NEWPORT’s Justyn Hugh became the latest St Josephs champion with a knockout performance to overpower Jeff Evans on Saturday night.
The unbeaten light-heavyweight overpowered Pontypool’s Jeff Evans to snatch away his Welsh title in the eighth round of a thrilling contest at the Newport Centre.
Hugh’s stablemate Frankie Borg had earlier lost his British Masters super-middleweight belt after walking on to a huge right uppercut from Bristol’s Danny Butler, but this was still another night of success for St Joes and trainer Tony Borg.
British super-featherweight champion Gary Buckland warmed up for his next title defence with a comfortable points victory over tough Dutchman Innocent Anyanwu and his younger brother Mitchell was superb in beating fellow Newport prospect Craig Woodruff 40-36 on points.
But Hugh was the star of the show with a display of great strength and staying power against Evans, who was two points ahead on the scorecard when the end came.
Pontypool puncher Evans is still rebuilding his career with trainer Gary Lockett after the 15-second humbling he received at the hands of Ovill McKenzie fighting for the commonwealth title last October.
But defending his Welsh title back on home turf he looked confident and in control in the early rounds.
Evans was always on the front foot in the first six but Hugh counterpunched superbly throughout and Lockett warned his man he was getting caught too many times.
Hugh stepped up the intensity in the seventh and eighth, and when the end came it came in a flash.
A right-hander and a left hook put Evans on the ropes and then a barrage of combinations from Hugh, with Evans offering nothing in return, prompted referee Wynford Jones to step in and stop the fight after two minutes and 11 seconds of the eighth.
Some observers felt Jones acted too quickly, and the contest was so close that a rematch looks a real possibility, but Hugh was delighted to have come out on top.
“I’m buzzing after that and I’m so proud to be going home and showing my kids this belt,” said the 28-year-old.
“I’ve beaten him in the amateurs and now I’ve beaten him in the pros it’s a double whammy. “I was on the back foot a lot because I’ve never done ten rounds, only in sparring, but I knew I had a lot more in the tank. I was saving myself in the early rounds but I always felt the stronger of the two and my strength told at the end. I was always in the fight. I was pacing myself.
“His gameplan was for me to blow myself out and then him to come on stronger at the end but I let him come on strong and I switched it and let myself go at the end.”
Buckland admitted he was not at his best in beating late replacement Anyanwu 79-74 but insisted he will be ready to face Stephen Foster Jr on October 5.
“I’m happy to get another win,” he said. “I never prepared for someone like him, this was just a warm-up fight, so I’m happy to get it over and done with.
“He was tough and he was getting down low so he was awkward at times, but I did a better job against him than Fegatilli did so that shows I can win the European title. It was a benchmark fight.
“That’s what I want now, to beat Stephen Foster Jr and then go for the European.
“I’ll be a lot fitter for the British title fight. I’ve got one week off and then I’ll be back in the gym to get that fitness back up to 100 per cent. I was only 50 per cent tonight.”
Ermano Fegatilli lost his European title in Veneto on Saturday night against Devis Boschiero, so Buckland could be heading to Italy before the year is out.
Elsewhere on the Steve Sims Promotions show there were also wins for Newport’s Adam Goldsmith over Blackwood’s Dai Jones, new St Joes recruit Chris Higgs against Newport’s Jerome Samuels and heavyweight Dorian Darch with a first-round stoppage.