2014 Fight of the Year

Nominated:
Orlando Salido KO11 Terdsak Kokietgym
Lucas Matthysse KO11 John Molina
Tommy Coyle TKO12 Daniel Brizuela
Travis Dickinson TKO6 Matty Clarkson
Francisco Rodriguez W12 Katsunari Takayama

Winner: Travis Dickinson TKO6 Matty Clarkson

It was a mix of the bizarre and the enthralling when Travis Dickinson clashed with Matty Clarkson on May 17, 2014.

The venue, Leeds Town Hall, no stranger to boxing having hosted fights as far back as 1921, had become more accustomed in recent years to staging orchestral concerts and film festivals rather than the type of fistic violence which ensued that night.

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Promoted by Mick Hennessy, Travis Dickinson vs Matty Clarkson was the first semi-final in the Maxi Nutrition Knockout competition, an event devised by Hennessy Sports to breathe life back into an ailing British light-heavyweight division. But during the thunderous action that ensued both this fact as well as that Dickinson was actually defending his English 175 lb belt which he won back in March, were easy to forget. All such titles and formalities were rendered meaningless by visceral, life-and-death combat, the kind of savage fight which transcends sport.

Before the action commenced, the aesthetically pleasing venue was treated to the sounds of the British national anthem played on an organ (that’s not a joke). And amongst the fans sat legendary trainer Brendan Ingle, promoter Mick Hennessy, super bantamweight star Kid Galahad, and trainer Peter Fury who sat with his famous nephew, Tyson Fury, who was rocking a sleeveless Kronk t-shirt.

In the first round Clarkson went on the attack, pitching heavy shots to Dickinson’s body, something that would prove nearly the winning tactic. But a lack of movement saw him an easy target for the power shots of Dickinson and a series of punches punctuated by a short uppercut put the challenger down. To his credit, Clarkson rose and recovered well and proved before the round was out he was very much a live dog in the fight.

“Already this has a feeling of a mini-classic,” said commentator Dave Farrar.

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Just as Clarkson looked to be winning the second round a right hand sent him tumbling into Dickinson’s corner for another eight count. Dickinson himself though was wide open to all sorts of trouble throughout.

Clarkson would finally get a knockdown of his own despite Dickinson’s protests in the third. There was little movement from either but Clarkson’s body work was beginning to have an effect and set up some moments straight from a Rocky movie. Dickinson was about to pull the sort of grimace that Ivan Drago would’ve been proud of.

The fourth round proved to be the quietest of the six, while Clarkson’s swelling to the right side of his face was doing an impersonation of Arthur Abraham’s mangled jaw against Edison Miranda back in 2006.

The first 20 seconds of the fifth saw Clarkson unleash an onslaught of above the waist punches to the side that would’ve made the next day possibly one of the most uncomfortable in Dickinson’s life. Shot after shot after shot connected downstairs, Dickinson crumpling, grimacing like Drago, screams in the crowd, and Dickinson down three times! Yet he kept getting to his feet and firing back and somehow survived a breathless three minutes of action.

Clarkson battered
Clarkson at battle’s end.

“It was my heart and determination that got me through that – nothing else,” Dickinson would say afterwards. “The body shots were so accurate … they were crippling and I take my hat off to him for producing punches like that. But I’ve got a big heart and I came back.”

The sixth saw the conclusion to the unrelenting drama. The ring doctor checked Clarkson’s swelling with just over a minute to go in the round. Both men continued to destroy one another with all sorts of shots, but then referee Michael Alexander halted the contest due to Clarkson’s injury.

“I’m speechless,” said co-commentator Richie Woodhall about the stoppage.

“I find that incomprehensible at that moment to stop the fight,” said the legendary Al Bernstein who, on one of his pilgrimages to the UK, was doing some commentary for Channel 5.

Heartbreak for Clarkson, glory and pain for Dickinson who struggled to hug people in the aftermath, and an unexpected classic which could’ve been Fight of the Year in any year, in any era, and thus is ours, in this one.

— Shaun Brown

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