Professional boxing in Peterborough is experiencing something of a resurgence and that’s largely thanks to our very own Fab Four that treated fight fans to some quality rounds of boxing at Bushfield Leisure Centre last Saturday night (May 10).
Quaddus, Renda, Maguire and Wheeler all claimed impressive wins at the packed Robert Waterman show and it was the latter boxer whose performance took the venue’s decibel levels to another level.
When you think of eagerly awaited comebacks Sugar Ray Leonard springs to mind and even he would have been proud of Wheeler’s return to the ring after eight long years. Wheeler didn’t look like he’d been missing for eight months let alone eight years as he expertly boxed to victory.
The cruiserweight’s return got the biggest cheer of the night and even though we were made to listen to James Brown’s ‘The Boss’ four times before he actually appeared from the dressing room, Wheeler’s return was worth the momentary delay.
His opponent Paul Morris, frustrated at having been made to circle his corner for several minutes before Wheeler presented himself, had to endure even more showmanship as Wheeler made his way into the ring with a look of invincibility.
The first of six scheduled two-minute rounds got off to an explosive start when Wheeler connected with a stinging right hand that landed flush over Morris’ left eye. With Wheeler’s trainer shouting to him not to get too excited, he spent the next 30 seconds flicking out that long jab of his that found a way through every time.
As the round drew to a close Wheeler was finding that left eye target with ease and the referee temporarily stopped the action for Morris to get his sore eye checked out by the ringside doctor.
With his opponent weakened Wheeler stepped out for the second with a flurry of hooks to the head and body, which again resulted in his trainer telling him to calm down and relax into the round.
But Wheeler, sensing it was only a matter of time before Morris’ eye would cut, continued to punish his opponent with silky combinations that landed with venom.
Blood began to trickle above Morris’ eye at the end of the round and within a minute of the re-start the referee signalled Morris’ retirement.
It was a commanding performance by Wheeler who showed absolutely no signs of ring rust and demonstrated to his hundreds of fans that he means business.
Next up was English title-chasing Michael Maguire who faced what turned out to be a durable opponent in Croatian Antonio Horvatic. Bantamweight Maguire is always a joy to watch.
He makes boxing look effortless and even though he was in control throughout his win, Maguire was made to box relentlessly in all six rounds. Horvatic never really posed a threat but his toughness frustrated Maguire who normally likes to take care of business quickly.
From the first bell the Croatian showed he could take some of Maguire’s best shots when another opponent would have hit the canvas. Maguire reeled off his trademark repertoire of every shot and combination in the boxing book but still Horvatic wouldn’t buckle.
It was always going to be one way traffic for Maguire and he must have thought round two was going to be the one where Horvatic’s trainer would throw in the towel. Maguire pinned his opponent into the corner and unleashed 30 seconds of bombs to the head and body. It was like seeing a caged animal being released to its prey but somehow it survived and that was largely thanks to the bell.
Maguire hurt his hand in that onslaught but you’d never have known when he persisted with more of the same explosive combinations for the next three rounds to earn him a well-deserved victory.
Earlier in the show we were all treated to a superb performance by Cello Renda whose recently come of age and boxing better than ever. It was a rematch of one of his toughest fights – against Birmingham opponent Max Maxwell – who he outpointed in the Prizefighter semi-final in 2008.
Renda is on the brink of a British title shot and this excellent win against a tough fighter certainly did his Lonsdale belt aspirations no harm. We saw a different, more composed Renda in this fight. His coaches have been working on his angles and leading off his jab more instead of being drawn into an unnecessary brawl.
It was a confident start for Renda who led off his jab and picked off clean shots to score plenty of points. He was in control throughout the opening exchanges and led comfortably going into round two.
The next three minutes belonged exclusively to Renda who must have fired off a hundred punches that landed on one of the best chins in his division. Maxwell’s experience helped him survive the onslaught but there was more from the Renda locker to come.
Rounds three and four were once again one way traffic and by round five Renda was so confident and in control that he even had time to treat the crowd to a very well executed Ali shuffle.
With so much left in the tank Renda stepped it up a gear in the final round where at one point Maxwell might as well been a punch bag. Flurries of shots to the head combined by the occasional famous Renda body shot should have put Maxwell to the canvas but credit to the Birmingham man for staying on his feet.
Renda, Maguire and Wheeler all put in fantastic performances on a night where the tone was set with the opening bout, which saw a return to boxing in front of his home crowd by Tariq Quaddus.
The Gunthorpe fighter remains unbeaten since reigniting his boxing career earlier this year. His four round contest versus Jody Meikle gave the crowd something to cheer about from the offset, as Quaddus took control of the fight right from the opening bell.
Quaddus flicked his jab and picked his shots in sudden bursts to conserve his energy. Several tidy combinations and sneaky uppercuts stunned his opponent more than once and Meikle finished the opening round with a cut above his eye.
Sensing victory Quaddus stepped up the pace in round two and opened proceedings with a ferocious left uppercut and right hand combination that rattled his opponent. Rounds three and four were all about Meikle trying to stay away from trouble but Quaddus’ work rate was too much for the challenger.
In the end it was a comfortable win for Quaddus who looks to have put his boxing career back on track.
By Pep Cipriano