Phase one of UK-based Ghanaian Richard Commey’s goal to become World champion at lightweight was completed successfully at a sold-out York Hall as he recorded a unanimous points decision over battle-hardened former British super featherweight champion Gary Buckland.
Politically, It’s been a frustrating journey towards the Commonwealth title for Commey, who before tonight had stopped all 17 opponents inside the distance, including two competent UK fighters in Kris Hughes and Paul Truscott. The latter victory saw Commey become mandatory challenger to Liverpudlian Derry Mathews, who was stripped of the title after two dates with Commey fell through.
Goodwin Promotions were persistent and fairly generous in their offers to UK lightweights, and following 24 rounds with Gavin Rees earlier in the year, Welsh hardman Buckland answered Commey’s call for a competitive fight for the vacant title. Although perhaps best suited to super featherweight, Buckland never shirks a challenge and is happy to ‘go with the dough’. The only stoppage losses on his outstanding domestic CV came at late notice to John Murray for the European lightweight title (stopped on his feet in the eleventh) and defending the British super featherweight title to Swifty Smith (courtesy an exquisitely timed fifth round uppercut). For Commey to continue his 100 per cent stoppage run against Buckland would be a massive ask.
Bunting displaying the Ghanaian flag was draped around a packed York Hall balcony. Following Welsh and Ghanaian anthems, a quick start saw Buckland (9st 8lbs 4oz) land with two rights before Commey (also 9st 8lbs 4oz) settled in, scoring with combinations in a close opening session edged by Commey’s longer range shots as Buckland looked to get in close.
In the second, Buckland caught Commey off balance and followed up with his right, well resisted by the Ghanaian, who controlled the round from the back foot with quick rights and a solid uppercut. Commey was working Buckland over at the start of the third, but the doughty Welshman returned fire after eating a couple of rights and had Commey backed up and countering from the ropes.
Swift retreats and polished footwork from Commey made Buckland miss, but he was dangerous coming forwards in the fifth, forcing Commey to work from the ropes and defend hooks to the body. Again, no backwards steps from Buckland in the sixth, but in the main he was kept in check by Commey’s faster hands.
Whenever Buckland got through with his right, Commey soaked it up. The Welshman began to look a little weary and punched thin air after a well-timed attack from Commey forced him into a breather on the ropes, but he kept coming forwards and registered success in the eighth with dogged attacks. A solid double jab, followed by a right hand enabled Buckland to close the distance in the ninth, with Commey taking his own breathers, and slowing down for short periods.
A barrage of five punches appeared to have Buckland in trouble and off balance in the tenth before the Welshman regained his footing and resumed his forward march, launching right hands. He had twice been warned about shots to the back of the head when in hold, and in the eleventh, referee Marcus McDonnell took a point off, rendering a points decision completely out of the question for the former British super featherweight champion.
Knowing this, Buckland put everything into the closing round and worked Commey’s body, but the Ghanaian was four rounds in the clear on BoxRec News’s card (116-112) in his first distance fight.
The judges recorded a unanimous decision for Commey (Robert Williams 117-111, Jeff Hinds 118-110, Ian John Lewis 117-111).
Finally, the exciting Ghanaian has his hands on the Commonwealth lightweight title, and despite not managing to register his 18th stoppage from 18 contests, his fast punching, natty footwork and durability make for a cracking watch. It’s fantastic to see him develop a fan base in the UK.
Whether this provides incentive for other UK 135-pounders to take him on, and even if he will continue to ply his trade here, remains to be seen. A live internet stream was available courtesy of www.boxingevolution.tv, but with the TV landscape in boxing being fairly fluid at present, the fact this card wasn’t picked up by Eurosport or BoxNation is disappointing, particularly seeing as two bona-fide Southern Area title fights both delivered highly entertaining scraps.