Stephen Irvine vs Javier Tebar – VICTORY 5 Preview
Featuring on the main card of Victory 5, Steve Irvine will take on Spain’s Javier Tebar in a 57Kg international bout. Coming off his last victory over Jay Counsel for the UKMF Celtic 55Kg Title, Irvine will be looking to round off this year with another win to his name. Tebar, whilst the away fighter in this bout, is no stranger to the situation having won the Chiang Mai Stadium title in Thailand last year.
Cutting the angle
Irvine is currently ranked at the number two in the UK at Junior Featherweight (55.4Kg). Last year he fought Callum McGowan on Victory IV for the number one spot but lost out on points in a tough technically brilliant fight. Since then however, Irvine has been undefeated in his past four fights including wins over fighters such as Jay Counsel. He will be looking to make 2019 a perfect year with five wins from five fights to propel himself into 2020.
As mentioned, Irvine’s last victory was over tough Irishman Jay Counsel at Evolution fight night in September. From the outset Irvine displayed his excellent dexterity and technical ability, throwing up his lead leg before turning it in at the last moment for a deceptive head kick. Rather than trying to check the low kick, Irvine retracted it and then countered with his own, saving himself from unnecessary punishment.
Counsel did find early success with aggressive forward moving combinations catching Irvine whilst he was cold. Irvine would retreat back on a straight line hopping on one leg to check the finishing kick of the combination. However, he managed to find his own rhythm and began to cut the angle on Counsel. Rather than going back in a straight line where Counsel could follow, Irvine began to back up a step then cut a diagonal, preventing Counsel from easily following him.
This frustrated Counsel early, who began to charge in more aggressively with his combinations. This simply played into Irvine’s strategy, allowing him to play the part of the matador to the bull, spinning into space as Counsel hurled himself past. As Irvine cut his angle, he throws the low kick at the exposed legs of Counsel. Whilst Counsel’s corner were egging him onto pressure Irvine, it seemed only to expose himself more to the cutting angle counter.
By the third round Irvine seemed to have settled into his matador role, baiting Counsel with his back close to the rope. As Counsel stepped in, the Scot countered with the leg leg kick to the body or elbows into knees depending on the distance. Whilst Counsel was still landing shots, Irvine’s movement around the ring prevented them from being as damaging as they would if he had gone toe to toe.
The fourth and fifth round were spent with Counsel chasing Irvine round the ring trying to land successive combinations. Irvine did take some punishment from these blows but refused to remain static long enough to get drawn into longer exchanges. Irvine made sure that despite being chased to outscore Counsel in the exchanges. When Irvine was tripped, he immediately leveled the score less than a minute later.
What’s most impressive about this fight is how Irvine was able to handle Counsel who was 11-2 at the time of the fight and an excellent Thai boxer himself. The key for Irvine was allowing himself to settle into the fight and get more comfortable cutting the angle. At the opening of the fight he moved straight backwards allowing Counsel to chase. Then he began to back up then cut and angle after two or three steps. Then he cut an angle after a single step. Finally, once he had his timing down, he didn’t bother with the backwards step at all and simply cut across Counsel whenever he moved in and counter with the low kick.
The match up
Facing Irvine is Javier Tebar, a successful Spanish Thai boxer who has spent much of the past year fighting and training in Thailand where he managed to capture a stadium title (Chiang Mai). Tebar appears to have adopted a single shot counter style. Often he will edge forward, wait for the opponent to throw a kick or boxing combination then counter with a single powerful shot. Whilst this proved effective against the more traditional Thai boxer, Irvine’s style will be very hard to deal with if he relies on throwing a single shot after Irvine’s lands.
What makes Irvine an even trickier match up for Tebar is he use of stuttering feints. These appear to be a staple of the Glasgow Thai Boxing Academy fighter, with he team mate Nico Carrillo being a prolific user of the technique. These feints into genuine kicks are an excellent way of making an opponent second guess themselves if they are aiming to catch or counter the kick. Not ideal if your style depends on single shot counters.
That being said, Tebar is extremely powerful, if he can extended his combination into two or three shots he could give Irvine a rough night. Counsel’s greatest success came when he cut the ring on Irvine and entered with measured (read not charging in) aggression, landing straight blows down the pipe. It will be fascinating to see Irvine’s technical approach against Tebar’s more single shot counter style.