Opening fire

The first two rounds are traded equally

The two Featherweight standouts renew hostilities after years of rivalry in the background. As experienced professionals, neither are keen to make a mistake in the opening moments that jeopardize everything in only a few moments.

In the early going, Virani is the fighter that is more keen to press the action, pushing out probing jabs to test Kayleigh’s defences. The Englishwoman neglects to trade to get into an exchange of jabs, generally choosing to stay outside and avoid a heavy exchange of leather in the early part of the fight.

Calm like a Cobra, Virani doesn’t overcommit, continuing to use the jab with discipline and waiting to unleash the heavier blows.

Laila: “If fans expected these two to come out and immediately start throwing bombs, they might be disappointed. With the stakes this high, it’s not surprising to see a calm start to the fight.”

The Canadian fighter seems at home in this North American locale and she dictates the pace of the first round.

Unlocking the defence of ‘The Fluke’ is no easy task, and Virani is hyper aware of Kayleigh’s ability to land counters out of seemingly innocent positions. Eventually, Virani’s patient aggression puts Kaylegh into an awkward position and Virani capitalizes, using her upright position to scythe a right hand over the top and arc it downward to land on Kayleigh’s chin.

It’s the first strong connection of the fight and it gets the crowd going.

Kayleigh thinks: Her knuckles haven’t gotten any softer over the years. That’s the sharp Cobra sting for sure.

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The confident champion is buoyed by positive start. Her opponent is having a tougher time getting acclimated. This version of Virani MacVicar is far different than the one that she’s faced previously. No longer the fresh-faced puncher who relied heavily on power to unnerve her opponent, the Canadian is much more tactical in her approach and she knows how to force situations that favour her.

Virani presses forward behind a few light punches, making Kayleigh take defensive action. As Kayleigh ducks to avoid a left, Virani steps out and to the side, gaining an angle for her right hand to punch freely. Kayleigh, having not read Virani’s intention, tries to bring up her glove to intercept but gets there too late – bubblegum pink leather crashes into the jaw of the former champion. Another good blow from the Canadian.

Laila: “Parsons might have wanted some time to decode the upgraded Virani, but she’s giving up too much of the initiative and being too passive. That’s allowing Virani to get the better of the action, and it’s a dangerous thing to take too many clean punches from the Cobra. One can find themselves on the canvas with one punch.”

Round 2

In between rounds, Jim tells Kayleigh that she needs to step up her game. There’s no time like the present.

There’s no immediate change in tactics from the blonde bully as she keeps to a safe distance, hoping to get Virani to overcommit and then launch a counter.

Denied the chance to score more points with pink leather, Virani is not able to impose herself nor is she able to cut off the ring and shrink the space that Kayleigh has to work with. As a minute ticks by in the round, the Cobra launches a right hand with some powerful intent behind it. The Englishwoman has it well scouted as she pulls away from the punch in a tight shoulder roll. Virani’s punch sails harmlessly wide.

Laila: “That is nice movement from Parsons, who is a clever defensive fighter when it suits her. She hasn’t scored much with punches of her own, though.”

Kayleigh thinks: She’s not going to make a mistake if I don’t engage. I’ll have to earn this.

Kayleigh begins to engage with the Canadian, no longer shrinking from the fight but standing her ground. Leather begins to fly with more frequency and the heavier punches are being thrown. Champion and challenger begin to test each other’s chins and their offensive capabilities.

A little over halfway in the round, after an exchange of right hands that is inconclusive, Virani steps out to throw her left hook, but that slow developing punch is interrupted by a stabbing left cross that nails Virani on chin and mouth.

PAFF!

Laila: “This is where Parsons shines. She baits you into an exchange then hits you with the best punch. That was a creative left hand from Parsons which caught MacVicar awkwardly.”

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Although she hides it behind a good poker face, that left hand to the chin makes Virani a little dizzy and she withdraws from the exchanges momentarily to recover her wits.

Kayleigh becomes the leading fighter for the first time in the fight, making Virani back up. The champion runs out of space near the ropes and tries to fight off the challenger by throwing a right hook. It’s badly timed and it only opens up an avenue of attack for ‘The Fluke’ as she drives a long range left hand to the body.

Virani’s moan of pain tells the former champion that her punch has had an effect on the current champion.

Laila: “Parsons is coming on stronger here. We’re slowly seeing the array of skills that have wowed the boxing world for so long. The Fluke has been all business here tonight. No showboating, no talking, just focused on reclaiming her title.”

In boxing, skill also needs to be accompanied by physicality. It’s not a tool that either of these fighters use too much, but Kayleigh has added some to her game.

In the later part of the round, Virani comes forward, hoping to use that pressure to score some late points. Kayleigh ducks low and Virani reaches back to throw her right hand. Being the savvy fighter she is, Kayleigh stays low and steps forward, using her left arm to push against Virani’s chest.

As the Canadian’s body is pushed backwards, she temporarily loses her balance and her right hand ends up flailing harmlessly. Mission accomplished, Kayleigh slips away while covering her retreat behind a jab.

Laila: “A brilliant little piece of boxing as Kayleigh used her arm to disrupt Virani’s punch and then using that moment to escape what could have been a difficult position. It’s these little moments that make Parsons such a great fighter to watch. She knows the subtleties of the sport.”

DING!

The first two rounds are in the books. The first was a clear victory for Virani, while Kayleigh had the upper hand in the second.

Coach’s Advice

Sandra: “Not ideal, but we’re doing okay. I need you to vary the aggression. Don’t be too predictable. Press hard, then back off. Make her uncomfortable and deny her rhythm.”

Jim: “Very good round. We need those unequal exchanges, because she has heavier hands and I don’t want the judges to give her close rounds. Let’s also start using the jab. Deny her the rangefinder and her offence gets more predictable.”

Alesia’s thoughts

Alesia thinks: Hmmm. I saw both their strengths in there. They’re patient but I don’t even doubt that they’ll want a good tear-up at some point. They’re too explosive to hold back for 10 rounds.

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Kayleigh Parsons
Kayleigh Parsons
A confident Englishwoman with skills to match. Technically skilled with underrated power. Former Featherweight champion.
Virani MacVicar
Virani MacVicar
Current Featherweight champion. A Canadian puncher known for her knockouts that has developed a more all-round style.