The BoxNation cameras are back at York Hall, Bethnal Green, the spiritual home of British boxing on Friday night for our latest MTK show.
No venue in the country is as iconic and many great British fighters have popped in at times to strut their stuff.
There have been many memorable moments that few forget at the boxing bear pit in London’s East End, and one of the regular ringsiders over the years has been BoxNation pundit Steve Lillis.
He’ll be ringside this week hoping for more memories, but here are the top six during his years visiting York Hall.
6 DAVID HAYE PROFESSIONAL DEBUT
There was serious hype surrounding 22-year-old Haye when he made his debut on a Sunday afternoon just before Christmas 2002 against 121 fight veteran Booth, a last minute sub. In the previous year he’d won a shock silver medal at the World amateur championships. What was bizarre is that no more than 500 fans showed up to see Booth quit on his stool after two rounds, but at least those in attendance were in at the start of a remarkable career. Incidentally the two weight world champion had four further fights at the East London venue including a memorable European cruiserweight title win over Giacobbe Fragomeni in November 2006.
5 NIGEL BENN V ROBBIE SIMS
Few thought Benn’s then adviser Ambrose Mendy was serious when he boxed the half-brother of Marvin Hagler in the famous ring. From memory it was a showery April night, but few were bothered especially the hard faced touts who cleaned up. Just five months earlier Benn had lost his WBO middleweight title in what was at the time one of the biggest domestic fights ever against Chris Eubank. ‘The Dark Destroyer’ decided to go back to his cockney roots for the next chapter. Sims was a decent operator, but never had the power to trouble Benn and a couple big lefts left him on his back in the seventh round.
4 LIAM WALSH V PAUL APPLEBY
Not just one of the most brutal clashes to take place at the old arena a stone throw from Bethnal Green tube station, but Friday 30 September 2011 was the night BoxNation made its debut and what a seven years it has been. York Hall was bursting at the seams, the heat unbearable with sweat pouring from presenter Richard Keys and pundit Steve Bunce. Walsh and Appleby served up the Fight of the Year. Badly cut Walsh looked out in round seven when he was dropped and lucky not to be stopped by ref Ian John Lewis. He rallied superbly and kept his grip on the Commonwealth super-featherweight crown when Appleby’s corner threw in the towel at the end of round ten. Walsh remained King and BoxNation was on the map.
3 VASYL LOMACHENKO/OLEKSANDR USYK
UKRAINE fans took over this tiny corner of London to cheer on Ukraine Otamans against British Lionhearts in March 2013. There was a buzz all week for the WSB clash because Lomachenko and Usyk, who had won Olympic Gold medals in London the previous summer were back in the capital. The Otamans won 3-2. The pair who are on the way to legendary status stood out. Lomachenko showed why he was the world’s best amateur outpointing Sam Maxwell, while Usyk who competed at heavyweight thrashed Joe Joyce on points over five rounds. They were electric performances in a 5000 watt atmosphere.
2 LENNOX LEWIS V NOEL QUARLESS
EVEN Britain’s best heavyweight of all time, Lewis, popped into the Old Ford Road venue during the early stages of his career hammering Liverpool lip Noel Quarless inside five minutes. York Hall fans are the most knowledgeable in England and the fanfare they gave Lewis showed the respect they had for him and his amateur achievements fighting for Canada before he returned ‘home’. Quarless had no answer to Lewis’s right hand and when he went down for the second time and was lay flat on his back, referee Roy Francis had seen enough.
1 JOHNNY TAPIA
FRANK WARREN pulled off a masterstroke when he enticed the legendary American buzzsaw to York Hall.
I can’t ever recall the venue being so packed, and miracle man Tapia never stopped throwing punches overcoming hapless Argentinian Eduardo Enrique Alvarez inside a round. Nobody was complaining the fight was so short with cult hero Tapia receiving a heroic welcome before and after his performance that he celebrated with a trademark backflip. And like Elvis, Johnny left the building minutes after his 82 second performance with wife Teresa on his arm. The fight was on the undercard to Julio Pablo Chacon’s controversial WBO featherweight title win over Victor Polo, but fans were there for Tapia who months later became a three-weight world champion narrowly beating Manuel Medina for the IBF featherweight crown.