By Dermot Bolger
Jamie Conlan’s remarkable powers of recovery came to the fore again in his epic clash with Anthony Nelson. It’s the stuff that makes legends. To see a boxer climb off the floor, summon reserves of strength, and courageously fight back to win, is what makes boxing the enthralling spectacle that it is. The Commonwealth super flyweight title was never earned in a more thrilling manner.
Here are five more memories of Irish boxers who had to climb the canvas to claim victory in title fights.
04/07/2015 Jamie Conlan V Junior Grandos, The National Stadium, Dublin
It’s that man Conlan again. The WBO Inter-Continental super-flyweight belt was on the line when “The Mexican” clashed with a Mexican in a rip-roaring encounter. Both showed tremendous heart and cojones to serve up a war that had a packed audience on the edge of their seats. Conlan eventually came out on top on the judge’s scorecards, but not before he had to survive a horrendous seventh round.
A hard right hook to the body sent Conlan to the floor. Conlan kept his senses and beat the count. With his foe hurt, Granados sensed his chance and threw everything at Conlan. With the ref hovering, two vicious upper cuts sent Conlan to the floor again and the battle looked lost. Somehow, he beat the count and saw out the round. Regaining his composure, he fought out the bout to the final bell and claimed the belt. It was a real coming of age fight that would serve him well down the line.
07/06/2014 Andy Lee V John Jackson, MSG, New York
The NABF super-welterweight title was not the real prize. It was the likely world title shot the victor would get. Facing Lee was John Jackson, son of KO artist Julian. Jackson Jnr’s DNA was not deficient in the power department either – 15 KO’s in his 18 wins coming into this bout and it didn’t take him long to give Andy a demo. A right hook in the first dropped Lee.
He did well to survive but struggled to get a foothold in the fight over the next few rounds. As round five progressed, it was still advantage Jackson as he backed Andy to the ropes until Lee uncorked a stunning hook of his own. Much like Jackson Snr against Herrol Graham many years earlier, the recipient was out cold before he hit the deck. The belt was Lee’s as was the world title shot 6 months later. A Lucky punch? No such thing. Lee repeated the trick against Matt Korobov for the WBO middleweight crown six months later.
21/03/2009 Bernard Dunne V Ricardo Cordoba, The O2 Arena, Dublin.
The Mother of all World title battles ever staged in Ireland. I thanked God afterwards for having the pleasure to be there. Dunne was the darling of Irish boxing and the man who brought big time boxing back to prime time viewing on our national broadcaster. A former European champion, he had enticed Panama’s Ricardo Cordoba to make the first defence of his WBA world super bantamweight title in Dublin. What ensued on that March night was a classic see saw encounter with six knockdowns and a dramatic come from behind win for Dunne in the 11th round.
The fight made everyone’s shortlist as a fight of the year contender. Dunne dropped Cordoba in the third. Cordoba stormed back and in the fifth and looked to have made the judges irrelevant. Dunne was twice floored by right hooks to the jaw. On drunken legs and roared on by a fanatical 9,000 strong crowd, he somehow rode out the storm to continue the fight. Trailing on all scorecards going into the 11th, Dunne landed a terrific left hook to floor Cordoba before closing out the fight. It was a truly memorable sporting occasion.
18/03/1995, Steve Collins V Chris Eubank, Green Glens Arena, Millstreet, Cork
A World Champion since 1990, Eubank was the flag bearer for boxing on Sky Sports TV, the emerging giant in sports broadcasting. He was on a long run of successful defences when he got matched with former middleweight champion Collins for his WBO super-middleweight title. Somehow, the bout ended up in a show jumping arena in the town of Millstreet.
Though the underdog, Collins had been around the block and knew his job. He boxed smart, dictated the pace and had the ability to take the initiative as the fight progressed. A retreating Eubank was caught flat footed with a body shot in the eighth round and landed on the seat of his pants. That 10 -8 round in Collins favour set the alarm bells ringing for Team Eubank. He had survived close shaves in the past but this was very different. For sure, he was behind on points and they knew it. In the 10th and now fighting with a real sense of urgency, he looked to have saved the day when a big over hand right dropped Collins.
Collins however didn’t look hurt and calmly beat the count. Depending on your view, Eubank wouldn’t or couldn’t push home any advantage. Collins gritted his teeth to hold his own for the remaining two rounds and claim a deserved victory. He repeated the dose six months later to leave no one in doubt as to who was the better fighter.
15/09/1990, Dave “Boy” McAuley V Rodolfo Blanco, Kings Hall, Belfast
What an up & downer this one was. The Kings Hall has staged many heroic encounters over the years and this is right up there with the best of them. Larne native McAuley was fighting for World honours after only 13 pro fights. His efforts paid off in his 16th bout when he bettered Duke McKenzie to claim the IBF flyweight title at the Wembley arena. When Colombian Blanco came to town in 1990, Dave “Boy” was making his third defence.
Blanco had a reputation as a banger and showed why in the 2nd round when he dropped the Champion twice. The fight seemed destined to finish early with the title heading to South America. However, embedded in McAuley’s light frame was a huge heart and unbowed fighting spirit. Down again in the 3rd, he fought his way back into the contest and dropped Blanco heavily in the 9th with a great left hook. Dave “Boy” was now getting the better of the exchanges, but Blanco showed he wasn’t done with by scoring another knockdown in the 11th to put the contest back into the melting pot. McCauley survived and got home on a razor thin decision. Two years later they fought again, though this time without the drama, it was Blanco who got the nod on another set of tight scorecards.