Welsh Elite Championships: Finals preview

Welsh Elite Championships: Finals preview

After 59 bouts across eight weight categories, the Welsh Elite Championships are set to conclude on Friday at the Welsh Institute of Sport in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff. Lions Den’s Kody Davies is the only reigning champion to reach 2015’s finals and David Walker of Pontypool stands in his way of becoming a two-time (91KG) title holder. It’s a case of déjà vu for the heavyweights, having met in last year’s final. That night, Davies hadn’t long returned from a two-year break but he paced himself and picked his moments to utilise his speed to take a hard earned but deserved decision. Since then, Davies has been more active and adopted a new look, which appears to be a cross between Kostya Tszyu and Keith Thurman’s haircuts. The southpaw appeared at last summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and most recently in last week’s semi-final, prevailing with a repeat points victory over Tylorstown’s game Richard Davies. On the other hand, Walker received a bye to the final and it remains to be seen if he’ll be fresh and energetic or ring-rusty. With both of the big men knowing each other, it’ll be interesting to see how they approach it. Splott’s southpaw Jamie Evans has never lost in the Welsh Championships, winning nine titles at various age groups over the years and he’ll have to overcome Tiger Bay’s gutsy Steven Burnett to make it 10 on the trot. The 19-year-old began his first senior year in straightforward fashion, out-pointing Prizefighter’s Ivan Bilton relatively easily but it’s been tough since. The skillful middleweight [75KG] has survived two Split Decisions; first against his namesake [and reigning back-to-back champion] Jamie Evans of Dowlais and he then saw off St Joseph Newport’s pressure puncher Daniel Barton. Meanwhile, Burnett’s route to the final hasn’t been smooth either, as he’s called on all of his energy reserves and experience to edge out Jake Valley and Adam Davies to earn a place amongst the finalists. In preparation for the Welsh Elite Championships, Evans has been sparring at Gary Lockett’s gym, locking horns with professionals and British title contenders, Dale Evans and Nick Blackwell. Trelewis’ Gavin Gwynne has looked like a man on a mission in the 64KG weight category but Colcot’s Maredudd Thomas has already sprung one surprise on his route to the final. In the semi’s, Thomas took an unexpected Unanimous Decision over Pontypridd’s Lance Cooksey, who was arguably the tournament favourite. Cooksey instantly protested, just as he did in 2014’s quarter-final against Zack Davies, but the result still stands. It’s likely Gwynne would’ve wanted Cooksey to get the nod over Thomas, for the chance of revenge after losing their meeting on a club show in November. However, Gwynne has progressed against other opponents, showing different sides of his skillset to dominantly defeat Tom Hearn and the huge hitting Thomas Williams. The light-welterweight bout may be the most natural mix of styles in the finals if Gwynne pressures in his mini-Antonio Margarito manner and Thomas opts to use his long arms to box at range. There may be two reasons for celebrations in the Morrison household on Saturday morning, as brother’s Nico and Kyle will take on Billy Edwards and Joshua John at 60KG and 56KG, respectively. It’ll be Nico’s third consecutive final but he’s yet to record a victory, previously losing to the late Thomas Hoar and twice against Team GB’s Joe Cordina. To take a the red vest at the fourth time of asking, Nico will have to defeat Dyffryn’s equally skillful Billy Edwards in a clash of two classy counterpunchers. Kyle, who boxes for the Army, owns a front foot energetic style that’s the polar opposite to his sibling but he has his own counterpuncher to deal with. Last year, Britton Ferry’s John only lost out to two-time Commonwealth Games medalist Sean McGoldrick but he’s regrouped and looked sharp with a points victory over Joe Gage in the semi-finals. In another interesting blend of boxing styles, Gwent’s slick Sonny Lee and Pontypool’s Kieran Gething lock horns at 69KG. If confidence was the only factor a fight was won with, Lee would have a heavy advantage over most welterweights but it’s not his only asset. So far, the southpaw has made full use of his speed of hand and foot to defeat Sion Roberts and Connor Vian. If observers were being critical, an extra level of aggression was the only thing missing from Gething’s performance in last year’s final against an inspired Jordan Thomas. However, Gething has shown plenty of it in 2015 to reverse last year’s memory of the points defeat, with strong showings against the trio of tricky opponents; Conrad Evans, and Jozef Egan and Ben Crocker. Prizefighter’s crafty Calum Evans will have to be on-guard against Pantside’s strong Nethan Nichols in the 81KG final. Both light-heavyweights have had a steady route to the final and compliment each other’s attributes. With the abilities to box on the back foot behind sharp straight shots and let their hands go up close with short-range power punches, the deciding factor may depend on who stays disciplined and sticks to the game plan. Those game plans will be devised by Welsh boxing legends Kevin Evans and Gavin Rees, who train Evans and Nichols, respectively. In the 91+KG category, Premier’s versatile Liam Whitehouse and Heads of the Valley’s Darren Hughes fight for the right to be Wales’ best big man. Super-heavyweight Whitehouse started the Championships with a one round stoppage of last year’s finalist Aled Diplock, before narrowly defeating Steven Evans. In the other half of the draw, Hughes looked tasty as he closed down the larger Sandro Ford on his way to a decision win. There’s little observer’s can call on to separate both finalists ahead of their bout. The only disappointment of this year’s Championships is that the success of Lauren Price and Charlene Jones in last year’s Commonwealth Games hasn’t been capitalised on. There wasn’t a single female fight in the prelims, quarter and semi finals. In the final, the one and only women’s bout is between Silurian’s Natasha Williams and Chepstow’s Rosie Eccles in the 64KG division. The finals will be held on Friday 3 April and start at 8pm at the Welsh Institute of Sport in Sophia Gardens, Cardiff (CF11 9XR). For those who will attend, admission is available to purchase on the door at a cost of £10 for adults and £5 for children. Image by Kris Agland.

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