Brits reign victorious after thrilling Africa v UK team boxing encounter

Joe Murray Supplied

A compelling night of action in Manchester UK saw Team UK reign victorious in the inaugural Africa vs UK boxing competition. Team UK secured the Kwesé Cup with a 3.5 to 1.5 winning margin in a pulsating encounter at Salford's iconic Victoria Warehouse.

It brought elation and despair in equal for the combatants who fought in what is understood to be first ever international-level 'team' event in professional boxing.

A series of brutal exchanges whipped up a passionate response from the home crowd and travelling contingent, culminating in a face-off between team captains Joe Murray and Nkululeko Felix Venganayi.

The 10 round lightweight encounter ended in a resounding victory for 'Genius Joe', who looked sharp and focused throughout peppering the African challenger at will before forcing a stoppage.

The Western Cape challenger struggled to handle the former GB Olympian's speed and accuracy, and was saved by the referee after being reared up in his own corner.

Wild celebrations ensued before Murray was presented with the Kwese Cup by South African based Kalakoda Promotions chief Saul Loggenburg in front of a pleased home crowd. Murray will now be hoping his impressive display will help bargain a deal to challenge British Title holder Lewis Ritson, in his fervent bid for the national belt.

However, it was perhaps the penultimate fight which stole the show featuring West Midlands ace Craig Cunningham and the Namibian 'Demolisher' Lukas Ndafoluma.

Having caused a massive upset in 2016 snatching the WBC international silver middleweight belt from former GB Olympic star Anthony Ogogo, it was Cunningham who was to taste bitter defeat in Manchester.

The gruelling Middleweight battle which lasted the 10-round distance had the crowd standing, as Ndafoluma used his reach and height advantage to devastating effect. The champion Cunningham rallied, but his momentum was frequently halted by the stiff punching African, as the two traded vicious blows to the end.

Ndafoluma fell to his knees after the referee announced the narrow points victory and left to a deafening rendition of the Namibian national anthem, sealing the first and only victory of the night for the African continent. Another riveting contest saw Team UK's unbeaten charge Ben Sheedy trading blows with seasoned South African Barend Van Royen. The 39-year-old Team Africa veteran used all his guile and experience to unsettle the Sale fighter in the Middleweight contest.

Sheedy finished the stronger, but the judges had them level after 8 rounds, paying testament to Van Royen durability absorbing the younger man's power and throwing back in equal measure. The dramatic result paves the way for a rematch to settle scores in the Africa vs UK return leg in 2018.

Earlier in the night, a rangy 6ft 1in Bilal Rehman showed flashes of star quality in his white and gold shorts with a fluid display against a sniping Brandon Naude. The KwaZulu-Natal native did everything to close the sizable reach disadvantage, but 'Billy the Kid' proved strong on the offense and back foot, ultimately doing enough to convince the judges.

The highly entertaining 8-round super lightweight contest brought sparkle to the card early doors with both fighters showing ample ring craft honed from their long and impressive amateur stints. UK boxing offiiciandos have Rehman marked down as a British Title prospect and this latest display will leave his ambitious plans undimmed.

A 10-round roller-coaster coming mid-way through the card had Scottish fans raising the roof as Jordon McCrory took on Namibian livewire Abraham Ndauendapo. The Scottish fighter rode a wave of noisy support from traveling fans in the early rounds, outmuscling his opponent and showing superior skills.

The 34-year-old African took a dent to the scorecard after a standing count when his gloves hit the canvas, but lived up to his 'Energy' moniker growing stronger in the later rounds. A narrow two-point victory for McCrory brought a mixture of relief and raucous celebrations to the warehouse.

A return leg of Africa vs UK is expected to take place in Namibia, in July 2018.