Rose Volante in action against Katie Taylor, right, on Friday night in Boston. INPHO/TOM HOGAN
By Jay Mwamba
Katie Taylor’s third world title victory and a successful Michael Conlan defense of the WBO Intercontinental featherweight belt were among the highlights of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day boxing weekend on the U.S. east coast in recent memory.
In other results, John Joe Nevin, Noel Murphy, Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan and Lee Reeves all triumphed, while two-time Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes was left mulling retirement after a brutal points defeat to Oscar Mojica.
TAYLOR HAT TRICK
At the Liacouras Center in Philly, Taylor halted Brazilian Rose Volante in nine heats to capture the WBO title, her third belt in the lightweight division. The Bray native, whose WBA and IBF crowns were also on the line, is now expected to meet WBC champion Delfine Persoon in a unification match on the Anthony Joshua-Jarrell Miller undercard at Madison Square Garden on June 1.
It was vintage Taylor as the 32-year-old set a record as the first Irish fighter to win three of the four major world titles.
She had Volante on the canvas in the first round from a thudding right.
Volante beat the count but Taylor’s combination punching would keep her off balance all night. In the sixth round, another hard right bloodied the Brazilian’s nose.
In the ninth stanza, an accidental clash of heads wrought more damage to Volante’s nose. It left a massive cut that forced referee Benjy Esteves to stop the contest. It went down as a TKO for Taylor who upped her ledger to 13-0 (6 KOs). Volante’s first pro defeat saw her drop to 14-1 (8 KOs).Post-fight,
Taylor only had one thing on her mind: Persoon.
"That's the fight that people have been talking about for over a year now and now I can start talking about that fight," she told Sky Sports. “I've got the three belts, she's got the WBC belt, so we have to get that fight on next."
Promoter Eddie Hearn said it could happen in June. "It's a tough fight, Persoon was an outstanding amateur, she's got a tough style to beat, she can punch as well, but Katie has come through another test," he told Sky Sports.
Earlier at the Liacouras Center, Dubliner Jono Carroll failed in his bid for American Tevin Farmer’s IBF world super featherweight title. He lost by unanimous points, the first defeat of his career [16-1-1, 3 KOs].
Mullingar lightweight John Joe Nevin pitched a six-round shutout of Colombian Andres Figueroa in the last bout in Philly.
A silver medalist at the 2012 London Olympics, Nevin was a class above his man. All three judges scored it 60-54 for the winner, who’s now 12-0 [4 KOs].
Figueroa fell to 9-4 [5 KOs].
[caption id="attachment_99984" align="alignnone" width="300"] Michael Conlan celebrating victory at Madison Square Garden. INPHO/EMILY HARNEY[/caption]
Michael Conlan’s third straight St. Patrick’s Day outing at Madison Square Garden had the feel of a 10-round sparring session as he had his way with Ruben Garcia Hernandez. He did everything but drop or stop the durable Mexican, while winning every round in defense of the WBO Intercontinental featherweight.
The Belfastman switched from southpaw to orthodox with no consequence, inflicting most of the damage to the head from the orthodox stance.
Conlan started off as a lefty, working Hernandez’ body with ferocity. The Mexican’s response were looping overhand rights that rarely connected.
Occasionally leading with his left in the second half of the fight, Conlan would mark up Hernandez’ face.
There were no knockdowns.
Conlan [11-0, 6 KOs] was satisfied with the night’s work before 3,712 fans.
“I think I showed a lot of good defensive movements and things I’ve been working on. We were in no rush to try and take out this guy.
“He’s tough. He went the distance with [former world champ Nonito] Donaire and a few other top fighters. He had a tough head on him,” said Conlan.
With Hernandez [24-4-2, 10 KOs] out of the way, Conlan called out his former Olympic foe Vladimir Nikitin [3-0] who won a six-round majority decision over Juan Tapia [8-3, 3 KOs] on the undercard.
“I know you’re here tonight,” Conlan told the Russian. “We need to do it again for the fans. I need to right a wrong that shouldn’t have been written.”
[caption id="attachment_99985" align="alignnone" width="300"] A bloodied Paddy Barnes bravely fighting on against Oscar Mojica at Madison Square Garden. INPHO/EMILY HARNEY[/caption]
His nose broken and bloodied by one of the first punches of the fight, Paddy Barnes would bravely battle to a split decision loss to Mexican Oscar Mojica in their six-round bantamweight scrap.
Barnes would also be decked by a left hook to the liver in the second stanza, a knockdown not called by the referee.
Two judges had it 58-56 for Mojica [12-5-1, 1 KOs] while third official had an incredulous Barnes [5-2, 1 KO] winning 58-56.
Said Barnes: “In the first round, he broke my nose. And to be honest, I don’t know how the judges scored it close because I thought he won every round.
“To be honest, I will probably retire now. I don't think there is any point boxing on after a defeat like that.”
In the opening bout at the Garden, super lightweight prospect Lee Reeves improved to 3-0 with a unanimous decision over Eduardo Torres [1-2, 0 KOs]. All three judges scored it 40-36 for the Limerick youngster on his U.S. debut.
New York-based Corkman Noel Murphy snapped a two-fight winless streak with an eight round points sweep over Lucan’s John Joyce in their all-Irish welterweight contest at the House of Blues in Boston.“Back to winning ways!” Murphy declared to his fans following his first win since 2017. He had a loss and draw in his two 2018 outings.
He got off to a good start, flooring Joyce with an overhand left in the first round. The visitor beat the count and showed true grit the rest of the way in the wake of Murphy’s dominance.
“I thought he was gone in the first [round] but he showed serious heart and got back up and fought on,” conceded Murphy.
He’d use the left hand to great effect for the reminder of the bout while sweeping all the rounds. All three judges scored it 80-71 in his favor.
Murphy, who fights out of Woodlawn in the Bronx, improved to 13-1-1 [2 KOs]. Joyce returned to Ireland with a 7-1 [4 KOs] record.
Another Corkman, Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan was stellar in a sixth round stoppage of Worcester, Mass., junior middleweight Khiary Gray.
After a slow start, O’Sullivan stepped it up in the second round. He methodically broke Gray down with relentless pressure. After six heats, Gray’s face was bloodied and battered and referee Stephen Clark called a halt to the beat down.
Sullivan improved to 30-3 [21 KOs), while Gray slid to 6-5 [12 KOs).