Ellis Zorro flourished on the biggest night of his career as defeated Ricky Reeves in the final of the Boxxer Series cruiserweight event in Manchester to claim the £40,000 cash prize and the coveted path to more opportunities on televised stages.
The 29-year-old was too slick, too smart and too experienced for his cruiserweight rivals as he resisted temptation to go seeking knockouts and instead relied on his trusted jab and IQ to box his way to glory.
That proved the story of a final in which he offered Reeves few openings while challenging his opponent to step to him in knowledge of his own counter-punching expertise, seeing out the job as the most gifted technician in the field throughout.
And on a night of compelling individual stories synonymous with the Boxxer Series events, from Reeves’ background as a secondary school teacher to Jack Fay’s journey back from homelessness, Zorro explained that he planned to use a large portion of his prize money to pay for speech therapy for his autistic daughter.
Boxxer Series Cruiserweight Tournament: Results
|Quarter-finals||Ellis Zorro def. Jay Farrell (UD)|
|Jamie Smith def. Jack Fay (TKO)|
|Ricky Reeves def. Anees Taj (MD)|
|Sheldon McDonald def. Ryan Cotterell (UD)|
|Semi-finals||Ellis Zorro def. Jamie Smith (UD)|
|Ricky Reeves def. Sheldon McDonald (TKO)|
|Final||Ellis Zorro def. Ricky Reeves (UD)|
Zorro was unflappable in each of his three fights as responded emphatically to multiple competitors calling him out ahead of the draw in mid-week.
“That was the plan, my coach Martin telling me to keep my composure and that’s what I did, I landed heavy shots and out-worked my opponents and now I’m 40 bags up,” said Zorro.
“For me it was a round at a time, all these other guys were calling me out and they didn’t even get matched with me. It was a waste of time and waste of energy.
“I understand why they were doing it, but I’ve showed that nobody here was on my level.
“I want to start fighting for titles, English or British, I know Deion Jumah and Mikael Lawal are meant to be fighting for British, I’ll take the winner. But I’m just happy to be on Sky and this platform going forward.”
Zorro’s path to the final saw him draw on his ring experience to out-box the powerful Jamie Smith in a commanding performance in which he landed his jab consistently while dictating the tempo of the fight from start to finish.
He had extended his professional record to 12-0 in the opening quarter-final of the night as he out-boxed Liverpudlian Jay Farrell to set the tone early having been called out regularly by his rivals earlier in the week.
Reeves, who is head of Year 10 at Parkwood Academy in Sheffield, produced one of the surprise moments and most impressive comebacks of the night when he exploded into life to knock out Sheldon McDonald in the third round of their semi-final having seemingly been behind on the judge’s cards.
He had been forced to dig deep earlier in the tournament when he edged a war with law graduate Anees Taj via majority decision after downing his man with a vicious uppercut in the final second of the first round. Taj recovered admirably in the final two rounds but could not land enough to overturn the knockdown.
“I feel like I’ve won. It’s mixed emotions,” said beaten finalist Reeves, who admitted he had to be back at work on Monday morning.
“I’d have loved to have won it, but this is a good fighter, it was a tough fight. I’ve had four amateur fights, two professional fights, I’ve come here against some good guys, I’ve got a knockdown, a knockout.
“To win some good money for my family and be on a big platform were my goals, I feel like I’ve crossed them off so I’m super proud of myself.”
Promises of a high-octane night had come to fruition in the second quarter-final when favourite Smith survived a first-round onslaught from Fay to make his power count and secure the stoppage.
McDonald then defied his limited experience with a commanding performance to advance to the semis with a unanimous decision win over Ryan Cotterell, knocking down the 22-year-old within 45 seconds of the first bell before nailing his distancing and showing impressive boxing IQ to control the remainder of the contest.
Unbeaten cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe will continue his pursuit of a world-title opportunity when he faces Fabio Turchi at the OVO Arena in Wembley on June 11, live on Sky Sports.
Riakporhe’s bout with the Italian is an eliminator with the winner moving up to No 2 in the IBF cruiserweight rankings and in position to challenge champion Maris Breidis later this year.
Londoner Riakporhe took his professional record to 14-0 with an eighth-round knockout of Deion Jumah in the capital in late March.
The 32-year-old, who has registered 10 knockout victories, recently told Sky Sports News that he hopes his maiden world-title shot can be staged at Selhurst Park, the home of his beloved Crystal Palace.
Riakporhe said: “I’m ready to continue my assault on the cruiserweight division. The Midnight Train is on an unstoppable roll and Turchi is the next man tied to the tracks in front of me.
“He’s a good boxer and I’m expecting a tough fight but nothing I can’t handle. I’m coming out of this one with the win and stepping up into world title contention.”