IT may be a cliché but the long-awaited rematch between JOHN SIMPSON and PAUL APPLEBY could well be a Fight Of The Year candidate.
In the rematch, Simpson avenged his previous loss to Appleby with an emphatic sixth round stoppage in a fight that blew the roof off the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow on Friday night.
The 28-year-old Simpson was stepping into the ring knowing he had to make a statement having lost both of his 2011 fights to Stephen Smith and Lee Selby. However, Simpson has gained a reputation for pulling it off when it matters most, bouncing back after losses to the likes of Dazzo Williams, Derry Mathews and Stephen Foster to become British and Commonwealth super featherweight champion.
Both men entered the ring with a dilemma, which was the fact that they are great friends. However, both knew that their prospective futures were at stake and it would be strictly business come fight night.
The bout was shown live on BoxNation and contested for the Celtic title which the 24-year-0ld Appleby won after defeating Stephen Ormond in March. As expected, the fight began at a frenetic pace, both boxers trading blows in the centre of the ring with Simpson keeping a tight shape and utilising the jab to take control.
Simpson then began to land with a great series of combinations that caught Appleby flush. However, the champion battled back well to land a number of hooks to the body.
The second provided even more high-octane action with the two warriors pummeling each other with blistering hooks and uppercuts. Simpson started to let punches go and cornered Appleby but the 24-year-old surge back again. Simpson remained tight, not allowing Appleby any room to land punches.
Both relentlessly traded shots until the final bell which was met with a standing ovation from the vociferous Glaswegian crowd. The third round was slightly more even, Appleby began to put more pressure on Simpson but the Greenock slugger used his experience to smother Appleby.
Simpson stung Appleby with several hooks and uppercuts which reddened the face of the champion. However, as Simpson threw a punch, so too did Appleby with both men continuing to go toe-to-toe looking to get the better of one another.
Simpson assumed control in the fourth, using a great flurry of stiff hooks and uppercuts to rock Appleby. The former British and Commonwealth champion’s power was proving vital as he began to ease into the fight and set his own pace with Appleby not offering as much in return this round.
However, Appleby again mounted a comeback in the fifth, exposing Simpson’s guard to land a good combination. Simpson was backed onto the ropes but kept a compact guard to block Appleby’s assault and fire back with shots of his own. Simpson hit a beautiful scintillating uppercut to Appleby’s nose that sent blood spurting up into the air. Simpson was then incessant on the attack, naturally trying to expose the bullseye target on the nose of Appleby.
Simpson’s jab was proving fundamental in the sixth round as he used it well to effectively tee up shots. Appleby began to lunge forward with hooks looking to stun his foe and cut Simpson just over the eyelid with an accidental headbutt.
However, Simpson then unleashed with a flurry of shots to floor Appleby. The champion got up after a standing eight-count but it was evident that the end was near, Appleby was on wobbly legs leaning close to the ropes.
Simpson then viciously floored Appleby with a solid right hand that sent Appleby collapsing to the floor, with referee Howard Foster immediately stopping the fight. The paramedics then rushed to the ring to attend to Appleby but the South Queensferry man was not seriously hurt.
Simpson and Appleby then embraced in the centre of the ring, with Appleby gracious in defeating raising Simpson’s hand aloft. This fight was a far cry from the close, cagey first contest in 2008 where it could have went either way on the scorecards.
Both men did not have to prove that they were forces to be reckoned with in the division but any doubters that believed Simpson is just a “nearly man” have now been silenced.