Craig Evans with career best performance to see off Tom Stalker in trilogy fight
Blackwood’s Craig Evans (16-1-2, 3KO) finally provided a conclusive result in his trilogy with Liverpool’s Tom Stalker (11-2-3, 2KO), producing a career best performance to take their third fight with a Majority Decision.
The three scoring judges scored it 98-92, 96-94 and 95-95 in favour of Evans, who also dethroned Stalker as the WBO European champion, gaining a world ranking in the process.
The pair enjoyed verbals at the press conference and weigh-in, where Stalker was forced to strip his underwear to make the nine stone nine pounds lightweight limit.
The heated exchanges were a result of their two previous meetings, which remarkably both ended in contentious draws – many feeling Stalker deserved the first encounter and Evans edged the return.
In the meantime, 32-year-old Stalker had collected the WBO European title and came to Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena as the champion, though on away territory in an arena filed by Welsh fans.
As expected, they picked up where they left off in December and were right down to action. In the 21st round of the trilogy, Evans backed off and attempted to force Stalker to overreach before stepping in with counters.
The tactics were successful until Stalker judged range to land a flush backhand at the end of the opener but his happiness would be short lived. Straight away, it was responded to with a sustained attack before the session ended and Evans was happier – Tony Borg’s game plan was working.
Happy with his start, Evans’ confidence was evident and he even fitted in a Muhammad Ali shuffle in the third round. Again, Stalker had the best punch of the round, another backhand, which this time caused a small cut of Evans’ right eye, but it was the Welshman with the far greater volume of success.
Admittedly, Evans can make super-featherweight, while Stalker captained Team GB at the 2012 London Olympics as a light-welterweight. That size advantage was obvious and allowed Stalker to constantly press, though only worked against him. Evans wisely recognised the difference, circling the ring and managing to take the play away from Stalker on the back foot.
Evans’ maiden major breakthrough came in the fourth round when a flush backhand rocked Stalker on to his heels. It led to Evans’ most sustained attack, where he reversed momentum against Stalker, whose activity noticeably dipped for the first time.
Clearly relaxed by the halfway mark, Evans’ hands were now far lower, shooting shots out of Stalker’s eye-line. The 27-year-old was enjoying the occasion and as the action slowed, he was afforded the space pick his punches, finding the target with his own backhand down the pipe.
Stalker wasn’t losing the rounds by a large margin but he was obviously a step or two behind and being repeatedly out-maneuvered. By the ninth round, the visitor appeared more heavy legged and the pattern was taking its toll.
Aware that he needed a big finish to get in touching distance of Evans, Stalker was more blatant in the final rounds. The tactics were understandable at this point but it played in to Evans’ hands, who continued to walk him on to straight shots and followed them with short hooks around the sides.
Promoter Frank Warren has promised to return to Wales in 2017 and Evans’ win has secured him spots on those shows, which have been boosted by the link up between broadcasters BoxNation and BT Sport.
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