Evans in another Fight of the Year contender but draws against Stalker again

Evans in another Fight of the Year contender but draws against Stalker again

Blackwood’s Craig Evans (14-1-2, 3KO) and Liverpool’s Thomas Stalker (10-1-3, 2KO) produced another Fight of the Year candidate in their rematch on Frank Warren’s ‘Xmas Cracker’ show at the Manchester Arena.

One judge favoured Evans with a 96-94 scorecard but he was overruled by the two remaining officials, who both scored the contest 95-95. The result was announced by Master of Ceremonies Mark Burdis as a majority decision draw and the WBO European bauble remains vacant for consecutive bouts.

It’s the third consecutive contest that Evans has left the ring without a win but he’ll take heart his performance against Stalker, who captained Team GB’s boxing squad at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and reached the quarter-finals. Both operators betrayed the boxing analogy that two southpaws will always clash and make for a messy fight, instead trading from the opening bell and finding their respective targets more often than not.

If either had significant power, then it could’ve ended earlier but Evans did well to nullify Stalker’s size advantage, especially considering earlier this year they were competing at super-featherweight and super-lightweight, respectively. Just as Evans did in the first fight, he started fast and walked Stalker on to several flush counters, finding range with a left cross and right hook.

A similar pattern ensued in the second round as Evans tucked up and waited for opportunities to throw solid single shots, while Stalker picked his moments to fire wide hooks in flurries to the body. Evans enjoyed a strong finish to the fifth round and the St Joseph’s Boxing Club member appeared the far happier at the halfway stage.

However, less than two minutes later and Evans was leaking claret from his nose, courtesy of a Stalker backhand uppercut and the fight was firmly in the balance. Aside from a warning to Stalker for hitting on the break at the end of the seventh round, the action was rarely interrupted and both were building a case for a second Fight of the Year contender.

The former Team GB captain was warned again in the ninth round, though, this time for landing a flush low blow, although referee Steve Gray opted not to deduct a point. Shortly after the action recommenced, the pair simultaneously launched vicious attacks, leading to highlight-reel exchanges. Evans was himself warned for a rule infringement in the last round but it was soon forgotten about when both boxers attempted to seal the championship rounds.

Evans and Stalker originally fought to a split decision draw in October and many observers felt the Scouser more than deserved the judge’s verdict. To Evans’ credit, the Welshman agreed and a rematch was promptly arranged to take place 10 weeks later at the same venue and he has just as much reason to feel aggrieved after their rematch.

Now, 26-year-old Evans hasn’t recorded a victory since February when he out-pointed Polish journeyman Jacek Wylezol. In the meantime, he suffered a first professional defeat in May in an unsuccessful challenge for the vacant British lightweight title against Scott Cardle and the aforementioned original draw against Stalker.

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