Stephen Simmons wins vacant IBF European title

Stephen Simmons lands a left hand on opponent Simon Barclay at Meadowbank. Pic: Paul Devlin/SNS
Stephen Simmons lands a left hand on opponent Simon Barclay at Meadowbank. Pic: Paul Devlin/SNS
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Edinburgh’s Stephen Simmons has been crowned the new IBF European champion after a unanimous victory over Kettering’s Simon Barclay at a raucous Meadowbank last night.

It’s the third title of the 33-year-old’s professional career having previously held both the Celtic and WBC International Silver belts.

Simmons is in the shape of his life and was patient in his approach, picking off the Englishman round by round.

Barclay, on the other, was surprisingly lethargic and ultra defensive. Simmons never got out of first gear. In truth he didn’t need to.

Simmons’ latest victory, the 18th of his career, sees him into the top 15 of the IBF world rankings and a step closer to a world title shot.

However, he intends to spend the next few weeks savouring his biggest win to date. 
“I am absolutely delighted and just over the moon,” Simmons said. “It won’t sink in for a while that I am European champion. I actually had a slight injury a couple of weeks ago but I just got on with things.

“It feels absolutely amazing to win in my hometown of Edinburgh too. I’m now a step closer to my dream of fighting for a world title so I’ll take some time out these next two weeks to spend with my family. I can’t wait to take the belt home to my new baby boy Ethan.”

In the first of the evening’s championship bouts, Tommy Philbin emerged from an absorbing ten rounds as the new Celtic super-middleweight champion.

The 27-year-old prevailed over Sanquhar’s Rhys Pagan in a duel that simply had everything: passion, commitment and two individuals who were prepared to go the extra mile. It was Philbin’s first contest at super-middleweight having vacated the light-heavyweight division in June, and his tenth win since joining the pro ranks in summer 2015.

The Edinburgh fighter came out of the blocks fast and was finding his range in the early stages. But compatriot and current Scottish champion Pagan had other ideas and started to show what he had to offer.

Philbin did take a wobble in the seventh round but recovered well to see out the remaining three rounds and take a unanimous victory.

“It feels great to have the belt,” Philbin said afterwards. “It was a very tough fight, tougher than I expected, but I got there in the end. I’ve only ever boxed five rounds so I’m glad to finally get ten out of the way. He caught me in the tenth round so I was glad to hear the bell. I’ll hopefully defend my belt soon and then move on to bigger titles.”

Meanwhile, super featherweight Steven Tiffney remains undefeated following his 98-92 victory over the durable Troy James. It’s the first time the Newtongrange man has gone the distance but he showed why he is considered one of the best British talents in his division.

Coventry’s James had only lost three of his 24 bouts prior to last night but had no answer to the superior Tiffney.

Lewis Benson kicked off the evening with an assured points win through six rounds, the 25-year-old head and shoulders above his opponent Mikheil Avakian of Georgia.

Despite a seven-month hiatus due to a lower back injury, Benson didn’t look out of sorts and worked the jab well, the bloody-faced Eastern European giving his all but finding little success as the former Lochend amateur eased to his ninth consecutive pro victory.

Lightweight Thomas Dickson returned to winning ways with a narrow victory over Rhys Saunders, the judges scoring the contest 39-38 in the 27-year-old’s favour.

Dickson was ringside when Saunders fought at the Capital venue last October, the Welshman losing to Edinburgh’s IBO Inter-Continental and Celtic super-lightweight champion Jason Easton on that occasion.

Dickson had emphasised earlier this week the importance of grinding out a win following two defeats in the past 12 months. Nevertheless, after a cagey couple of rounds, the former Leith Victoria amateur moved up a gear to take control. Both boxers exchanged some meaty blows in the final three minutes but Dickson won the decision he so desperately wanted.