Boxing

World title challenge a step too far as Jerwin Ancajas blasts out Belfast warrior Jamie Conlan

IBF Super-flyweight Championship of the World: Jerwin Ancajas beat Jamie Conlan TKO 6

THE packed arena was stunned into silence.

With his opponent waiting in a neutral corner, referee Steve Gray stood over Jamie Conlan and counted: “One, two, three, four…”

Gutsy Conlan, who had taken counts in his career before last Saturday night, hauled himself off the canvas after a ferocious bodyshot from Jerwin Ancajas had knocked every breath of wind out of his body and left him in a crumpled heap.

The count continued as Conlan got up on his knees: “Five, six, seven…”

“Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,’” roared the crowd, imploring Conlan to get back on his feet.

He was up by eight, nodded that he was able to continue as the ref held his gloves and then fought on bravely, taking the fight into the sixth before Ancajas dropped him for the fourth time.

Once again he got back up but referee Gray had seen enough and waved it off. Enough was enough.

Conlan has a warrior's heart and his ability has won him titles at Commonwealth, international and inter-continental levels, but moving up to world title level – against a genuine assassin like Ancajas – proved to be a step too far. On Saturday night he was out-punched and out-manoeuvred by a world class operator with wicked power in both hands.

Boos had rung around the SSE Arena when ‘Pretty Boy’ “The reigning and defending WBC Champion of the world” was announced to the crowd, but Ancajas smiled menacingly to his cornermen as he tapped out the sign of the cross on his chest and got down to work.

Conlan chose to rely on reflexes instead of sideways movement and that proved to be a mistake. His tactic of standing in front of Ancajas, looking to slip shots and counterpunch didn’t work as the Manny Pacquaio protégé closed the distance and caught him again and again with stunning power.

Conlan, a genuinely nice guy who has been involved in some rip-roaring fight down the years, had occasional moments of success but never enough of them. At 31, he still has years left in him, but he has some difficult decisions to make about where his career goes from here.

“Heartbroken about last night,” he said later.

“Really tough night at the office, Ancajas was a quality operator.”

Carl Frampton, who topped a terrific Queensbury Promotions bill at the SSE Arena added:“I’m sure he’s disappointed but Jamie Conlan can be proud of himself because he’s a hard man and I’ve been telling everyone that for a long time.

“I’m disappointed for him, but he’s a good guy and comes from a good family as well.

“These things happen and I hope he bounces back, it’s up to him. Whatever Jamie does in the future, I’m sure it’s the right decision.”

Queensbury Promotions boss Frank Warren added: “He’ll have to have a chat with his team MTK and see what he wants to do. He’ll need a rest, he’ll rest up and see what happens next year.”

Conlan will mull over what is best for him. As for Ancajas, this was the third defence of his title and the power and sweet skills he displayed on Saturday night make him a must-see fighter in the future.

West Belfast battler Conlan set his stall out early on, keeping distance between himself and the hammer-handed Ancajas and looking to slip and counter when the Filipino threw his southpaw left hand.

He was holding his own in the opener until Ancajas caught him with a wicked bodyshot and a right hand to the jaw near the end of the round. Pain raced through his body and, powerless, he sank to his knees and took his first count.

He kicked the canvas, frustrated by a nightmare start as referee Gray counted to eight.

Round two was better for Conlan who settled and throughout that stanza it looked possible that he could get a handle on Ancajas’ intentions and work his way back into the fight.

Blood trickled from a cut over left eye as the round ended to a chorus of ‘Ole, ole, ole’ but Conlan had landed the meaningful punches, looking for the left hook as Ancajas stepped in and he also caught him with a thumping straight right.

Things quickly deteriorated in the third though.

Pinned to the ropes, Conlan shipped two massive bodyshots and a straight left drove him back into his corner. He quickly regained his senses and covered up, but Ancajas pounced, unleashing another two-handed assault.

Conlan was down for another count, the crowd roared him back onto his feet but already this looked like a fight he couldn’t win.

Despite the trauma of the third, Conlan looked to stick to the gameplan and keep it long in the next. But Ancajas walked him down, pinned him on the ropes again and went to work – hammering his body. Conlan shrugged bravely as if he wasn’t hurt, but a right hook slammed in and put him down once more just before the bell.

A straight counter snapped Ancajas’ head back and gave him something to think about early in the fifth and Conlan followed it up with a left hook to the Filipino’s body.

A second low blow from Ancajas had Conlan on the canvas and referee Gray took a point off him. He shrugged off the warning and rocked Conlan with a right hook to the head as the round ended.

Fifty-two seconds into the sixth it was all over. Another right hand zipped over Conlan’s guard and zeroed in on the side of his head. He got up at eight but referee Gray waved it off. No-one could argue with his decision.

Defeat leaves Conlan with plenty to think about, but it was no disgrace for him to lose to a fighter of Ancajas’ calibre.

With his brother Michael set for a Belfast return and big nights for Carl Frampton promised next year too, he may well decide to put Saturday night behind him and move on. If not, he has left fight fans with some great memories to cherish.

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