It was a night of sublime boxing at the iconic York Hall in London as a star-studded Ukraine Otamans team defeated the British Lionhearts for a second time in this season's World Series of Boxing (WSB) Group B. A sublime performance by Dmytro Mytrofanov and classy wins for Olympic Champions Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk ensured a sensational victory for the visitors.
The evening got underway with a sensational performance by hard-hitting Ukrainian Middleweight (68-73kg) Mytrofanov as he completely outclassed the Lionhearts' 22-year-old 2012 Olympic silver medallist Fred Evans. Peppering his opponent right from the off, Mytrofano instantly took control. The Ukrainain was sharp and aggressive, claiming round one with a constant barrage of punches.
In the second, the pressure was cranked up and a huge left hook to the body saw the Welsh southpaw take a knee and a count. That was only the beginning as Mytrofanov continued at his unrelenting pace in the third and Evans was on the receiving end of some punishing blows. It was fast and furious and after the third standing eight count of the third round, Evans was well and truly beaten. It was an incredible display by Mytrofanov as he put the Otamans 1-0 on the night.
After the incredible pace of the first contest, it took a while to get going in the Lightweight (57-61kg) showdown between two-time Olympic gold medallist Lomachenko from Ukraine and 24-year-old Sam Maxwell but when it did it was worth waiting for. The British orthodox fighter's tactic of just trying to keep his opponent at bay somewhat frustrated Lomachenko in the early stages but the double AIBA World Champion showed his class to dominate the exchanges.
Throwing some extremely accurate punches, Lomachenko began to go through the gears as the rounds progressed and moved inside to great effect by targeting the body time and time again. It was a superb display of boxing by Lomanchenko who confirmed he truly is the best pound for pound boxer at this level with another sumptuous win that further extended his team's advantage in the tie.
At Bantamweight (50-54kg), explosive Welshman Andrew Selby immediately looked assured in the first round of his fight, throwing a high volume of punches on the diminutive Ivan Ilnytskyy and entertaining the crowds with his unique style of showboating. The 24-year-old speed-merchant was looking good but after getting caught a couple of times on the counter in the second, reassessed his tactic and boxed at range to comfortably take the third.
Selby continued to take risks but Ilnytskyy could not contain the sheer volume of punches that were being thrown in his direction. The Welshman, a reigning European Champion, was simply too good in rounds four and five as he ducked, weaved and shuffled his way to victory, extending his WSB record to 5-0, moving top of the individual rankings and reducing the deficit for the Lionhearts.
Classy Irishman Joe Ward then quickly looked at ease in the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) contest as he imposed himself on the Otamans' 20-year-old Denys Solonenko. The Lionhearts teenager, fresh from his triumph at the Irish nationals, displayed some great skills, moving from defensive position into attack with some excellent footwork to take rounds one and two with control. He was getting into his stride in the third as he outboxed the Ukrainian power-puncher, landing some crisp left hooks in the process. There was a good variety of punches by Ward who was expertly picking Solonenko off on the counter. Ward oozed confidence, landing some quality punches and displaying a cool head to win with panache.
The match was delicately poised at 2-2 as impressive Londoner Joseph Joyce made his way into the ring to face Olympic Champion and boxing powerhouse Usyk. The Ukrainian looked to move inside to get past Joyce's long jab and some nifty footwork saw him connect with some good left hands. After claiming the first, Usyk showed his class by standing tall to the assaults from his opponent and expertly picked him off on the counter, with again that straight left catching his rival. It was a riveting contest as the tall and rangy Joyce continued to move forward, Usyk's clever movement though had the Ukrainian once again dominant in the third. Several three-four punch combinations saw Usyk turn on the style as he emphatically claimed the penultimate round. Joyce tried hard but Usyk was simply too good as the Ukrainian southpaw took all five rounds to give the Otamans the overall victory on a night of classy boxing action in the WSB.
British Lionhearts will now be focused on the first leg of their quarter-final showdown with Mexico Guerreros on Saturday 23 March at York Hall, with Ukraine Otamans at home versus Azerbaijan Baku Fires the night before.