Boxing

Emma Dolan makes British title breakthrough in a win for the old-fashioned fighters

Emma Dolan makes British title breakthrough in a win for the old-fashioned fighters

Emma Dolan celebrates her decision victory over Shannon Ryan (Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

One day in the summer of 2012, I was making my way to the Olympic boxing venue in London to watch Katie Taylor fight.

The train was packed and a young girl of about 12 asked me if I was going to the boxing. She was a big Katie Taylor fan and had just started to box.

Her name was Emma Dolan and on Saturday in Birmingham, she won the inaugural British super-flyweight title with a close but deserved points victory over Shannon Ryan.

Dolan is 26 now, she also holds the Commonwealth title and is now unbeaten in seven fights. She is typical of the women boxers that are emerging; she has grace, international amateur experience and the added ring intelligence that comes from being in old-fashioned boxing gyms and not keep-fit gyms – with a ring buried somewhere over near the judo mats.

The fight with Ryan was hard, a real scrap, and Ryan was dropped in the second round; the knockdown was the decisive moment in the fight. The split decision went to Dolan and a rematch at some point makes sense. The ringside was divided, but Dolan’s jab and movement was just a bit better. Ryan, who is with Anthony Joshua's management company, turned to boxing after kickboxing and a spell with GB Taekwondo; it has been a successful transition, and it was her first professional loss in eight fights.

Dolan became only the third woman to win a British title and has a lot of options at or near her weight; the introduction of the British title by the Board last year was an essential addition to the business. The first winner, Lauren Price, has since moved on and won a world title, which should be the standard route of progress for all British boxers.

“Look at this beautiful belt,” Dolan said in her changing room. “I have wanted one of these since I started boxing.” She still looks like she could be about 12, by the way.

Carl Greaves, who trains Dolan, looked on with a smile on his face; he knows what it is like to want a Lonsdale belt. Greaves twice ran into very good champions when he fought for the British super-featherweight title over 20 years ago. “She deserves it, nobody works harder in the gym,” he said.

Dolan (left) won the inaugural British super-flyweight title against Ryan (Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing)

Dolan is an old-fashioned fighter, a product of mastering the basics and sticking to a plan; there is nothing fancy about her, and her face never changes at any point in a fight. It’s all business with her. No gimmicks, no thrills, no hype.

On the same bill in Birmingham, there was a genuine fight of the year contender at welterweight between Conah Walker and the unbeaten Belfast boxer Lewis Crocker. It was across 10 rounds for an obscure WBA bauble, but the belt was unnecessary; it took about a minute to warm up and then they just fought each other to a standstill and the bell sounded at the end of the 10th and final round. Round nine was the round of the year – for a minute, until round 10 started.

Both felt the damage of the blistering fight, and both looked exhausted as they waited for the result; Crocker won a tight, tight decision with two scores of 96-93 and one of 95-94. They might just do it all again one day. “That was something truly special,” Eddie Hearn, the promoter said at the end.

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