McComb and Crocker steal the show as Conlan defeat stuns SSE Arena. Reports from all the fights...

Michael Conlan battled his way back into the fight but referee Howard Foster stopped it in the seventh round
Michael Conlan battled his way back into the fight but referee Howard Foster stopped it in the seventh round

WBA International Super-Featherweight title: Michael Conlan lost to Jordan Gill TKO7

IS the dream over for Michael Conlan? The Belfast matador has thinking to do after outsider Jordan Gill stopped him early in the seventh round at a stunned SSE Arena.

In what was billed as a career-defining fight, Conlan never settled and, although he had some good moments, he was in serious trouble in the second after Gill caught him flush with a left cross. He survived and bravely fought his way back into the fight but there were warning signs in almost every round as Gill continued to land punishing shots which Conlan seemed unable to avoid.

His answer was to stand and trade, which was never his strongest suit, and the end came just over a minute into the seventh when Gill sent a right hand over his low guard and referee Howard Foster wasted no time as he stepped in to stop it. His intervention seemed premature, but there were no complaints from the Conlan camp.

“I want to be a world champion and I feel that, after this win, I deserve a shot,” said a triumphant Gill after his career-best, life-changing performance.

“The plan was to make Mick work and I thought I could hurt him with either hand and I hurt him in every round.

“I knew Conlan is a proud man and he has so much heart in front of his Belfast fans and I had t take my time and wear him down and I did that.”

Conlan, starting in the orthodox stance, got his jab going early on and circling on the outside, covered up as Gill fired off brief attacks. The local favourite ended the round with three whiplash right hooks to the Englishman’s body.

Disaster in the second. Gill nails him flush on the chin in a neutral corner and Conlan is sent crashing to the floor. He was shaken and pushed to the brink of a career-ending early defeat as Gill went for the kill but he survived, just, to the end of the round.

Conlan steadied the ship over the first two minutes of the third until Gill caught him with a right hand that drove him into the ropes and again Conlan looked in trouble.

That was the pattern as the fight reached the halfway point. Conlan had good passages but they were undone when Gill caught him clean with powerful straight shots over his low guard.

The crowd came to life in the sixth when a Conlan uppercut burst through Gill’s guard and now it was time for the Englishman to bite down and hang on.

He did so and a minute and nine seconds into the seventh he trapped Conlan in the corner and caught him again. This time there was no way back for the Belfast favourite and referee Foster jumped in to stop it.

"Tonight just wasn't my night," he posted on social media afterwards.

"I'm going to take some time out and be with my family."

The defeat, Conlan’s third stoppage loss in the last 18 months, could signal the end of a career that has included so many highlights including a medal at the Beijing Olympic Games, the World Amateur title and the brink of world honours as a professional.

Brothers in arms. Lewis Crocker and Tyrone McKenna after 'the Croc' won their derby battle
Brothers in arms. Lewis Crocker and Tyrone McKenna after 'the Croc' won their derby battle

WBA Continental Europe Welterweight title: Tyrone McKenna bt Lewis Crocker UD

LEWIS Crocker won the unofficial Battle of Belfast and with it the WBA continental European title with a display of ferocious intensity that was too much for battling Tyrone McKenna who has since announced his retirement from professional boxing.

“That’s it for ‘The Mighty Celt’ people,” he posted on social media.

“I've given a lot to this sport and got way further than I ever thought possible when sleeping on the floor in Philadelphia, never thought I’d be in some of the huge nights I was part of.

“I set out to try and become the most entertaining man in Ireland always taking the hardest fights put to me even when I didn’t have to. I had some amazing nights with you all – win, lose or draw I hope I did you all proud..

“The one title no-one will take any time soon is the hardest man in Ireland. I can take a shot like no other man on this island.”

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McKenna had his moments but Crocker was in charge from the first bell to the last and took a unanimous decision 100-90 (on two cards) and 98-92 on the other.

“I would rather have died than lose this fight, that’s how much it meant to me,” said Crocker afterwards.

“This was pride, this was something I couldn’t lose and I went out and got the job done and I’m so proud. It was the most confident I’d been going into a fight. I have the mindset of a champion and I showed that tonight. I’m the king of Belfast!”

The partisan crowd got right behind McKenna but they didn’t have that much to cheer. There was spiteful intent in every punch Crocker threw. He smashed McKenna’s ribs with a series of left hooks in the opener and stalked him across the ring, hands out, inviting ‘The Mighty Celt’ to fire back. When he did, Crocker laughed it off and returned to his corner smiling.

He was still smiling at the end of the second. He had bossed the round again, tagging McKenna with a right hand counter and having the better of the exchanges.

A Crocker right uppercut/left hook pushed McKenna back into his own corner in the third. He fought his way out but had to soak up the same combination before Crocker slammed another left hook into his ribs. The storm calmed slightly in the fourth with McKenna getting close and holding his own.

There seemed to be as much ‘didn’t-even-hurt’ slagging going on as punching as both fighters traded blows and insults and although McKenna had some success, Crocker ended the round with body-head right hooks.

More comedy play-acting in the next but again Crocker, whose body punching was superb, was dominating the serious business and as the seventh began it seemed clear that McKenna needed to find another gear.

He found a home for his left hand in the seventh and had the better of the first half of the eighth but Crocker kept on coming and swinging and landing hurtful shots and it finished with McKenna pinned on the ropes. There was no way he was going down but Crocker is certainly on the up and next year could be the year of ‘The Croc’.

Caoimhin Agyarko proved a point against rough, tough Troy Williamson
Caoimhin Agyarko proved a point against rough, tough Troy Williamson

WBA Continental Super-Welterweight title: Caoimhin Agyarko beat Troy Williamson SD

WAS he good enough? Was he tough enough? Caoimhin Agyarko answered ‘yes’ to both questions with a focussed display in a pressure-cooker fight against roughhouse brawler Williamson.

Two of the judges had it 98-92 and 97-93 to Agyarko, the other scored it 96-94 to Williamson.

The opener was cagey but Agyarko came out of a flurry with a straight left hand that hurt his physically-bigger opponent. The rounds were close and intense but Agyarko was a split-second quicker and more accurate with his work.

“That was a big step up for me and beating someone like Troy is massive for my confidence,” he said.

“I always believe in myself but now it’s on paper that I can beat someone who is renowned for being a tough fighter and is hard to crack.”

Williamson’s jab got through in the second and Agyarko lost composure briefly in the fourth and had to swallow a stinging left but ‘Black Thunder’ ended the fifth with a salvo of stinging shots. They traded full-blooded left hooks in the seventh as the fight came to the boil and Agyarko uppercuts snapped Williamson’s head back throughout the eighth.

The Darlington native had his moments too but Agyarko began to pull away. He picked his opponent off in the ninth and had him in trouble in the final minute when he followed up on a straight right hand and pinned him on the ropes.

The Belfast native showboated a little at the end, but after the criticism he’s had and in the injury problems he’s come through, that was understandable.

WBO European Super-Lightweight title: Sean McComb bt Sam Maxwell UD

McCOMB chose his moments to plant his feet and add spiteful punch volume to his slick boxing skills and the result must rank as the best performance of his career to date.

Up against a former sparring partner, McComb dictated the pace and dominated experienced Sam Maxwell, dropping him three times - twice with sweetly-timed right hooks and, in the ninth, with a booming straight left. The judges had it 100-87, 100-87 and 99-88 to the Pete-Taylor-trained Belfast showman.

Sean McComb dropped Sam Maxwell three times over 10 impressive rounds
Sean McComb dropped Sam Maxwell three times over 10 impressive rounds

“My team put together a good plan and I stuck to it against a very good fighter,” he said.

“Ireland has the fighters and now we have the stage - we go to town when Eddie (Hearn) comes to town.”

McComb had the better of the opener. Boxing on the back foot, he dipped and ducked out of trouble and let his hands go as Maxwell struggled to find the target.

His dominance continued in the third and he dropped Maxwell with a long right hook at the end of the round. The Englishman fought his way back into it in the fourth and stung McComb with a straight right hand but ‘The Public Nuisance’ replied with both hands and finished the round well ahead.

Maxwell was down again (another right hook) midway through the fifth and McComb boxed clever, spearing out the jab and the back hand into his opponent’s ribs, until the end of the round. He wasn’t able to take liberties, Maxwell’s potent right hand reminded him of that in the seventh but McComb had him down again in the ninth and his pace never slackened as he closed out the win.

Middleweight: Cameron Vuong bt Michal Dufek TKO R4 

A WEEK after the disappointment of Chantelle Cameron’s loss to Katie Taylor, Jamie Moore returned to the Emerald Isle and this time his fighter won. Impressive Vuong had far too much speed and power for Dufek and looks set for a bright future.

After his third win in eight weeks, he said: “I think I boxed well, I took my time and got the job done.”

Eddie Hearn added: “He’s a special talent, really good energy and great to have him around the Matchroom team.”

Middleweight: Emmanuel Buttigieg bt Mario Oliveira TKO1

DEBUTANT Buttigieg needed just 85 seconds to get rid of Oliveira. A scuffed right hook sent Oliveira down and, although he did beat the count, Hugh Russell junior waved it off.

“I’m happy,” said the heavy-handed 18-year-old.

“I found the range and I landed a right hook and he didn’t want to know.””

Eddie Hearn added: “It’s exciting to be involved with a young kid who you know is going to give every ounce of his heart and soul to the game.”

Rudy Farrell and Gerard Hughes fought out a draw at the SSE Arena
Rudy Farrell and Gerard Hughes fought out a draw at the SSE Arena

Super-bantamweight: Gerard Hughes drew with Ruadhan Farrell 57-57

THE first Belfast derby of the night ended in stalemate. Farrell was aggrieved and understandably so because he produced a career-best performance against the game Hughes.

Hughes switched been southpaw and orthodox regularly and had moments of success but Farrell looked to have the better of the exchanges. However, referee Hugh Russell scored it three rounds apiece.

Fearghus Quinn banked six valuable rounds against experienced Angel Emilov
Fearghus Quinn banked six valuable rounds against experienced Angel Emilov

Middleweight: Fearghus Quinn bt Angel Emilov Pts 60-54

WIN number nine for South Armagh middleweight Quinn who opened the show on Saturday night. Gerry Storey-trained Quinn always fights at a high pace and he landed heavy shots throughout the fight. His attacking mindset meant he was caught occasionally and he was cut (head clash) in the fourth. He hammered the tough Bulgarian with right hooks to the body but Emilov forced him to work for his victory. Roared on by his loyal support, he banked six more valuable rounds and boxed his way to a shut-out points win.