London – It’s fight night at the Copper Box Arena, where Sky Houghton is ready for action to defend her British national title in the Super Lightweight division.
The bout is organised by Final Bell Boxing and broadcast by Box TV, from the studio in Berlin.
Esther: “Houghton recently returned to the ring to win a decision over Carrie Smith in Liverpool and tonight, she faces her mandatory British challenger, Bethany Hall. Let’s have the introductions.”
Ring announcer: “Introducing to you first, fighting out of the blue corner corner. She is wearing yellow and black and she is coached by Amir Robinson. Her professional record stands at 7 wins, 6 of them by way of knockout, one loss and one draw. She is the number one contender to the British crown… from Manchester, she is Bethany ‘Thunderbird’ Haaallllllllllll!”
Anna: “The lowdown on Hall? She’s a swarmer who loves to mix it up in the ring. She pledged to keep Houghton on the back foot tonight to prevent her from landing hard punches to the body.”
Ring announcer: “Her opponent across the ring fights out of the red corner. She is wearing white and red and is coached by Clifford Little. Her professional record stands at 12 wins, half of them by way of knockout, 3 losses, no draw. She is the reigning and defending Super Lightweight champion of Great Britain… from Liverpool…. her name is Sky ‘The Limit’ Houuuuuuuuughton!”
The title holder gets a solid round of applause while she salutes the audience.
Anna: “The years 2018 and 2019 have not been kind to Houghton. She was the number one contender to the world title before suffering two consecutive defeats, the first one being a title match, and a couple of personal life knockdowns. However, she bounced back in a tremendous battle against Carrie Smith earlier this year and vows to regain altitude.”
The first round is relatively even with the customary feeling-out process, and Bethany starts swarming in the second engagement. The taller Sky has been instructed not to go downstairs too early because she would trigger unnecessary trading with the brawler. She aims at controlling the pace and landing punches on the counterattack until she feels confident enough to slice that defence open.
Not the most disciplined fighter, Bethany comes forward time and again, and she takes a few clean hits in that second round.
Esther: “After two rounds, Houghton’s game plan is the one that works best. She doesn’t make mistakes, scores with the best shots and gets out of there before the challenger can get too close.”
Bethany makes an important tactical change in Round 3. She spends more energy to alternate between throwing shots upstairs and downstairs with confusing feints that keep Sky guessing. The champion struggles to implement her coach’s advice under heavy pressure, with the Thunderbird battering every inch of her head and body with leather.
Anna: “After five rounds, I have Hall leading by one point at 48-47. She’s doing exactly what a challenger should do against a champion by bringing the fight to her and scoring with power shots. There’s no other way to unseat a title holder, who normally gets the benefit of the doubt from judges.”
Clifford has seen enough. He gives Sky a stern pep talk at the break ahead of Round 6. He wants her to fire bombs at range, before Bethany can get too close. “You’ve got the reach. Use it! Extend those arms!”
The legendary coach’s scolding, combined with previous schooling in the gym, yields results. Sky drops back to invite pressure before releasing crisp, heavy blows. The puncher hits hard enough to halt Bethany’s motion when she tries to swing at the champion.
Esther: “It’s a relatively easy round for Houghton, who has the wind in her sails. The champion is restoring order in this fight to make it even at 57-57.”
Anna: “Note the accuracy of her punches. She isn’t going for knockout shots, but lands clean on the button. An accumulation of such punishment can, and should, be dangerous for the challenger.”
The bird flies low
Sky flips the switch to attack in Round 7. She has plenty left in the tank while Bethany loses a step. The champion delights the crowd by unleashing a storm of violence that hurts the girl in black and yellow, including when she slips a hard left hook behind the guard.
At the end of the round, Bethany is still on her feet, but her head is spinning.
Anna: “I score the bout 67-66 in favour of Houghton at this point and I believe that the writing is on the wall. The defending champion is more powerful and now more aggressive than her opponent, who is only surviving.”
Round 8 quickly turns into a thumping. Sky hunts Bethany down until she has her in the ropes before throwing a barrage of technically perfect power shots. The Thunderbird has been grounded, she’s taking a beatdown and she’s out on her feet.
A thirsty crowd guzzles it and cheers for the champ to throw even more for the finish.
However, there is a third person in the ring. Referee Alex Spindler, from Germany, has seen enough.
Sky pulls out quickly to celebrate the win as the official calls it a day.
Esther: “Alex Spindler stops the fight at 1:22 in Round 8, ending Hall’s ordeal. It looks like the right decision to me.”
Anna: “She was game, but the deeper we got into this British championship battle, the more she got outclassed by Houghton. It would have been careless to let her take even more of a beating.”
The official particulars confirm the TKO, upgrading Sky’s record to 13-3, including 7 wins by way of knockout. She gets congratulated, gives a short TV interview to state her ambition to get back to the top and leaves the ring with her coach.
The champ’s request
Just before she gets out of the arena, Sky is greeted by world champion Alesia Schumann.
Alesia: “Congrats, girl!”
The Englishwoman is surprised by the German, who is smiling at her.
Sky: “Alesia? What brings you here?”
Alesia: “I was checking you out, of course. Lovely work in that ring.”
Sky: “T… thanks.”
Alesia, pointing down to her hands: “I quite fancy having those gloves as a keepsake. Signed by you, of course.”
Alesia: “Well, if you don’t mind.”
Sky: “Of course. Come to my dressing room.”
In the room, Cliff takes Sky’s gloves off for her to sign with a marker while they talk. Among other things, Ally lets her know that she’s scouting fighters.
Alesia: “We’ll have to see how the chips fall down with the rankings, but I consider you as a contender for my first defense. I’m not trying to get a match made in this room, but I want you to know I have an interest.”
Sky: “Thanks! And I gotta sort out my coaching situation. Cliff is only helping temporarily.”
Alesia: “Understood. Hey, I gotta go. Thanks for the gloves!”
Once Ally is gone, Clifford looks at a baffled Sky with a wicked grin.
Clifford: “A little star struck?”
Sky: “OMG! I should have been more stoic, but I didn’t expect her to show up and ask for autographed gloves.”
The coach has a good laugh. “Don’t worry. She was happy to meet you.”
Sky: “The girl’s got stage presence. You feel it when she’s in the room.”
Clifford: “True. Some champs have this je ne sais quoi. But hey: tonight’s your night. Let’s go out for a beer. I’m proud of you, kid.”