Ben Jones is setting his sights on a world title shot in America after shellacking a brave Kris Hughes for 12 rounds at Crawley's K2 Leisure on Saturday night.
Hughes was a late substitute for Paul Truscott on the Assassin Promotions bill, but many saw him as a live underdog in this WBO European title fight at super featherweight.
The last time Jones fought at the 9st 4lbs weight limit, he looked drained in a failed British title bid. But Jones proved that with a full training camp he is still a major force in this division domestically and perhaps further afield.
The early rounds were competitive with local favourite Jones pressing the action and Hughes looking to catch him on the way in. While Scotsman Hughes was having some success, his punches were doing little to deter the former English champion who was keen to target the body of the rangy southpaw.
There was blood coming from Hughes mouth in the third round but it was Jones' vicious body attack which was really taking effect. Hughes' lefty stance was having little bearing on the fight with Jones cutting off the ring and finding the range to unleash energy sapping body punches.
The home fans were booing in the fifth when Hughes clung on for a few moments respite. At the end of the round he landed heavily on his stool. Jones was getting stronger and the crowd were hoping for an explosive finish courtesy of those 'Fists of Stone'.
But the following round saw a determined effort from Hughes to stem the tide. From the seventh round onwards it looked inevitable that the fight would finish early. There were hard shots to head and body and by this time any power in Hughes' punches had been depleted. A hard uppercut from Jones in the eighth snapped Hughes head back spurting blood from wounded gums.
Several times crunching body punches from Jones looked like they would bring Hughes to his knees. Yet somehow he remained on his feet. Jones applied a merciless beating all the way through to the last round, with Hughes forced to hold on in order to survive. Desperate to close the show for his roaring home support, Jones swung from the waist chasing Hughes along the ropes before the bell sounded the fight's end.
The three judges scored the fight 119-109, 119-111 and 120-109 in Jones' favour. This was an impressive display from Jones which might just be a career best. He looks strong at the weight and showed good footwork and energy throughout. Assassin Promotions' Jay Morris (still competing himself) has big ambitions for Jones, 30, and feels that a few more contests could see him ready for a world title challenge in America.
It was certainly a happy end to the evening for local fight fans who had endured a shock in the chief support bout.
Brighton's Nicky Jenman had a tough 2012 which saw him lose three in a row. His last fight of that year was a bad knockout defeat at the hands of former amateur star Neil Perkins. He was looking to reinvigorate his career against Bolton's Chris Jenkinson for the International Masters Bronze [WHAT? - Ed.] middleweight title.
Jenman is a popular boxer and many of his supporters made the journey up to Crawley. With his cousin Lee also competing, it made for a lively atmosphere at the near sell out venue.
Two weeks before the fight, trainer Ian 'Jumbo' Johnson had emphasised the importance of concentration for his charge. In an even opener to the eight-round bout Jenman's supporters tested that concentration with a loud rendition of Hey Jude.
Jenman found his rhythm from the second round onwards and began timing his punches with impressive regularity. Jenkinson was struggling to deal with Jenman's handspeed. At the end of the third Jenman landed a head snapping straight one-two which had Jenkinson bouncing back off he ropes.
Jenkinson was a late replacement for Tomasz Mazurkiewicz and his lack of conditioning was beginning to show in the sixth. Jenman was growing in confidence and his quick-fire straights were landing with unerring precision on his tiring foe.
And then came the shock. In the seventh, Jenkinson launched a right hook over Jenman's low left hand. It crashed against the side of his head, felling Jenman against a backdrop of stunned silence. He rose slowly and tried to steady himself as referee Jeff Hines made his evaluation. It was waived off at 45 seconds of the round.
The defeat has prompted Jenman to take a year out from the sport before making a decision on his future.
Marcus Eaton had a tough professional debut in a four-rounder at light middleweight against Bheki Moyo. Eaton's debut had been a long time coming after initial problems passing a medical. He started the first round confidently boxing at range against the crouching Moyo. A short chopping right seemed to have Moyo in some concern.
However, from the second round onwards he allowed Moyo close the gap. Moyo was getting the better of the action in close while Eaton produced the snappier punches. It was a close fight and there must have been some relief when Eaton had his hand raised.
One man who knows all about difficult debuts is Lee Jenman. He struggled against Welshman Joe Jones in September and was looking for an improved performance on his second outing. He duly produced it.
Fighting Barcelona-based Didier Blanch at light heavyweight, Jenman put on a far more cultured display. Despite a shrill urge to 'smack him up quick' emanating from somewhere in the crowd, Jenman was patient in stalking Blanch and soon found his range.
Blanch showed intent in the second but Jenman ended it strongly and seemed to have his opponent in some consternation with a left hook to the ribs. Blanch looked close to wilting on a number of occasions, absorbing hard body shots throughout, but in the end did well to see out the four-rounder.
Jenman has targeted seven fights this year with the intention of moving down to middleweight.
The opening contest of the night saw London's Scrappa Smith take part in his first six-rounder against Birmingham journeyman Jason Nesbitt. Smith was busy throughout but his punches struggled to puncture Nesbitt's defences. Nesbitt went for it in the final round, but neither fighter seemed in any danger of being hurt. Smith was victorious with a score of 60-55.
It was a great atmosphere at the K2 Leisure Centre and the word is that Crawley has some exciting young amateurs about to burst through the ranks. The next Assassin Promotions show is earmarked for late April at Hove Town Hall.
Images by Russ Perryment