23 May 2010 – By Leonard Gunning
On the hottest day of the year Chris OBrien improved his slate to 7-0-2 (KO 1) and turned up the temperature on his march towards an Irish title as he pushed past Ben Lawler in a tough six round contest at the beautiful Municipal Hall, Colne in east Lancashire.
The welterweight was originally to face Brummie novice Keith Sheen in an eight round bout which would have seen The Sheriff qualify for a shot at the Irish title, however, Sheen pulled out in the lead up to the fight citing an injury to his bicep.
In stepped the tough and busy Ben Lawler 6-3 (KO 2) to fill the breach. Lawler, who just lost to Dean Harrison, a former foe of Derrys Paul McCloskey, was keen to take the fight but the bout was now scheduled for six-threes instead of the original eight, so O’Brien will have to wait until a later date to qualify for a pop at the Irish title.
The V.I.P. Promotions show was staged in one of the best venues for boxing that I have had the pleasure of visiting. The small but perfectly formed hall provides an ornate balcony which wraps around the three walls and there is hardly a bad seat in the house, the full bar facility also ensured that the locals were kept in good spirits promoters take note! Despite being aesthetically pleasing, the heat in the hall soared on the balmy evening and the lights added to the sauna like humidity.
Bounding to the ring in the colours of the newly relegated Burnley FC adorned with shamrock, OBrien looked fresh and eager as the final bars of Johnny Cashs Ring of Fire played out, pretty apt considering the sweltering day.
The Sheriff opened the clash confidently using his long reach to keep Lawler at bay. Whilst Lawler continued to rush forward throwing clusters of straight punches, OBrien picked him off but failed to capitalise fully on the wide open inviting gaps in the Skegness former squaddies defence.
Despite that, OBrien was dominant in the opening half of the fight keeping Lawler pinned to the ropes for prolonged periods landing a tasty variety of shots including right hooks, stiff left crosses and well selected overhand rights. Lawler was not without his own success but it was all too infrequent.
The pace of the fight slowed slightly in the fourth round as the protagonists felt the heat. OBrien maintained the pressure but was more cautious through the round, protecting a rapidly developing mouse under his right bulb. The home fighters jab was working well but he did not sit back enough and give himself the space to allow the crude and open Lawler to walk onto his shots. A raucous and vociferous crowd urged OBrien forward and he obliged landing a long looping left hook which rocked Lawler sending him reeling backwards into the neutral corner.
OBrien continued to use his jab to protect his ever engorging eye in the fifth but his work rate dropped off in the sixth. Perhaps he was complacent from winning every round, distracted by the closing eye or exhausted by the heat of battle but Lawler stepped it up in the final stanza and pushed OBrien onto the back foot for the first time in the altercation. Lawler, a former Midlands Area light welterweight champion, snapped OBriens head back with a right-left combination which worried the home crowd but the work in the gym with sparring partner Kenny Anderson and trainer and Kevin Maree stood to him as OBrien came back strongly in the final minute evading Lawlers wild headhunting lunges and landing a taut uppercut whilst working on the inside to keep the Skegness fighter quiet until the final bell.
Referee Howard Foster was quick to raise OBriens arm aloft and scored the fight 59-56 to OBrien which was similar to my scorecard which read 59-55 in favour of the former Dublin Docklands fighter.
After the fight OBrien outlined that Lawler came for a fight and was very very fit, I thought I boxed well but I didnt expect the heat, it was the hottest day of the year and it was the first hot day of the year as well.
I got this (pointing to his bruised eye) in the second round so obviously my boxing changed. I felt the eye bubble straight away at the end of the second round and the corner said that it was bad and the ref had a look at it. So I had to change my style after that. I had to keep my right hand high and concentrate a bit on the eye rather than the boxing.
Its nice to get that win under my belt no matter how I got it. It puts my nine fights undefeated and will hopefully open a door. I feel that boxing better fighters bring out the best in me so it a step up and the standard will get better added the unbeaten fighter.
On the undercard, Huddersfields Patrick Liam Walsh continued his winning streak since turning pro in March this year. Walsh moved his record on to 3-0 gaining his first knockout by stopping Dale Hutchinson in the fourth round. The fight was wild from the first bell with Walsh abandoning defence at times and happily standing toe-to-toe and trading. With Hutchinson bleeding profusely from the nose in the fourth round, Walsh landed a thunderous right hand which sunk Hutchinson to the canvas. Although the Sheffield fighter rose to beat the count the contest was waved off during the next exchange.