MICHAEL defeats Matt Skelton at third attempt to lift the trophy
Michael Sprott has major titles in his sights after he beat Matt Skelton to win Prizefighter Heavyweights IV at York Hall, Bethnal Green.
It was a huge night for the Reading fighter as he put two previous defeats to Skelton and a European title defeat to Audley Harrison behind him to move his name up towards the top of the queue of British heavyweight fighters.
"There's no feeling like it - my career has been like a rollercoaster but after the Audley fight I knew there was something else out there for me, something big," said Sprott. "All the hard work I've put in has paid off tonight so let's see what comes next.
"It could be a European title shot or maybe the World title, perhaps something with David Haye or the Klitschko's, I don't know. Harrison and Martin Rogan have gone on to do big things after winning Prizefighter so let's see."
Sprott looked ominous as he fought Danny Hughes in the fourth quarter-final of the night and recorded a comprehensive victory. Hughes came into Prizefighter with plenty of pedigree in the event having reached the semi-finals in the last Heavyweights outing and able to claim the quickest knockout in Prizefighter history – but Sprott had too much for him and literally smelt blood after an accidental clash of heads led to a nasty cut for Hughes, closing the book on the Sunderland fighter with plenty to spare.
The 35 year-old showed a similar level of command in his semi-final against Shane McPhilbin, the Nottingham fighter with just three fights to his name who was full of confidence after stopping Declan Timlin in the second round of their quarter-final.
McPhilbin couldn't live with Sprott though, who continued to grow into the night and all three judges scored the contest 30-27 to Sprott. The final was a tense affair and the split decision only added to the drama for the sold-out event, but Sprott's work all night was more clinical than those he faced and in the end it was good enough to win the title and £32,000 winner's cheque.
"I knew it was a close fight but I thought I nicked it and now I'm just so excited about the future," said Sprott – trained by Jim Evans, who makes it back-to-back Prizefighter winners after Patrick Mendy won the Super-Middleweights event. "I was disappointed after the Harrison fight - I was unlucky to get caught by Audley because I was well ahead on points before then. So I think I deserve a big shot and this makes up for that defeat."
For 43 year-old Skelton, the final was one step too far after a gruelling semi-final against Kevin McBride where he was caught by a right hook from the Irishman that knocked him to the ground but the referee did not administer a count and Skelton composed himself to edge the contest before going onto lose the final to his old foe.
"I'll sit down and think about what I'm going to do next," said Skelton. "I stood off him too much in the final and I think we both knew we had to go for it in the last round – I thought I'd done enough but it wasn't to be. But good luck to him, Michael's a great guy and I've always enjoyed our fights, even if tonight's result wasn't the one I wanted."
Skelton kicked off the evening against Ali Adams and his wealth of experience showed as he took command of the fight in the first round and a flurry of punches at the beginning of the second all but ended the hopes of Adams.
McBride saw off Franklin Egobi via a split decision in a keenly fought second quarter-final before rookie McPhilbin won new fans as he stopped Declan Timlin in the second round of their third quarter-final to face Sprott in the semi, dominating the unbeaten Irishman in the opening round then knocking him to the floor early in the second before the referee stopped the fight.
Matt Skelton beat Ali Adams – Unanimous decision 30-27, 30-27, 29-28
Kevin McBride beat Franklin Egobi – Split decision 29-28, 29-28, 29-28
Shane McPhilbin beat Declan Timlin – referee stopped fight in second round
Michael Sprott beat Danny Hughes – Unanimous decision 30-27, 30-27, 30-27
Matt Skelton beat Kevin McBride – Unanimous decision 29-28, 29-28, 29-28
Michael Sprott beat Shane McPhilbin – Unanimous decision 30-27, 30-27, 30-27
Michael Sprott beat Matt Skelton – Split decision 29-28, 29-28, 29-28
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