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boxing

Ben Whittaker dominates gate-crasher Ezra Arenyeka after receiving headbutt and elbow

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Ben Whittaker put a commanding end to the minor Ezra Arenyeka sub-plot in his career as he cruised through a one-sided, occasionally-ugly contest to clinch a unanimous decision win in the co-main event at Selhurst Park on Saturday. 

Whittaker, who had walked to the ring backed by an orchestra, toyed and out-classed his opponent, who had secured a place on the same stage as the Olympian by way of gate-crashing his press conference ahead of his last outing against Leon Willings.

Whittaker was headbutted by a displeased Arenyeka at the end of the sixth round, before being elbowed to the face in the seventh as a fiery build-up crept into the ring.

But they would prove small blemishes in an otherwise dominant performance for Whittaker, who was barely drawn out of first gear as he claimed it 100-89, 99-90, 99-90 on the cards.

Victory lifts Whittaker to 8-0 as a professional as he now looks towards a potential main event later later in the year, along with vastly more challenging opponents amid his rise through the light-heavyweight ranks.

The gulf in ability was evident immediately as Whittaker shelved any early showboating in order to send a message in the way of Arenyeka and any potential opportunistic suitors who might be thinking of similar gate-crashing exploits.

Arenyeka had been highly-critical of Whittaker's showmanship during the build-up to the fight, but soon found himself succumbing to the theatre as the pair exchanged dance moves in the middle of the ring.

It was back to work moments later in the form of a flurry of Whittaker jabs that would precede a daunting overhand right and a perfectly-timed left upper-cut to the face of Arenyeka, who then found himself on the receiving end of two slick body shots as Whittaker slid to his left.

A wild exchange almost saw Whittaker take Arenyeka for a piggy-back as The African King's momentum swung him around the back of his opponent.

Whittaker continued to demonstrate his superior arsenal with a spiteful right hand through the guard of Arenyeka early in the fourth, matching it with a stiff body shot set up by a feint before he began to bob-and-weave at the sight of some wayward right hands at the ropes.

Arenyeka then felt the effects of a shrewd Whittaker sequence in which he delivered a quickfire three-punch combination before ducking the subsequent response to leave his opponent falling forward into the ropes.

Arenyeka went on the attack early in the sixth, charging forward with three mis-placed shots before eating two prodded, patronising jabs for his troubles. Whittaker drew on his variation again with another plunging body shot, before unloading a vicious assault at the ropes against his tiring counterpart.

He slapped him with a right hook, squeezed in an upper-cut and then dropped to the body once more.

Then came a flash-point as Whittaker walked Arenyeka back towards his corner in jest at the end of the round, prompting a head-butt from his disgruntled challenger.

Tempers then flared again in round seven when Arenyeka flung a backwards elbow into the face of Whittaker during a hold at the ropes, giving the referee no choice but to take a point from him.

For all of Arenyeka's industry and toughness, it was Whittaker in cruise control for the final two rounds before the signs of a stoppage opportunity emerged in the final seconds of the contest with Arenyeka stumbling around in search of the bell.

It might represent the biggest stage Arenyeka will taste in his career. For Whittaker, he knows it is a mere step towards far bigger, glitzier days.