Grimsby boxer Kev Hooper wants Prizefighter opportunity after Vasilev victory

Posted: February 26, 2012 in Live shows
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Kev Hooper on the attack against Yordan Vasilev

KEV Hooper insists his sparkling hometown performance in claiming the International Masters lightweight title proves he is ready to challenge British boxing’s elite.

The Grimsby fighter won every round in a stylish display against Bulgarian Yordan Vasilev, moving his record to 11-0, writes Sam Parker.

Working behind a probing jab and using his height and reach to great effect against the stocky Vasilev, who now drops to 10-24-2, Hooper seldom looked in danger and came close to finishing the fight in the fourth.

Now, the 27-year-old feels he has earned the right to move into the big leagues by either claiming an English title or, should the opportunity present itself, having a crack at a future Prizefighter show.

“ I have wanted to do PrizeFighter for ages but they just haven’t done my weight class for a while,” said Hooper, whose manager Carl Greaves shares his enthusiasm for the Matchroom Sport-run event.

“I know it’s different with the shorter format but I want to be on Sky, I want to be appearing on the bigger shows.

“I think I have established myself now, I’m in the top 10 of the Boxing Monthly rankings. I want to mix it and keep climbing the ladder.

“Carl is going to put me on his Newark show in April, just to keep me busy. It felt like I had a really long lay-off before this fight as I hadn’t boxed since October (when Hooper defeated Jamie Speight to claim the British Masters lightweight title).

“Now I want to keep busy. I’ll be back in the gym on Monday and then I’ll sit down with Carl and my trainer, Sean Wood, to see where we go from here.”

Such was Hooper’s dominance against Vasilev that the popular fighter was concerned he had not given the crowd at Grimsby Leisure Centre their full money’s worth.

But smart tactics from Wood, in which Hooper used his reach to keep the Bulgarian at bay for long stretches of the contest, helped secure a win on points, 100-90.

“Sean told me to just use my height and reach and that’s what I did – I didn’t have to force anything,” said Hooper.

“Vasilev was a bit wild, just trying to throw that left hook, he got a bit frustrated. I worked on my uppercuts on the inside and  I kept catching him.

“When the fight finished it didn’t seem like I had entertained the fans because everyone wants a knock-out but the jab was working so well.

“I felt razor-sharp, but maybe I was too comfortable. However, having seen the performance on TV, I’m happy with my night’s work.”

Equally as happy for Hooper was Speight, working as a ringside analyst for Hatton TV. The two have become friends since their title fight, with the Devon boxer back in action this Saturday against Scott Moises for the Southern Area super-featherweight belt.

“We had a laugh at the weigh-in, ahead of our fight, and from then on we became really good friends,” said Hooper.

“We are proper sportsmen which is what this sport needs. I speak on the phone a lot to him and I’d love to support him on Saturday, but we’ll have to see if I can make it because of work commitments. He’s a good boxer.”

Ringside report, by Mark Williams

Kev Hooper v Yordan Vasilev

Kevin Hooper produced a commanding performance full of craft and class to gain the vacant international masters lightweight title at Grimsby Leisure Centre.

The hometown favourite deservedly won every single round against durable Bulgarian Yordan Vasilev to secure his 11th professional victory from 11 fights.

Intelligent Hooper refused to go to war against his shorter, stockier opponent – instead opting to pump a relentless and probing jab throughout the 10 round contest.
Hooper came close to stopping his man on several occasions, most notably in the fourth when a barrage of punches had the Bulgarian dancing on unsteady legs.
To his credit, Vasilev battled on gamely after sustaining a nasty cut on his left eye.
But ultimately Hooper’s superior reach and handspeed saw him lift the belt with ease and a series of left, right combinations in the final round almost put the Bulgarian out of his misery earlier.
Gary Johnson v James Oliphant

Hard-hitting Gary Johnson somehow ploughed through the pain barrier to earn a draw against James Oliphant at Grimsby Leisure Centre.

The Lincoln-based fighter recovered admirably after damaging ligaments in his right hand midway through the fourth round.

Johnson, who was floored in the same round,  came roaring back at his opponent in the sixth and final round in what proved a sensational battle in the heavyweight division.

Johnson seemed to be cruising to victory after a dominant opening three rounds. Johnson’s remarkably neat footwork for a big man and stinging jab was always too sharp for his Wakefield-based opponent.

However, cruel luck, instead of a poor Oliphant, got the better of Johnson and he had to settle for a draw.

Elsewhere, Scunthorpe’s Jody Meikle scored a convincing 39-37 points victory over debutant Tony Shields in the light-heavyweight division.

Meikle’s superior movement and experience proved too much for the wild style of Shields – who at least made a contest of it in the dying seconds of the fourth and final round.

Barnsley’s Matthew Mallin produced one of the most convincing displays of the evening to stretch his perfect start to professional life to six fights.

Opponent Andy Hardy, from Newstead, fought hard and did well not to be stopped after being forced onto the ropes for much of the four round contest.

Hardy was left with a bloody face at the end after a particularly impressive final round from Mallin who landed a series of crunching blows to both body and temple. Mallin ran out a 40-36 victor.

Louth middleweight Sammy McSpadden had too much for experienced Lincoln fighter Rick Boulter to win 59-57 on points.

Boulter, with a considerably greater reach, gained much success with short, sharp uppercuts but ultimately McSpadden’s aggressive approach was enough to secure a deserved win.

Undefeated Joel Haigh won every round against Nuneaton veteran Kristian Laight to continue his dazzling start to the professional ranks.

The Hull-based boxer, backed by an army of supporters, was steady rather than explosive and eased past a slippery opponent.

Laight, a former two-time British Masters challenger was almost stopped in the fifth after suffering a series of heavy blows to the body but used all his experience of more than 100 fights to take it the distance.

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