Tyrone Spong lived up to his nickname at GLORY 9 NEW YORK.

He emerged as ‘King of the Ring’ in the eight-man light-heavyweight tournament, scooping the $200,000 grand prize by scoring a quick stoppage of world #1-ranked Danyo Ilunga, protégé of Remy Bonjasky, in the grand final.

The stoppage came after Spong staggered Ilunga with a right hook. Ilunga covered up and referee Mufadel Elghazaoui dived in to stop the fight as Spong went to work with a heavy hand combination. It was a controversial stoppage though and Ilunga protested bitterly at the referee’s decision to ostensibly save him from being KO’d.

The pair found themselves facing off in the final after a thrilling tournament which mixed all-out wars with heavy stoppages. Spong’s first fight of the evening was a quarter-final meeting with the aggressive young Michael Duut, who brought the crowd to its feet when he floored Spong at the ten second mark with a 1-2 combination.

A shocking upset looked to be on the cards but as Duut surged forward to finish his work Spong was waiting for him. Spong threw a lightning-fast overhand right and Duut went staggering across the ring to hang onto the ropes. As the referee went to give him a ten count he slid to the floor and was unable to stand as the fight was waved off.

Ilunga’s first fight of the tournament was a tough battle with Mourad Bouzidi, the 97-fight, 28-year-old veteran who until this tournament had been fighting at heavyweight. Ilunga – originally from Congo – made his way to the ring in traditional African warrior dress, and war he got. Bouzidi has fought all the best heavyweights in the world and is a hard man to intimidate, let alone put away.

The two went to work immediately, throwing constant hard combinations and working each other all over with punches and kicks. It was a close fight; Ilunga’s pace and conditioning gradually edged him ahead and he took a decision win to pass through to the semi-final stage, but he had a much harder fight than Spong did for his quarter-final.

Both remaining quarter-final fights were also close-fought affairs. A hard technical battle between Filip Verlinden and Steve McKinnon could have gone either way and ended with a split-decision for Verlinden. There would have been no objections from either man had the decision gone McKinnon’s way though, there was very little to choose between them.

The All-American match between Dustin Jacoby and Brian Collette did not disappoint. Jacoby – winner of the ‘Road To Glory’ talent scouting competition – had stopped Collette in their previous meeting. This time Collette got off to a good start and they ended up going to distance as they tried their best to finish each other. Jacoby took a majority decision, with two of the three judges seeing him as the winner.

In the semi-finals, Spong faced Verlinden and completely dominated him for two of the three rounds. Verlinden is renowned for speed but Spong was not only matching him in the department, he was outstripping him. Verlinden’s decision to box with Spong for the first two rounds was a bad one, and it was only the third round – when he switched to a kicking game – that the judges scored for him.

Ilunga’s semi-final fight with Jacoby was also a high-paced, hard battle. Jacoby, a UFC veteran, knocked out all three of his opponents in the Road to Glory tournament and he threw heavy leather in the first two rounds of this one. But Ilunga waded through the storm to deliver his own killer knees and leg kicks, slowing Jacoby to the point where Ilunga could run riot in the third. Jacoby’s legs were heavily damaged by the end of the fight and Ilunga took a clear decision to progress to the meeting with Spong in the final.

The controversial stoppage in the final spoiled Ilunga’s night but probably won’t affect his world #1 ranking as Spong usually fights at heavyweight and was only making a foray into light-heavyweight for this tournament. Nonetheless, Ilunga wants a rematch as soon as possible. He says he cannot win back the prize money but he wants to show Spong he can give him a hard fight, and beat him.

In the tournament reserve matches, designed to provide alternates should any of the main tournament fighters be too injured to continue, the outstanding Russian talent Artem Vakhitov took a quick body-shot KO win over Luis Tavares and top American name Randy ‘Boom Boom’ Blake took a decision over the experienced Japanese fighter Koichi.


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