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A TOTAL ECLIPSE; Moon and Dodson dazzle as big time boxing returns to city.

Byline: NICK PEET at Everton Park

SATURDAY night boxing arrived back on Merseyside with a bang over the weekend when fight fans were treated to one of the best shows in years at Everton Park Sports Centre.

Top of the bill Alex Moon produced possibly the best performance of his career in making the second defence of his Commonwealth title against former champion Mick O'Malley.

The Kirkby super-featherweight claimed only the sixth knockout of his pro career, halting the gritty Aussie in eight rounds, but the victory was made all the more special by the fact that Moon was coming off a heavy defeat to IBO world champion Affif Djelti.

"After my defeat last time my confidence was a bit low, " Moon confessed afterwards. "So to come back like this was smashing.

"It's the first time I have had a stoppage for a while as well, so that makes it extra special."

As expected O'Malley roared out from the opening bell looking to follow on from his last appearance in England when he stopped Coventry's Richard Evatt in a round to earn the Commonwealth belt in 1999.

But Moon weathered the early storm to settle in and dictate the fight off his back foot and from behind a probing left jab.

By the sixth the Aussie was growing increasingly desperate to load up, but Moon had stepped up a gear and was registering through a series of strong left-right straight hand combinations.

The seventh followed the same route before midway through a sweet left hook wobbled the visitor.

Moon closed in, but with referee Dave Parris looming, the bell rang.

A final uppercut from the Merseysider landed seconds later, which instigated a three-punch flurry from O'Malley - infuriating the home support and trainer John Smith in the home corner.

Moon never dropped his composure however, and made the challenger pay with a quick burst which had the Aussie reeling.

Defenceless, O'Malley stumbled across the ring but he was saved seconds later by Parris' intervention and his own corner towel.

Now Moon is hoping to add the Lonsdale belt to his Commonwealth crown, and he added: "Everyone dreams of winning the British title. That's what every boxer wants and that would be the icing on the cake for me."

If the two top of the bill bouts were not enough fight fans were also treated to yet another classic contest featuring brave featherweight Jamie McKeever.

Once again the Birkenhead fighter came out on top after six magnificent rounds, this time against Glaswegian Barry Hawthorne, with McKeever edging a 58-57 points decision.

There was simply no respite from the first as the Wirral scrapper and his Scottish opponent stood toe to toe trading massive shots throughout the duration of the fight.

Another big winner on the night was light-middleweight contender Michael Jones who made a big statement with the possiblity of a shot at the vacant 11-stone Commonwealth title on the horizon.

The classy Speke boxer landed a glancing left hook on the temple of Wednesbury's Mark Richards just 58 seconds into the bout which took a couple of seconds to register.

The 30-year-old visitor looked to have taken the shot well, but then suddenly blacked out and crumpled to the canvas, to the amazement of all at ringside and even Jones.

Tony Mulholland was made to work hard for his 39-37 points victory over Scottish scrapper Andrew Ferrans.

The 30-year-old from Anfield started brightly despite being out of the gym with a niggling hand injury recently, but was finding his rangy opponent something of a handful before he closed the victory in the closing rounds.

Welterweight David Kier completed a great night for the city by claiming his first pro victory with a determined display against Worcester's Leroy Williamson.

The John Smith fighter avenged a shared decision in December with an all out performance to earn a 40-38 points decision.

TONY DODSON sent shock waves through world boxing on Saturday night when he blasted former USBA champion Brian Barbosa to defeat at Everton Park, writes NICK PEET.

The 21-year-old super-middleweight prospect dropped the Puerto Rican world ranked puncher with a straight right hand in the seventh on his way to recording an unforgettable 79-76 points victory.

Barbosa, who little more than a year ago was boxing to face undisputed middleweight king Bernard Hopkins, was to have fought Brian Magee at the top of the bill for the IBO crown.

But after looking over Barbosa's venomous 21 knockouts in 29 wins record, the Irishman pulled out on Thursday, giving Dodson the chance to step in at just three days notice.

A sombre atmosphere befell the near capacity crowd as Barbosa, ranked 30th in the world going into the fight, stepped through the ropes.

As expected the New Jersey-based puncher loaded up early on, but despite a glancing right hook in the final minute Dodson held his own.

By the second round Dodson's gameplan became clear as he kept the fight close leaning on Barbosa so he couldn't load up his big shots while scoring well with neat uppercuts.

Barbosa struggled to find any rhythm as the Garston man tied him up on the inside while mixing his own shots from head to body.

Then in the fourth, the visitor swallowed a peach of a right hand which blasted him up against the ropes.

Dodson pressed forward landing at will, but with referee Mickey Vann poised the bell saved Barbosa, who wobbled to the security of his corner.

After a brief respite, Dodson upped his workrate again in the seventh, and slipped another Barbosa right to fire in one of his own to drop the world title contender for a mandatory eight.

The visitor was clearly in trouble as Vann brushed off his gloves and signalled for the bout to continue, but things got a lot worse as Dodson landed a stunning combination which sent Barbosa crashing through the ropes and onto the hard wood floor.

He struggled back into the ring still clearly in trouble but then found time to clear his head by crashing a low uppercut below Dodson's belt.

Fortunately he quickly cleared his head, but Barbosa has achieved his aim and made it to the eighth.

Sensing a massive upset Barbosa tried in vein to land a lottery shot in the closing three minutes but it was destined to be Dodson's night and the arena erupted at the final bell.

CAPTION(S):

WHAT A NIGHT: Alex Moon (above right) gets to grips with Mick O'Malley, Tony Dodson (right) consoles Brian Barbosa and (below) a bloodied Jamie McKeever holds on
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 15, 2002
Words:1099
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