Cook Defeats Bennett To Retain IBO Title!

01.05.04 - By Elliot Worsell: In a somewhat disappointing Bridgend main event, Maesteg’s livewire IBO lightweight champion retained his lightly regarded title with a twelve round unanimous points verdict over game challenger Kevin Bennett from Hartlepool. In what beforehand promised to be an exciting domestic rumble, Cook had to make do with doing what was necessary in front of his home fans to eek out a decision, rather than displaying the explosive, thrilling, power punching exploits of previous outings. This was by no means a vintage Jason Cook performance of the Casamonica, Zoff or Oliveira variety.

Credit therefore must go to commonwealth champion Kevin Bennett, who entered this potentially dangerous fight, with a substantial game plan to negate the seek and destroy style of Cook, and frustrate and fiddle his way through the rounds. For the most part, he got the strategy spot on. Taking centre ring in the opening rounds behind an educated, high held guard, Bennett was content to let the flame haired champion tee off first, in the hope of catching him with straight counterpunches. Cook was somewhat taken aback by this approach. Usually relying on the mistakes of his opponent, Cook was finding himself making the early running and leading off himself. Cook was stepping side to side, using angles, and firing fast left hooks to the body and head of Bennett, only to receive a steely glance back in return.

Bennett was in his shell, and was in no mood to step out, despite the forays of Cook. In the second, Bennett, sensing Cook was over committing himself at times, edged his way out of this cagey trance, and looked for a series of right crosses over the top that disorganised the defences of the Welsh champion. Cook was becoming frustrated early, hoping, and expecting the proud challenger in front of him to be more open and prepared for war. Bennett was cautious, calm and fighting his fight.

In the third, Bennett stepped more and more into the firing range, and his advances paid dividends. Digging an innocuous looking left into the mid regions of Cook, the fired up champion, in turn, hit the deck in a great deal of pain. As it turned out, Bennett’s left had strayed south of south, and was plumped directly on the private regions of the IBO titleholder. Referee Paul Cook, surprisingly, saw no offence committed and took up the standing eight count. Cook, embarrassed, frustrated, and in a great deal of pain, picked himself up and, riled by the injustice of being illegitimately floored, began to take the fight to Bennett with more purpose. Unleashing a volley of stinging left hooks to head and body, Cook looked to try and make some form of imprint on the poker faced battler in front of him. Bennett was having none of it. Impressively blocking most of Cook’s advances on the gloves and forearms, Bennett was prepared to soak up most of Cook’s attacks, and fire the occasional pinging right cross or well placed body shot in reply.

The action dipped somewhat in the middle rounds, as both men, Incidentally, former amateur opponents, appeared to have far too much respect for one another. Cook of Bennett’s guts, heart and bravery. Bennett of Cook’s normally ferocious two fisted assaults. The styles failed to mesh, the action failed to engage. Nonetheless, the fight was still very much up in the air. Bennett was still sticking religiously to his game plan of waiting, anticipating and then firing back in return, whereas Cook was simply outworking Bennett on a smudged pallet. It wasn’t pretty from the Maesteg puncher, but his repeated dosages of left hooks and chopping right hands, some landing, some wildly missing, would have been enough to pickpocket the middle segments. Bennett in contrast, looked cute in spurts, but ‘spurts’ was continually looking to be the operative word. He just simply didn’t do enough in the 5th and 6th rounds, and despite a cool and measured opening to the fight, was letting the early initiative slip away.

In the 7th an early clash of heads momentarily unsettled the champion, but still failed to spring the two combatants into any form of urgency. Bennett was fighting adequately as a challenger, but for a man looking to progress as a champion, it wasn’t enough. A rare left jab, right cross over the top combination from Bennett backed Cook up for a second, but on the whole, Cook was in the driving seat behind his pawing left jab and snappier hooks. Cook was busy, but not armed with anything likely to unlock the watertight defence of the challenger facing him. For the most, it was all single shots, that Bennett saw coming and in turn blocked or avoided with ease.

We saw more from Bennett in rounds eight and nine, as, realising the fight was in grave danger of slipping away, he began to up the tempo and increase his punch output. Raking out the left jab and advancing behind it, Bennett attempted to keep Cook on the back foot, where his power punches would have far less effect. Cook, usually so intense and authoritative, was only too happy to box and move on the outer reaches of the ring. Flicking out the jab, circling the sitting target that Bennett posed, Cook began introducing the first sign of the uppercut – a punch often used to prize open such a high held guard. The signs were there that Cook was trying, but he still failed to hurt, deter or break the slow burning rhythm of Bennett.

In the 10th Cook took the success of the uppercut to new levels as he brought the crowd to life with its use. Grazing the chin of Bennett with a left uppercut, Cook followed up with a wild barrage of punches, the excitement levels, for the first time in a while, soaring above what the crowd had become used to. Excitement there was, accuracy, unfortunately for Cook and his loyal fans, there wasn’t. Most punches missed, and despite the Wolf’s constant puffing, Bennett’s house was never in danger of falling down.

Perhaps the scars from Bennett’s last outing against Michael Muya exceeded skin deep, because despite his relatively good showing in the fight, there was always a sense that he was holding something back. Against Muya he struggled terribly in the 11th and 12th rounds and looked on the verge of crumbling, and recurring images of that trauma appeared to be playing on his mind in this affair. Both men were tentative and cordial in the 11th, in a round that did little to alter the anti climatic nature of this championship battle.

The final three minutes saw some form of urgency return, as Bennett at least, saw the finishing line, and upped his work rate. Bennett still looked as fresh as he did in the first round. A three punch combination of left’s and right’s ushered Cook back to the ropes, where the Welshman dropped his gloves and smiled, knowing he’d been caught. Bennett was now prepared to let both hands go with more regularity, sensing that, despite the close nature of the contest, he hadn’t really produced enough in the eleven-preceeding rounds to warrant victory. Cook for his part, knew as titleholder in his hometown, he was all but home and dry, and was content to merely jab and move his way to the winner’s podium. Both fighters embraced at the fight’s end, mutual respect there for all to see, and unfortunately for those in attendance, a bit too evident at times. In a fight where both men cancelled one another out, Cook retained his money making title by scores of 115-113, 115-114 and 116-112.

Hare returns with impressive second round stoppage win …

Returning Welterweight stylist James Hare notched up an impressive second round stoppage over Cardiff’s Jason Williams tonight in Bridgend, eradicating some of the disappointment suffered last time out against Mexican dangerman Cosme Rivera.

Starting calmly, yet as always full of intent, Hare circled Williams, setting traps with the left lead and drawing the upright Welshman into various mistakes. Hare looked to settle into the contest quickly, as Williams occasionally forced the pace behind an educated left jab, right cross attack. Hare was in command throughout, but Williams’ occasional two-fisted advances required noteworthy caution.

The Yorkshireman stepped things up in the second, as he began to let both hands go, confusing Williams with obscure angles and raking in sharp left hooks and right uppercuts. One sweetly picked left hook in particular caught the eye, as Williams felt the after-effects of Hare’s underrated power. Catching the punch flush on the chin, as Hare momentarily switched the angle, Williams found himself plumped on the ring canvas. Rising at the count of five, Jason, fully aware of the onslaught he would face at the hands of Hare, backed up to a neutral corner, where his fired up opponent duly followed, and reeled off an array of impressive left and right head shots. Williams failed to respond to the rally from Hare, and the referee was left with no choice but to wave the contest off at two minutes two seconds of round two. Hare, relived to get the comeback fight out of the way, will now look to appear on the forthcoming Mark Hobson-Lee Swaby bill in May, where the rehabilitation process can step up a notch or two.

Article posted on 01.05.2004

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