LIVERPOOL, England – What’s not to like about this city? Soccer is virtual religion, bachelor parties are rarely done better and if you’re a fan of The Beatles it is most certainly hallowed ground.
Liverpool also played host to a very good fight tonight as Birmingham’s Frankie Gavin retained his British welterweight title with a seventh-round retirement stoppage of countryman Denton Vassell at the popular Olympia Arena, which decades ago was both a theatre and a circus venue.
Vassell’s trainer, Bob Shannon, confirmed to Ring TV.com that his fighter had suffered a broken jaw and the ringside doctor ended the contest on that basis.
The bout produced plenty of quality action and the southpaw Gavin (16-0, 12 knockouts) got off to a fantastic start with left-hand crosses in round one. Four perfect shots landed in the course of a minute and a significant edge was immediately apparent in hand speed.
Vassell (20-1, 10 knockouts) landed nothing of consequence but did advance with serious intent.
That pattern continued as Gavin stayed in range, eager to counter, in round two. The former amateur star utilized the jab, popped the left when it was available and remained defensively alert throughout the session.
It was a beautiful exhibition of counterpunching and Vassell was made to miss and made to pay.
Frankie, known as “Funtime,” was having plenty of fun and he consistently found space to reset and fire straight shots. An excellent one-two tagged Vassell again and the jab was working wonders on the game slugger from Manchester, who could not find his rhythm.
Yet another crashing left landed in the fourth as Gavin’s speed, co-ordination and balance continued to give Vassell nightmares. A good right hand landed from Vassell and it registered with Gavin but he recovered immediately and returned to punch-picking for the remainder of the round.
By round five things looked unlikely to change because Vassell could not exert the necessary pressure. He was being picked apart but suddenly found a much required, and accurate, right hand to the head. Gavin knew where he was but shipped more punishment before the bell rang to end the round.
Vassell picked up where he left off by landing a thumping jab at the start of round six but Gavin bravely responded with a left of his own. Vassell was attacking ruthlessly now and his work rate improved dramatically.
Gavin was being forced to work harder but still landed on the counter with authority and one memorable left cross could have been responsible for Vassell’s nasty jaw injury.
Vassell was being kept honest by the jab and the left hand again in round seven and suddenly appeared distracted. The buzz immediately spread through press row that he was opening his mouth awkwardly and Gavin tagged him, more than once, on what was now a very inviting target.
The doctor was called to the corner at the end of the round and made his mind up as soon as he detected the injury. It had been a quality fight and the ending was extremely unfortunate.
“I was relishing the second half of the fight,” said Bob Shannon. “Denton was warming to it a bit more and he was relaxing but these things happen in boxing. Gavin still has that question mark hanging over him. He dealt with the first seven rounds but could he have dealt with the last five?”
It should be said that Shannon, who also worked with Ricky Hatton in his final bout against Vyacheslav Senchenko, fully acknowledged that Frankie Gavin had been the better man on the night.
This fight was one of the hottest domestic showdowns in British boxing and Gavin, who won the World Amateur Championships in Chicago in 2007, was dominant for most of it.
Photos: Paul Thomas-Gettyimages
Tom Gray is a member of the British Boxing Writers’ Association and contributes to various publications. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing