Jamie Conlan was forced to climb off the canvass again but he moved another step closer to a world championship tilt with a split-decision victory over Yader Cardoza in the main event of a packed card at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast.
Conlan, no stranger to a war, was felled in the eighth round by a barrage of blows after a short right uppercut took his legs away from him but he dug deep and weathered a few more storms to secure a very hard fought victory and the WBC International Super Flyweight Title.
Conlan appeared to be boxing his way to a comfortable decision through the first six rounds, finding his rhythm and even hurting Cardoza to the body in the 3rd round. But Cardoza was resilient and managing to find Conlan a easy target, something that really needs to be addressed if the "Mexican" is going to be an elite fighter.
It all changed after the knockdown in the eighth and Cardoza dragged Conlan into the trenches, a place he really did not want to be. Conlan’s corner urged him to box smart in the 9th and he followed their advice, only to be pulled onto the battlefield once more in the 10th. Cardoza backed Conlan up on the ropes and inflicted a cut over his eye but the Irishman was able to see it through.
Conlan, at 31, is a true warrior and a joy to watch but these types of contests cannot be good for his long-term career. His management team have to be looking at final eliminators/world titles in the coming months for him, although it’s hard to predict just how much he can stand up to the likes of Naoya Inoue, Roman Gonzalez or even Birmingham’s Kal Yafai if he was to secure a high profile bout.
The scorecards read: 112-115 to Cardoza but overruled by 114-113 & 115-113 for Jamie Conlan, who remains unbeaten at 19-0.
Triple Olympian, Paddy Barnes secured victory on his "second debut" to extend his unbeaten ledger, registering a six round decision over Adrian Garzon. Barnes demonstrated his ability, in spurts, and eased through the gears against a durable opponent but did not set pulses racing against an opponent that Jamie Conlan stopped in 4. Barnes’ debut was one he will want to forget and he will be satisfied that he made better memories second time around but he’ll be challenging himself to a step up in the future. Many have predicted that Barnes will be a real force as a professional, after a highly successful amateur career, and it may be the case that against more formidable opposition we will see better performances. Barnes, himself, has targeted a showdown with WBO Flyweight Champion Zou Shiming following a controversial points defeat at the 2012 London Games but he’ll need a few more fights under his belt before that one materialises.
James Tennyson stopped Declan Geraghty in the sixth round of another all Irish affair, Tennyson claiming the vacant Irish Super Featherweight Title in the process. The opening round was a tense affair but sparked to life in the second when Tennyson dropped his opponent with a tremendous overhand right. Geraghty was hurt but not only did he beat the count but he chose to meet fire with fire, stunning Tennyson in the process. Geraghty then demonstrated his superior boxing ability over the next few rounds to take control of the bout but Tennyson knew he had the power to turn the contest in one shot and that’s exactly what he did in the sixth. He touched Geraghty to the body before unleashing a ferocious left hook that crumpled the Dubliner. Geraghty showed guts to get back up but he ate another huge uppercut and the referee made the call that he was in no position to protect himself.
Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna and Dublin’s Jake Hanney engaged in a terrific war, McKenna retaining his BUI Celtic Super Lightweight Champion with a 6th round stoppage in a battle of the unbeaten fighters. Neither fighter gave an inch as they went toe to toe, trading vicious right and left hooks from the opening bell. The 2nd round was an early contender for round of the year as both men exchanged thunderous blows with their chins in the air, leading to a nasty looking cut over the left eye of McKenna. But as the rounds wore on it was McKenna who made use of his reach advantage to box at range and take control, Hanney visibly slowing due to the lightning pace that had been set. The finish may have been slightly premature as Hanney didn’t seem on unsteady legs but McKenna (13-0-1) was landing unanswered blows, the end didn’t seem too far away.
Light Heavyweight, Steven Ward notched a third career win over the tough but limited Curtis Gargano in a four round fight. Gargano has never won a professional fight but entertained the crowd with his brash style despite being dominated from start to finish by the Belfast fighter. Ward boxed well during a fun contest but was unable to force a stoppage against his smaller foe. Ward, a Commonwealth silver medalist, is trained by Oliver Harrison and could be one to watch. Scorecards read: 40-36
Heavyweight, Con Sheehan got eight rounds under his belt with a victory over perennial journeyman Ferenc Zsalek. Sheehan, trained by Peter Fury, boxed well and showed a good variety but seemed to lack the power to trouble his foe too badly, who resembled little more than a punching bag. Sheehan (5-0) hit the body well and used his size/reach advantage to good measure, breaking his opponent’s nose around the fifth with a left uppercut, but it is difficult to weigh up his potential in a contest like this. The official and Zsalek’s corner could have potentially stopped the bout due to the Hungarian offering nothing in return but Sheehan saw eight rounds for the first time. Referee scored it a shutout at 80-72.
Marco McCullough secured a one sided eight round decision over Leonal Hernandez in the lightweight division. McCullough dominated the bout and was never forced out of first gear, opting to pick up some rounds instead of blasting out an opponent who caused him no issues whatsoever. It looked like it could be an early night when Hernandez was dropped by a right hand in the first round, McCullough showing his class with a step back and overhand right combo that left his opponent on the deck but chose to box within himself for the majority of the contest. McCullough (17-3) couldn’t miss with the left hook to the body or the right uppercut and started to put his combos together as the fight progressed but overall he used this contest as a warm up to his British Featherweight Title challenge on the 6th May against Ryan Walsh. The referee’s scorecard read 80-71 to the Belfast fighter.
On a side note; McCullough looked a huge lightweight for this fight, it will be interesting to see him make weight for the Walsh fight.
Dublin’s Philip Sutcliffe Jnr scored a fourth round stoppage over Miguel Aguilar in a super lightweight contest that was scheduled for six. Sutcliffe had a slight stumble in round one after catching a left hook but he controlled the bout otherwise and scored a decisive finish, forcing Aguilar’s corner to throw the towel in, with a flurry of punches after hurting his Nicaraguan foe. This was a stay busy fight for Sutcliffe (13-1) ahead of an IBF Intercontinental Title clash with undefeated Josh Leather in Leeds on May 13th.