08 November 2009 – By Steve Wellings
In the pick of the undercard of Martin Rogan’s Commonwealth title clash with Sam Sexton, former world title challenger Neil Sinclair showed his class when dismantling outgunned Hungarian Janos Petrovics inside four rounds of a scheduled eight. Levels above, Sinclair (11st 2llb 8oz) went through the full repertoire of jabs, left hooks to the body and head and uppercuts as the journeyman struggled to stay competitive.
The pre-fight talk was of a European title challenge to Ryan Rhodes (or a vacant crack if Ryan chases world honours) and that is not out of the question considering Neils recent run of form. He ripped through the decent Henry Coyle in this very arena in May, turning a reasonably even fight into a mismatch. Petrovics was not of any renowned standard but, interestingly, he did extend the aforementioned Rhodes until the seventh round in the Ulster Hall in April. That stoppage was from body shots and Neil wasted no time in testing Petrovics wobbly waist with some early blows to the midsection.
Right hands and left hooks continued to land with alarming frequency through the second and third rounds, with referee Ian-John Lewis keeping a close eye on the away mans swelling face. Another combination, ending with a shot to the gut, had Petrovics (11st 2llb) dropping for some relief on the canvas. He rose for more but the referee had rightly seen enough and waved it off, 28 seconds into the fourth. Sinclair had won every second of the fight and can still hold influence at a good level.
Looking to engineer another crack at one of the domestic titles, super-featherweight Kevin OHara posted a 59-56 win over diminutive Londoner Mickey Coveney. I scored it wider than referee Victor Loughlin at 60-55 for OHara, giving Coveney a share of one round, which was perhaps harsh, given the southpaws efforts, but OHara (9st 8llb 12oz) was always in control.
Electing to plant his feet and trade more than box, Kevin found a home for the left-hook all the way through this six-rounder yet found Coveney – technically better than I expected – to be tough as old boots. Reddened around the cheeks from an early stage, Mickey soaked up the harder shots of former star amateur Sweet Pea and came back with plenty of his own. As basic as it may sound, Coveneys shorter arms meant he found it difficult to land his hooks unless in close to OHaras chest.
Kevin made use of the left hook and right hand staple shots against the southpaw- to good effect, yet Coveney (9st 7llb 4oz) refused to budge. The pace slowed slightly in the fifth as the visitor took a share but he ate some heavy leather in the last session as OHara piled it on for a stoppage that was just beyond him on this occasion.
While Sinclair and OHara contested slightly longer distances, the remainder of the card all participated over 4x3s.
Flyweight debutant Jamie Conlan may have been making his first professional start but you could tell even from these early stages that he has a touch of class. Conlan (8st 4llb) dealt well with the unpredictable style of opponent Anwar Alfadi (typically honed in the Ingle stable) whose exaggerated movements and off-balance punching made for frustrating viewing.
Jamie, kitted out in glitzy red shorts, used his jab to try and measure Alfadi (8st 2llb 12oz) before introducing the right hands, which started to fall short as Anwar bobbed and weaved out of range.
A solid right in the second round brought a nod of appreciation from the visitor who has yet to register a pro victory, but can mess anyone around and has never been stopped. The popular home fighter was well in control and his cuffing shots kept Alfadi honest throughout, without really catching him clean.
The nights work was only slightly spoiled in the dying seconds of the fight when a seemingly innocuous head clash opened a cut on Conlans scalp. The 22-year-old scaled the ropes to celebrate, while blood gushed from the wound down the side of his face and hopefully it is not so serious as to keep him out of action for any significant period of time (he later told me it required six stitches). For the record I gave Conlan every round, while referee Ian-John Lewis saw it marginally closer at 39-37.
Local crowd pleaser Ciaran Healy is a win-some, lose-some, kind of fighter and his frustrating form continued with a 39-38 points reverse to Lee Noble on referee Ian-John Lewiss scorecard I had it one point wider in Nobles favour.
Healy was puffing forward from the off while Noble switched and used the jab, but worryingly moved backwards in straight lines when tagged. Luckily for him, Healy (11st 9llb) did not exploit this flaw and I had the away man taking the opening two rounds with his better punch economy and some stiff right hands. Healy has never liked it to the body and Lee (11st 10llb 8oz) landed some meaty shots to back his man up, before the Belfast native took the third on work rate.
It was all set up for a big last round but both men were a little gassed and even though Healy started strongly, Noble was again landing the right hands and picking his punches well. Healy is a bit of a boxing nomad and had Paul McCullach in his corner, imploring his charge to throw more of the slapping flurries that had earlier unnerved his Ingle-opponent. He couldnt sustain it and Nobles arm was correctly raised with no complaints.
Light-middleweight Gary OSullivan was at ringside with trainer Paschal Collins, obviously watching closely, as OSullivan challenges Healy for the Irish title in his native Cork on 28th November.
In the show opener, Joe Rea went through the motions while outpointing game but limited Phil Townley, who was making his debut after linking up with Alan Wilton. While John Breen was off in Magherafelt master minding Paul McCloskeys European title effort, assistant Eamonn Magee deputised in the corner for the entire stable.
Rea (11st 2 llb) timed the slower Townley (11st 7llb) with right hands and switched to southpaw in a bid to confuse the former soldier. Phil was focused and watched his man closely, trying his own lead punches but receiving spiteful counters in return, whenever he fell short. A cut sustained in round one did not curtail Townleys enthusiasm but may hinder his chances of making the scheduled Belfast Promotions show in two weeks time.
Rea investigated the body in round two and this seemed to be a fruitful strategy as lefts to the midriff caused Townley to wince in the third session. He was still grimacing in the final round when a Rea uppercut landed flush and a stoppage became a distant possibility. This was Reas tenth fight since turning pro in 2004 and the man who was based in America needs to stay active if he is to force his way into title contention. Scottish referee Victor Loughlin scored it a shutout 40-36.
Rushing out of the blocks to make a statement, Belfasts well-supported Luke Wilton looked as impressive as I have seen him in a long time, bullying Darlingtons frail-looking Kevin Coglan.
The pale skinned, lean body of Coglan (notably lighter at 7st 3llb 12oz) looked like it might fold under the duress of Wiltons left and rights to head and body. However, Coglan, a one-fight novice, was made of sterner stuff and shook off a nosebleed to give it a go for the remainder of the four rounds.
Wilton was busy but began telegraphing the right hand a little and smothering his best work as fatigue set in; he started to hunt the body more in the third round.
By the final session, Luke (8st) had found a second wind and Coglan needed every ounce of his resilience to withstand the barrages. Referee Mr. Loughlin took a closer look as the young visitor rocked back and forth, hanging on and firing back when he could.
The ref rightly awarded the home man every round at 40-36, the same tally as my own. Luke is still improving and with the lack of depth in his natural light-flyweight division, may get a title opportunity sooner rather than later.