Contenders 30: Drive-in show set to make history as fans return to live sport
- Credit: Archant
A piece of sporting history will be made in Norfolk on Friday night, as Contenders host the first fight event in the UK to welcome back a live crowd since lockdown. Mark Heath previews the groundreaking Contenders 30: Drive-in show at Taverham Hall in Norwich.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Since coronavirus struck and sport went into shutdown, fans have very much been forced to watch ther favourite athletes on television, if at all.
Eddie Hearn’s had Fight Camp in his garden and Frank Warren’s done shows in an empty TV studio, but Contenders 30 is the first fight event – if not sports event – in the UK to welcome fans back.
It’s based on the drive-in cinema concept, with fans staying in their cars or within a marked bay outside their vehicle, while they enjoy the action - they can even tune in to live commentary on the radio.
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Fights - a mixture of MMA, K1 kickboxing and boxing – will take place in an elevated cage, with a giant cinema screen also showing the action.
All fighters and officials have been tested for coronavirus and isolated, while there is a raft of covid protocols in place to ensure the event can take place safely.
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All fight shows need a main event, and Contenders 30 will be topped by a 77kg stand-up war between decorated K1 fighters Charlie O’Neill and Dean Pattinson.
Pattinson (5-0), a super slick southpaw from Grimsby’s Gorilla Fight Team, has fought and won on Glory Kickboxing, plus lifted the WKO English title on Contenders two years ago.
He’s got a very tough test ahead of him in O’Neill (12-5) though, the British super-middleweight KGP (Kickboxing Grand Prix) champion from Leicester’s First Legion Gym.
O’Neill’s a punishing, all-action fighter, with a big right hand and a penchant for throwing punches in bunches.
It should be a cracker.
“Dean’s good, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him. I actually met him a couple of years ago when Paul Daley was fighting Michael Venom Page and had Dean in to spar with him. We ended up doing a couple of rounds and, although sparring’s obviously only sparring and they were warm-up rounds, I felt good about it.
“I was quite surprised he took this fight, to be honest with you - I think I’ll handle him pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very good and really technical, but I just feel like I’m better.
“I’m not coming in to beat him on points either, I want to make a statement - it will be nice to take his spot in the rankings.
“I think it’s going to be a chess match at first - that’s what people will be expecting – but as soon as I start landing I reckon I’ll get the knockout in the second or third round.
“It’s going to be an awesome event, it’s great to be part of it – I’m really looking forward to it.”
“I’d usually remember if someone had the better of me in sparring, so in that sense I guess he was forgettable.
“But in the fights I’ve watched of his, Charlie’s shown a lot of skill and guts - he’s definitely going to be a test. That said, I don’t think he’s got anything that I’ve not dealt with before.
“Each and every fight has a lot of possibilities - that’s what makes it exciting.
“I think we’ll both probably feel the nerves to begin with and end up feeling each other out in the first round, a careful start.
“But then as I warm into the fight my class will show and I think I might drown him in the latter rounds.”
An exciting lightweight MMA match-up as Richard Mearns and Stefano Catacoli collide in the cage. Both have fought at featherweight, but meet here at 155lbs.
Mearns (3-2) is the more experienced of the two, the 28-year-old from Northampton’s Team BST having enjoyed a decorated, unbeaten amateur career.
He’s coming off a statement submission win over Norfolk rival Scott Butters at Contenders 27 last year, and will feel that his combination of pressure and power will see his hand raised.
But in Catacoli (1-0), he faces a flamboyant 21-year-old riding a four fight winning streak who will mix in flashy striking with high-level grappling.
It has all the ingredients of a classic clash of styles - but who will prevail?
“It’s a good match-up and I’m taking him very seriously. We’re quite opposite in styles - he’s got the range and I think he’s a natural lightweight. He’s flamboyant in there, has his guard down and fights in a side-on stance.
“But his opponents have let him get confident - I won’t do that. The gameplan is to fight hard, and if he lets his hands drop when I’m in range it’s going to be disastrous for him.
“It’s a hard fight, and he presents danger in all aspects of the game, but I’m just going to be better than him.
“I don’t make predictions usually, I let my opponents decide how they’re going to lose, but I’ll make an exception here – I’m going to knock him out in the first round.
“Not all athletes get a chance like this. I’m super excited to be part of it.”
“He’s a good opponent, but I don’t think he’s got the skills to beat me, I’m hungrier than him.
“I think I’m better everywhere, but we’ll see - if we go to the ground I feel like I’ll finish it quicker, but I think I’ll surprise him on the feet too.
“He’s a joker if he thinks he’ll knock me out in the first round, that’s not going to happen.
“He’s a good test, but I’ll neutralise him - I’m in the best shape of my life, and I know what I’m capable of.
“I reckon I’ll finish him, but we’ll see on the night. I feel like I can break him, and get the finish.”
OTHER NAMES TO LOOK OUT FOR
Elsewhere on the main card, Norfolk’s Chris Hayes makes his pro MMA debut at feathwerweight against the unbeaten Jabeed Rahman (2-0), while giant Norwich boxer Jakub Adamski, a murderous body puncher, fights for his first title in a heavyweight clash with the skilled Tom Doyle.
Norwich’s Mikey Finn, a spinning back of K1 tricks, opens the main card in a 75kg battle with Jamal Raja.
On the undercard, a high-level amateur lightweight bout between Nick Heyes (4-2) and Brad Owen (5-6) is the featured prelim, and could contend with the 64kg MMA clash for local bragging rights between Norwich’s Luke Goodge (1-0) and Lowestoft’s Phil Taylor (2-0) for fight of the night.
Suffolk’s Jack Purdy - still unbeaten on Contenders - boxes Billy Gamov, and look out, too, for the likes of Jerum Agbude, Ahsan Ahmed and Sam Smith - the latter two of whom meet in a 68kg MMA bout.
HOW TO WATCH
Contenders will be shown live around the world on FITE TV - go to fite.tv to order the PPV.
The first fight is set to start at 7pm, with the main event pencilled in for just after 10pm.