Jamie Conlan salvages pride after defeat for James Tennyson
JAMIE CONLAN’S left hand rescued what was threatening to be a disappointing night for the fighting Irish in London on Saturday night.
After James Tennyson’s British featherweight title hopes had been dashed by Ryan Walsh, Conlan picked himself up off the Copper Box canvas twice to win his Commonwealth super-flyweight title showdown against Anthony Nelson.
Nelson, who had been down in the second round himself, was on top when Conlan summoned up a ripping bodyshot early in the eighth to KO the champion and claim his belt. The Belfast man who loves a scrap took his record to 16-0 after a Gatti-Ward-esque battle with granite-chinned Geordie Nelson who walked through some spiteful shots in a rip-roaring contest.
“When you go away from your family and you sacrifice everything for eight or nine weeks and he’s hitting you on the ropes you think: ‘well, what did I do all that for?’ and you dig it out from somewhere,” said Conlan afterwards.
Producing it when it matters is what gives Conlan his star quality. In the end he won spectacularly, but there were some very anxious moments along the way and an early omen that his fight would be a repeat of his duel with Junior Granados last summer when he also had to pick himself off the floor to win.
Conlan explained: “I said before it to Derry Matthews to pick my entrance song and he picked ‘The Irish Rover’ and I said ‘don’t do that, the last time I had that it was the Granados fight’. But he said ‘it’ll be over in three’.”
It could have been too because Conlan looked a level above Nelson early on. He dropped him with a right hook in the second and referee Marcus McDonald must have come close to stopping it after he pinned Nelson on the ropes and went to work on him with both hands. But Nelson refused to lose and any thoughts of an easy night’s work for ‘the Mexican’ ended when he was floored by a booming right hand in the next. By the bell he cut and swollen under his left eye.
Conlan restored a measure of order amid the chaos in the fourth, concentrating on boxing and a neat one-two late on probably won him the round. He had Nelson on the brink again in the fifth and again landed some shuddering shots but his game opponent took all the punishment and came roaring back towards the end of the session.
There were anxious moments for Conlan in the sixth as Nelson stalked him around the ring and the Belfast fighter was down for the second time in the seventh. Nelson had landed a borderline low blow, Conlan recovered, but then an overhand right left him on the deck in a neutral corner.
He banged the canvas in frustration but got back on his feet and the bell that ended the round must have come as a relief: “I said to myself I was going to take the seventh round off but it was the wrong time to do that because he took a round on,” said Conlan.
“He caught me a peach of shot on the hip and I thought: ‘ohhhhh, what a shot’. Lucky enough the referee called it a low blow and then I found my second wind pretty well.”
When the bell sounded for the start of the eighth and Conlan had to bite down hard on his gumshield as he left his corner. Nelson met him in the centre of the ring once again, looking for a finish but Conlan evaded his right hand and smashed that left hook into his ribs and wheeled away in delight certain that it was over. It was.
“I saw his shot coming and slipped it and caught him perfectly,” he said.
“I knew it was over, I saw him just grimacing, it was right on the floating rib where I caught him.”
It was a spectacular finish to a cracking fight - easily the best on Saturday night’s London bill. Conlan’s appetite for a war gets him into trouble at times, but he has developed into one of the most crowd-pleasing fighters around as he sets his sights on a challenge for Paul Butler’s WBO world title.
THE stage was set for James Tennyson on Saturday night, but the Kronk fighter didn’t produce anywhere near his best against impressive British featherweight champion Ryan Walsh at the Copper Box Arena in London.
Tennyson - now 16-2 - admitted after his fifth round stoppage loss: “I didn’t feel right, I felt slow” and his coach Tony Dunlop has hinted that 5’9” Belfast Kronk fighter could now move up to super-featherweight.
It appeared that Tennyson struggled to bridge the considerable gap between small hall success and British title level and he wasn’t able to use his superior height and reach to his advantage too keep Walsh at bay.
Bodyshots did the damage and although Tennyson produced some impressive spells, most notably in the third when he tested the experienced him with some venomous uppercuts, well organised champion Walsh, now 20-1-1, was the worthy winner.
Despite taking a count in the second, Tennyson was well in it by the end of the third. However, Walsh seized control in the fourth and Tennyson was down twice in the fifth. Referee Michael Alexander waved it off after the second knockdown with Tennyson back on his feet at ‘eight’ and keen to continue.
“I came back in the third but I felt slow, I felt a wee bit tired,” a crestfallen Tennyson admitted afterwards.
“But I can’t make any excuses, the best man won on the night. He [Walsh] is a good fighter. He’s British champion and he’s one win away from winning the [Lonsdale] belt outright. I think if I was on top of my game I would have won the fight, but it wasn’t my night. Maybe if I was on top of my game, I could have used the jab more and picked clear, long shots. But I just wasn’t right. There’ll be better days ahead, I’ll be back.”
Tennyson arguably did enough to win the first round when he used his reach advantage to good effect and caught Walsh as he looked to land bodyshots. But the Norfolk fighter seized the initiative in the second and Tennyson took a count after a booming right hand caught him below the ribs. He rallied in the third and forced the pace, burrowing inside and snapping Walsh’s head back with stinging uppercuts.
But Walsh stepped it up in the next. He looked a step ahead as Tennyson struggled to get his shots away and another right hand in the fifth - Tennyson’s team claim it was below the belt - sent the former Poleglass ABC star to his knees once more.
Tennyson was up in good time but Walsh is too experienced to let him off the hook and referee Alexander stepped in to wave it off after he had been dropped for the third time.