Markham (11st 3lbs) was topping the bill in his hometown against York's Matthews (also 11st 3lbs), who was in his first fight back since losing on points to Chris Eubank Jr eleven months ago. The away fighter came out of the blocks quickly, throwing much more leather in the opener.
Markham can be a slow starter, and was waiting for opportunities to pin Matthews down, but the Pocklington Rocket's movement was successful in limiting the amount of shots Markham was able to place.
The Grays fighter was patient, landing the more accurate and telling blows in the second, but was again outworked. Matthews was putting some tidy combinations together, although these were taken in the main on Markham's gloves due to a tight 'hands up and march through' defence.
Matthews couldn't breach this often, and didn't deliver his shots with quite enough power to make Markham to think twice about his own approach, which scored with fast, single punches including a hard right hook to the body. This is Markham's money shot, and has contributed to three stoppages from his previous three fights.
The Pocklington Rocket was Markham's most difficult assignment to date. He continued to deliver quick combinations from the back foot which thwarted Markham's attempts to unload with his usual barrage of power. Although Markham was yet to find a rhythm to slow Matthews down, he hurt the York fighter with a body shot just before the bell in the fifth. While taking a few trying to find his way in, the effectiveness of Markham's eye catching right hooks to the body increased in the seventh.
Matthews was softening and tiring, and not as quick at avoiding Markham's advances as he was earlier in the fight, but a burst of activity in the eighth put Markham briefly in the corner. The Grays fighter responded in the latter half, and the ninth saw Markham land more hooks, with Matthews coming back well at the end of the round. Both fighters stepped up the pace in the closer and traded in the middle.
Jeff Hinds scored 99-92 for Markham, which for me was a smidgeon wide, but the right man won. On work rate and shot variety, Matthews edged it early on, but for accuracy, aggression and power, Markham was always in front.
Markham hadn't been past six rounds before. Matthews has, on four previous occasions, but this was his first fight in eleven months. The fitness levels of both certainly can't be questioned. They came in 3lbs under the middleweight limit, and looked fit as butcher's dogs.
Markham boxed well, and a logical next step for the Grays man would be to look towards a Southern Area title, currently vacant at middleweight, and last held by British champion Billy Joe Saunders.
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