A promising debut, statement making returns, and a World title eliminator were the order of the day at No Limit Boxing’s Tszyu vs Stahl event in Brisbane on Thursday night.
The card, full of diverse narratives, was one that had significant ramifications for the state of Australian boxing from the moment it was announced.
Although most probably tuned in to see the first professional outing of highly touted prospect Nikita Tszyu, fans were treated to a memorable night of fights. The fallout has also resulted in a lot of boxing for all to discuss.
Without further ado, here are the talking points from an intriguing card.
Son of ‘Thunder’ has lightning in a bottle
If one thing is to come out of Nikita Tszyu’s (1-0, 1 KO) professional debut, it is that the hype surrounding the 24 year old is completely warranted.
It was also honest.
In the lead up to his clash with Aaron Stahl (2-1-1), boxing fans were presented with a plethora of narratives. That the son of the legendary Kostya (31-2, 25 KOs) is a southpaw of a different style, that he is not afraid to wear a punch in order to give one, and that he has a serious power punching ability.
All of this proved true in the second round knockout win. Faced with a willing Stahl, who was able to land a looping hook around at times, Tszyu was able to establish the distance required to uncork his heavy left hand.
Most notable from the fight, the difference in force behind the two fighter’s punches was abundantly clear. In fact, it proved to be the deciding factor in the contest.
A trap of combat sports is commonly falling for the build up of a fighter from promoters. In the case of Tszyu, fans should buy in but keep level headed and temper expectations. What his professional debut showed was that he has a solid foundation laid for a very successful career ahead.
Wilson win more than redemption
When Liam Wilson (10-1, 7 KOs) was put on the canvas four times by Joe Noynay (19-3-2, 8 KOs) in Newcastle last year, something more than boxing was afoot. Something more than suffering his first loss or surrendering the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight title.
Wilson had his pride seriously dented.
Moreover, questions began to be asked. Was the hype that often led to talk of World titles warranted? Did he have the ability to overcome adversity that was needed to take his career to the next level? Was he cut out for boxing’s elite?
With a devastating second round left hook, Wilson answered every query thrown his way. Not only did he knock his Filipino rival out to avenge the earlier loss, but he restored a great level of faith in his ability from a boxing public not short of sceptics.
The performance turned in by the 25-year-old was also one built on a foundation of maturity.
Although the contest was short, it was clear that Wilson had made an incredible amount of adjustments between fights. With the patience that was missing from the first meeting, the Queenslander remained composed in the heat of battle.
Rather than rushing forward recklessly in hope of finding an opening, he waited for an opportunity to present itself. The result, a sharp hook landed on the back of a right hand lead, that sent Noynay and his corner’s towel to the deck.
Having exacted revenge and closed the book on a rivalry that had been the source of obsession, Wilson’s march towards the World title that he eagerly desires is clearly back on course.
Hurricane heading towards IBO World title shot
In a career spanning over a decade, Dennis Hogan (30-4-1, 7 KOs) has been close to the mountain top on many occasions, only to fall just short of the summit. In his three World title challenges to date, ‘The Hurricane’ has been on the losing end in each.
Now at the back end of a fantastic journey, the 37-year-old appears to have one last shot at the elusive honour, after triumphing over Wade Ryan (20-10, 7 KOs) in an IBO Super Welterweight title eliminator.
While the performance might not have been Hogan’s most entertaining, it was still full of veteran skill and boxing intelligence.
Clashing with a southpaw in Ryan, his timing was on point, signified by an ability to consistently land an overhand right. This punch was not the only weapon of choice for the Irish-Australian, who also landed a precision left hook time and again.
With a puzzled opponent in front of him, Hogan circled to his left routinely, capitalising on this smart use of angles with speedy punches to both body and head.
In taking a unanimous decision win (120-108, 116-111, 117-110), Hogan now finds himself in the box seat for a shot at the vacant IBO Super Welterweight title.
Although the IBO belt is not regarded as a major title in the greater boxing landscape, adding it to the trophy cabinet would serve as a just reward for Hogan.
Widely regarded as unlucky not to already be a World champion after a controversial loss to Jaime Munguia (39-0, 31 KOs) in 2019, bringing the IBO belt back to Brisbane may be the perfect closure to a career defined by taking on all comers.
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Spark ignited at Super Lightweight
Calculated, strong, powerful – these are all words that can be used to describe the performance of Stevie Spark (13-2, 12 KOs) in his fight with River Daz (3-1-1, 1 KO).
After competing at a higher weight in his past two bouts, the proud Toowoomba native ticked every box in his return to the Super Lightweight division, finishing his foe in the sixth round.
From the opening bell, Spark imposed his will on the fight with his trademark heavy punches. The naturally bigger of the pair, ‘The Viking’ stalked Daz for the better part of six rounds, taking the centre of the ring to set a near impenetrable trap.
Of note, Spark mixed in attacks to both body and head, while also maintaining a comfortable distance that rendered him almost untouchable at times.
Although the kickboxing convert Daz exuded toughness, as highlighted by his tolerance of a plethora of stinging right hands, he was seemingly overmatched. Despite rallying with a fifth round defined by increased volume and tempo, he would succumb to a heavy flurry just minutes later.
In victory, Spark clearly signalled his intentions and at just 25-years-old, appears to be on an upward career trajectory. Now campaigning at his natural weight, he seems destined to create a legacy that is more than simply ‘the man who fought Tim Tszyu on short notice.’
“I’ve got a huge career in this sport, 10 years at least. I’m only just getting started,” Spark said in his in-ring interview.
Only time will tell whether this will be the case, but fans will excitedly follow his burgeoning career very closely.
Lack of pay-per-view a much needed breath of fresh air
In recent years, No Limit Boxing has been a key player in the pay-per-view game. With the likes of NRL convert Paul Gallen (12-1-1, 7 KOs) and Tim Tszyu (20-0, 15 KOs) in its stable, the promotion has had a firm grip on the sport’s in-demand stars on the domestic scene.
With the interest surrounding Nikita Tszyu, coupled with the former pay-per-view headliners in Dennis Hogan and Stevie Spark on the card, it would not have come as a shock if Tszyu vs Stahl was put behind the added paywall. Alas, fans were treated to a night of fights without having to shell out more cash.
Ultimately, the airing of the event on Fox Sports and Kayo, while on a subscription based platform, can and should only be seen as a huge step in the right direction.
After the incredible year that Australian fighters had in 2021, giving fans the ability to access high level fights at a cheaper cost is important for the sustainability of boxing’s growth.
A card full of young stars is not only important for the engagement of new fans, but is also vital to maintaining a loyal audience who have spent their fair share of money over the years.
Overall, the decision to ‘open the gates’ gets a big tick of approval.
For all results from Tszyu vs Stahl, click here.
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