Last night’s Alio Promotions five-fight card in the Holiday Inn Belfast was a platform for a handful of local prospects to build their fledgling pro careers and an opportunity for headliner Luke ‘Winky’ Wilton (14-3-1) to edge closer to another domestic title shot. He produced a career best performance to outclass his naturally heavier challenger Valentin Marinov (5-5-1) in a 60-54 points win that almost culminated in a stoppage.
Wilton, a natural flyweight, once again conceded weight to meet super bantamweight Marinov in what proved to be an eye-catching six rounder that produced the best boxing performance of the night from Wilton. He patiently worked his way into the fight, boxing and moving and taking the sting out of Marinov’s early assaults in the first couple of rounds. In the third, Wilton cranked up the pace and stepped in with his shots – a variety of four, five and six punch head and head-body combinations. The most eye-catching impact punches were the series of deft left hooks to the body that were noticeably slowing Marinov in his tracks and the Bulgarian ended the round with a bloodied nose.
In the fourth, Wilton, again spurred on by his corner to maintain the same high tempo, took full control and stalked Marinov, increasing the volume of his combinations and rolling the sporadic counters. Wilton looking stronger and fresher sensed a stoppage and poured on the pressure, forcing Marinov to desperately spit out his gum shield to buy much needed time. Marinov bravely fought on and showed good durability to hear the final bell. Referee Paul McCullough raised Wilton hand at the end of the fight for a shut out win of 60-54 that progresses the Belfast flyweight to 15-3-1.
Wilton’s technical performance has undoubtedly improved under vastly experienced Belfast-based Panamanian trainer Bernard Checa. Wilton’s former brawling, straight lines, pressure-fighting style has been well-polished. The understated Checa, in an earlier interview with this writer, has been quick to praise Wilton’s work ethic in the gym and appetite to learn.
Wilton’s defence has improved. He is a constant moving target, feinting, rolling his head, introducing lateral movement and turning opponents. Offensively, you can see Checa’s influence as well. The Panamanian-style of throwing quick and high-count combinations was again evident throughout Wilton’s performance. The variety of head and body combinations and head combinations with uppercuts and then evasively retreating or rolling counters whilst remaining in the pocket, was a testament of the progress made by Wilton.
Bernard Checa now commands a growing stable of fighters in the recently opened All Origins Belfast Gym (a collaboration with Bernard and Oscar Checa and Alan Wilton), and although the seasoned Panamanian does not receive, nor solicit, a fraction of the exposure of some of the much hyped (and self-hyped) trainers who feature regularly on prominent UK boxing media outlets, the fruits of his expertise was very much evident in last night’s small hall show. Luke Wilton is a far cry from the boxer who drew with Anwar Alfadi on the undercard of Rogan-Sexton 1, and is possibly the most improved fighter in Irish boxing over the past three or four years.
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