Champ pushed all the way by Henshaw in a high-powered start to Seniors
THE Senior ABA Championships started with an epic East Midlands heavyweight encounter at the Derngate Centre in Northampton.
In a rematch of last season's Midlands final, Trinity's former Novice champion Russ Henshaw gave Simon Barclay of Corby a tough start to the defence of the ABA title he went on to win following their previous clash.
Henshaw could consider himself unfortunate to encounter so classy an opponent at this early stage of the competition but had an upset in his sights as he targeted the body of the champion from the start and pushed his man back against the ropes.
But Barclay, who also won the cruiserweight title in 2010 and has lost only once, by a single point, in championships in the last three years, sent out a warning of his own in the first round with a powerful shot that led to the referee giving Henshaw a standing count.
The movement and accuracy of Barclay was impressive throughout and he shook Henshaw with strong uppercuts but the Ilkeston man continued to find success working to the body.
The unanimous decision went to Barclay but both men knew they had been in a battle.
A crowded middleweight division saw three entries from Derbyshire, including 24-year-old Jack Dexter, who was making his debut for the combined One Nation/Pegasus club after a year and a half out of the ring.
Dexter built a promising reputation during his time with Unity in Sheffield and scored impressive wins, including over Chris Eubank Jnr, but he could not recapture that form in a quarter-final against Thomas Staples of Grimsby and went out of the competition.
So too did Trinity's Alex Reed, who was drawn to contest a semi-final against Joshua Laurent of Belgrave. This was his first bout for over a year and that was a telling factor as he lost a unanimous decision.
But Swadlincote's double national champion Zach Parker made sure there was no repeat of his surprise early exit from this season's NACYP Championships when he dominated Matt Darby of Phoenix and went through unanimously.
Parker, Junior ABA and CYP champion last year, goes through to a semi-final against Staples, with the winner to face Laurent.
Ryan Fields made his statement of intent at welterweight as he overwhelmed Hayden Walker of Bracebridge, who won the CYP title last season. Busy South Normanton boxer Fields did not give his man a moment's rest and was in complete control by the end.
That earned him an East Midlands final against Chris Walsh of Braunstone.
At light-welterweight, South Normanton team-mate Ashley Greaves had to absorb a solid attack to the body from Grimsby's Nathan French in the first round and though he came through that, it did have an effect.
French again targeted the body in the second and Greaves had to take a count. As the point of attack continued, the referee had to step in again and this time he called a halt.
But Adam Sircar went through in the same division for Buxton after taking a split decision against Peter Garside (Kettering SOB) and moves on to a semi-final against Sam Bowen (Earl Shilton).
At bantamweight, South Normanton's Dinesh Puri, who has already claimed a second Senior Novice title this season, moved through to the Midlands final on a walkover, as did Jamie Williams of Trinity at flyweight.
But Jake Harrison, the Trinity super-heavyweight who also became Senior Novice champion this season, had to withdraw from the competition after failing to shake off a virus.