Clevedon’s Hand Arena is primarily an equestrian venue but on Saturday night it played host to a very different crowd, 2,500 boxing fans witnessing Tyson Fury continue his journey towards the top of the heavyweight scene at a canter with victory over American Vinny Maddalone.
Fury’s fifth round TKO win extends his unbeaten professional record to 19-0-0, earned him the WBO Intercontinental Championship and strengthened his calls for a shot at the Klitschko brothers. The Mancunian pugilist may be in the early stages of his career, but such statements are far from bravado; Fury’s self-confidence is unwavering.
His steady and well publicised rise up the rankings has caught the eye of the world title-holding Ukrainians. So much so that Wladimir, who stopped Tony Thompson in six rounds on the same night, spoke to Channel 5 in an interview shown before the bout about the possibility of stepping into the ring with Fury, suggesting a possible fight may be on the cards in 2013. Mick Hennessey, the 23-year-old’s promoter, was coy when queried on the subject, saying that there may be “2 or 3” fights for his client before any meeting of such magnitude.
Many see it as too early for a tussle with the Klitschkos, though few reasons were offered in Somerset as to why Fury could not handle the test of either Wladimir or older brother Vitali in the near future, as he pummelled Maddalone from start to premature end.
You could get only long odds on the New Yorker, and the reasons were clear from the first bell. Maddalone’s 13 years of professional experience in the sport stood for little against the power of Fury, whose left-hand jab was slicing through the American’s guard with consummate ease.
There was more to Fury - looking especially trim following an epiphany about his shape - than just raw strength; the speed at which his punches were flying was unnerving and complimented perfectly by his movement in the ring.
The right hand was landing almost effortlessly and causing real damage with Maddalone struggling to make any sort of concerted response, unable to get close to the six-foot-nine giant, whose 85” reach was more than enough to keep the journeyman at bay.
With 40 seconds to go in the fourth round Fury drew blood on his adversary’s left cheek, and as he stepped out from his corner in the fifth he did so with the intention of finishing the fight there and then. A minute-and-a-half of further brutality followed before the referee called time on the fight, confirming a 14th knock-out win and the Intercontinental title for the former English amateur champion.
While much of the live television audience tuned in to witness another Fury win, the local crowd were hoping to cheer local fighter Lee Haskins to victory in his European bantamweight fight with Stuart Hall.
The novelty of the surroundings was down to the Bristolian fighter’s wish to bring top-class boxing back to the city after an absence of 8 years; Audley Harrison beating Julius Francis at Whitchurch Leisure Centre the last time the professional sport was seen there. A suitable venue within Bristol was, however, not forthcoming, leaving promoter Chris Sanigar to team up with Hennessey to stage a joint show 13 miles down the road in Clevedon.
It proved to be a triumphant return for both Haskins and boxing in the region; the Hand Arena crammed to capacity to see the fans favourite take the vacant European belt on a unanimous decision from the judges.