Last night, Tor Hamer went to bed £32,000 richer (that’s $50,000), with a boosted profile and a win over former “World” title challenger, Kevin “Kingpin” Johnson on his resume to boot.
The well spoken, university educated American was certainly the emerging star of this tournament as he eased through his opening bouts, but there were still reservations as to his ability to deal with Johnson, who had fought at a higher level, in the final.
Johnson did have spectacular moments himself, after all. In his Quarterfinal contest with Nourredine Meddoune, he took a look at his novice opponent early on before establishing his jab; avoiding Meddoune’s swatting punches and crashing right hands off the Morrocan’s skull. With Meddoune unable to throw back, Johnson landed a right uppercut through the guard before the referee wisely intervened. If ever an early message has been sent in a Prizefighter tournament, this was it.
Hamer started out confidently against the Brazilian hulk Marcelo Nascimento, slipping and dodging almost every punch coming his way. In the third round, Hamer dealt his bigger, slower opponent a lesson. Nascimento threw wild, looping punches with little control, often leaving himself off-balance and open. After landing a three-punch combination, Hamer bundled Nascimento to the floor. It was unfairly ruled a knockdown, but such was the ease of the victory for Hamer, it didn’t matter a jot.
In the semi-finals, Hamer found himself facing up to Great Britain’s last hope in the tournament, Tom Dallas. Kevin Johnson had a lot more in common with his second date, however, as he clashed with a fellow former Vitali Klitschko opponent in Albert Sosnowski.
Johnson spent too much time looking at Sosnowski and found himself being outworked at times in the early going. With the duo struggling to land effective punches, it became a situation where, try as he might, Sosnowski couldn’t get anything done, while Johnson, despite a clear advantage in the technique and accuracy of his punches, seemed unwilling.
Without any sense of real urgency, Johnson started to get his jab going in the third, which was enough to see him into the final. In the post-fight interview he was asked if he thought he would win the competition having seen what the other competitors had to offer. His confident reaction, “the jury has reached his verdict” belied the punch-shy performance we had just seen from him.
Hamer thought not of wasting time in his semi-final. Clearly having seen Tom Dallas expend copious amounts of energy while being caught time after time in his supposedly easy quarterfinal, Hamer launched himself at Dallas at the sound of the opening bell. Dallas has always been open to a right hand over the top and as the Englishman’s guard dropped under fire, Hamer essentially ended the fight as a contest with a right hook. Dallas sagged and the referee called a halt to the proceedings, ensuring an all-American final.
Just nine minutes of action now separated Tor Hamer and Kevin Johnson from the prize money. Hamer settled into the first stanza after a nervy start. Circling the ring, he kept out of the way of Johnson’s more experienced fists and threw enough leather to take the round.
Johnson began the second round more positively, pressing the action and making a visible effort to get closer to Hamer. The left hook worked at times for Johnson, but Hamer continued to use the ring and work the body with accurate straight shots. As Johnson increased his work-rate, he left himself open to counters, and the pair exchanged right hands as the fight finally threatened to truly excite.
Hamer, despite his inexperience, seemed the more composed, spinning Johnson on the ropes and even showing him a straight right/uppercut before landing it. Johnson knew he could leave nothing to chance in the third and final round, but Hamer goofed, showboated and made an effort not to trade, taking the win on all three of the judges’ scorecards.
It may not make him the next American Heavyweight hope, something he is all too aware of, but this was undeniably a good night for the 29-year-old Tor Hamer. He played down his victory, acknowledging that his edge was energy and that had the fight been over a longer distance, it would likely have gone another way. But his work mustn’t be glossed over.
He barely took a blow against a decent journeyman before blitzing the home favorite and out-hustling a solid campaigner in Johnson. Three round-format or not, he not only has a pay check but pride in his performance. He supposedly came in at a week’s notice; it will be intriguing to watch what Hamer can do when time is on his side.