Speaking after the National Stadium-hosted headliner, Cruise [7(1)-6(0)] stated that he felt he won, said he wanted a rematch and promised to knock out his fellow Irish 160lb fighter if they were to meet again.
Keeler, who picked up the Irish title with a 96-95 points win on the Red Corner show, sung off a similar hymn sheet within minutes of becoming the first middleweight Irish champion since Eamonn O’Kane.
The popular Ballyfermot middle felt he was cruising against Cruise, was prevented from exploring the stoppage route to victory by an injured hand, and is also open to the rematch.
“I would love to do it again,” said Keeler.
“I don’t know why it was that close. I felt there were four or five rounds in it and I was only cruising on the jab because I hurt my hand – bad pun! – but I was.”
Describing the hand injury, which occurred in the fourth, Keeler noted how “I just couldn’t do anything with the right.”
“I felt I was breaking him down, but I couldn’t follow up and I had to stick to the jab. I was getting a sharp shock through it. I did wobble him and I probably could have finished him on a better day.”
‘Cool Hand’ was at pains to stress he wasn’t making excuses by bringing up the pain in his hand and was adamant he felt he won the fight in second gear. However, he did admit that he was impressed with his opponent and claims he now holds a win over the best Cruise ever seen in an Irish ring.
“It’s not sour grapes or anything. Fair play to him he is a tough lad and he came in and put on a good show. He took shots well. I threw one and it landed clean on the jaw and he took it so fair play to him.”
“Hats off to him he gave me a tough fight. It’s another belt. Sometimes I beat myself up a bit, but I will take the positives and go again.”
“That was his World title and he came out fighting like it was. He came in great shape, he wanted it. I reckon that was the best ever Darren Cruise and I dealt with him with a jab.”
“I thought it was wider so when it ended I wasn’t worried about the scorecard. I could have let them flow more like I do in sparring but I was in too much pain when I landed with the right,” he added before discussing the possibility of the rematch.
“If he wants to do it again I’d jump at it because it wasn’t a bad scrap and it was entertaining. I think I could do better if we did it again. At the same time, I won, and if there is no call for it, there is no call for it we move on.”
Trainer Paschal Collins also felt Keeler won the clash by a margin much wider than one round, and was quite content to see his charge forced to use his boxing skill rather than revert to a brawl on the night.
“I don’t care if it was one point or not it was the right decision in the end. I had it wider. His hand went and he had to jab so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. I have to take my hat off to Darren Cruise too. ”
Photo Credit: Laszlo Geczo Photography