening round. Boulden (11st 5lbs 6oz) was active and resistant as usual, but Matthews forced the issue. In the second, Boulden took a count from a fairly innocuous punch, but there was no doubt that superior accuracy and considerable power were troubling the former area champion as Matthews targetted head and body with single shots.
As Boulden stepped in to work Matthews' body in the third, an accidental head clash saw a cut open up above the left eye of Matthews, and the blood was immediately running into it. This gave Boulden some impetus, and he started to put a lot more pop into his shots. The corner did superb work on Matthews cut, but Boulden stepped it up a gear in the fourth. Although the Surrey fighter couldn't match Matthews' accuracy, he was forceful and busy.
In the fifth, another close range encounter saw Matthews suffer another nasty looking cut above his right eye, but he'd made it past the crucial fourth and was ahead on points. Boulden exploded into action in an exciting sixth round, pushing Matthews back and targeting the cuts. Matthews responded with stiff right hands that evened things up, and once again his superior accuracy easily took the seventh, which was new territory for the Watford middleweight.
Boulden, on the other hand, has seen out the thirty minute stretch on three previous occasions. A cut had now opened up above his right eye, and he was bruised up from some of Elliott's pinpoint jabbing, but he's a very tough nut to crack and he kept throwing plenty in an even eighth round. ; Due to the cuts, Elliott's game plan had changed a little. But he had remained focused and his jab widened the gap again in the ninth, consistently rocking Boulden's head back.
But an incredible display of guts from both fighters led to a highly exciting final round. The crowd were appreciating the work both boxers had put in, as Boulden piled on the pressure and made a ballsy attempt to recapture the title he held in 2011. Another cut appeared, this time on Matthews' forehead, and he was being forced back early in the round, but regained his shape as the pair swung at each other until the bell. Marcus McDonnell scored 97-94 Elliott Matthews. Both fighters had sustained plenty of facial wear and tear.
After a superb advert for Area title fights, it was hugely disappointing that Matthews wasn't able to capture the moment and be photographed with the belt, and that his fans, who had paid good money to see him contest it, didn't get to see him with it. Apparently this was because the British Boxing Board of Control 'couldn't get hold of one'. This could be down to a former champion 'not returning it' or some such other excuse, but you'd expect a contingency plan to be in place.
For some, the proliferation of minor belts (there are now six 'Masters' belts available in each weight category) has actually made the BBBoC's area titles more prestigious, but a promotional own goal was scored this evening by not having it on show.
Undercard report to follow