Last November, very few people except Nathan Heaney, 18-0-1 (6 KOs), and trainer Steve Woodvine, thought he could dethrone Denzel Bentley and win the British middleweight title. Heaney produced an outstanding performance to outpoint the Londoner and achieve his lifelong dream.

Tonight the roles were reversed. The man from Stoke walked to the ring as the heavily favoured champion on the brink of a major night. Newquay’s Brad Pauls, 18-1-1 (10 KOs), stood in the opposite corner, written off by almost everybody except his own team.

After a tremendous 12 round battle, the judges couldn’t separate the fighters. Victor Loughlin scored the fight 116-113 in favour of Heaney, John Latham saw it 115-114 for Pauls, Kevin Parker had it a 114-114 draw.

Heaney utilized his advantages in height and reach well in the first round, keeping ‘The Newquay Bomb’ at range and landing with his straight punches. Pauls is a big puncher but just couldn’t get his feet close enough to launch a serious attack in the opener.

Pauls redoubled his efforts in the second. The English champion began to try and close the distance with more determination, using his left hand more to set up attacks or attempting to step closer after Heaney let his own shots go. Heaney’s jab and right hand were extremely accurate weapons, the jab in particular reddening Pauls’ face.

Heaney is a constant ball of energy, always stepping around the target or letting his hands go but Pauls began to find his timing a little bit in the third round. One particular right hand sent the sweat spraying from the champion’s head, Heaney’s response was to move more and prevent Pauls from setting his feet. Through four rounds, Heaney's accurate punches had him in front but Pauls remained ambitious and dangerous, firing in hard punches whenever he got into range.

Heaney caught Pauls with a couple of right hands and decided to hold his feet and engage him in a fight for 30 seconds. Pauls took the opportunity to wing in left hooks of his own but came out second best at his own game. 

The sixth was Pauls’ best round of the fight. He was starting to mark up around the eyes but began to get his left hook going and Heaney spent most of the round on the back foot, fending off his attacks.

Heaney and Woodvine were solving problems and Heaney came out in the seventh using his left hand in an attempt to prevent Pauls from getting set. The 29 year old refused to be put back in his box that easily though, and Heaney definitely felt a good double left hook, but answered back with a right hand of his own. 

Suddenly in the eighth, blood began to pour from Heaney’s nose. Spurred on by the sight of blood, Pauls launched a huge attack. Two right hands badly hurt Heaney and the Newquay challenger's follow up attack was hard and accurate, Heaney’s mouthpiece went flying and he reeled about on verge of going down. The referee stopped the action while Heaney’s mouthpiece was replaced but after a long break, Pauls picked up where he left off, shaking Heaney with more right hands. 

Heaney reestablished control in the ninth by getting on his bike, moving and jabbing while Pauls was kept off balance and struggled to get anything off, a pattern which continued in the 10th. When Heaney used his jab and moved, Pauls struggled mightily to get his feet into range and and land anything big. There was a big exchange of right hands at the end of the 10th which Pauls seemed to get the better off, Heaney’s mouthpiece again coming loose. 

Pauls came out the 11th looking for a knockout. A left hook badly hurt Heaney who gritted his teeth and tried to fire back. He staggered around as Pauls landed flush power shots and an exhausted Heaney grabbed, mauled and did everything he could to stay on his feet. Somehow he managed it.

It was a wild round. 

Believing that he had to stay on his feet to keep his title, Heaney tried to move in the 12th but Pauls was a man on a mission. He hurt Heaney badly again with a right hand and a left hook but Heaney scrambled, moved and fought his way to the final bell. 

It was an outstanding fight and both men will have to wait and see what’s next.