The Irish Eye: April
On Saturday night Katie Taylor unified two lightweight world titles in just her ninth pro fight. Kane Clarke rounds up all the month's action involving the 'Emerald Isle'...
On 28 April at the Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, the Queen of Irish boxing Katie Taylor outpointed Victoria Noelia Bustos of Argentina to add the IBF World lightweight title to her WBA world trinket and unified the division in just her ninth professional fight.
The 31-year-old Olympic champion dominated the from the start to finish, winning unanimously 98-91 99-91 (twice) on the scorecards, and will now target WBC champ Delfine Persoon and WBO titlist Rose Volante as she looks to become the undisputed lightweight champion.
“I want all the belts by the end of this year for sure,” she said in her ringside post-fight interview. “I’m there to fight anyone, any of the champions. I said before, I’m so lucky to have some great champions in my weight division. There’s some great, great fights out there to be made.
"It's always been my dream to unify this title. A tough, tough contest. I had to work for every second of every round there. She was obviously a proven champ coming into this fight so I knew I had to be sharp. I'm just so, so happy right now."
On 21 April, at the SSE Arena, Belfast, local hero Carl 'The Jackal' Frampton outpointed a fellow 'Ring Magazine Fighter Of The Year' in Nonito Donaire over 12 rounds to pick up the interim WBO featherweight championship, and cement his dream of fighting at Windsor Park stadium, which will take place on 18 August.
In the lead-up to the bout, four-weight world champion and former pound-for-pound star Donaire had endeared himself to the usually hostile Jackal Army at press conferences and public workouts alike with respectful comments about the home favourite and his loyal fans, and used his 15-minute slot at the public workout at Victoria Square to teach some young local children the fundamentals of the 'sweet science'.
But, when it came to fight night, normal service was resumed as 'The Jackalites' booed and jeered the future Hall-of-Famer into the ring in typical pantomime style, and the roof was raised upon the arrival of local hero Frampton as he made his walk to the squared-circle.
The opening couple of rounds were typically cagey with both combatants feeling each other out before Frampton started to take over from the third onwards, working excellently behind the jab. Donaire stayed dangerous throughout with the uppercut in particular landing beautifully on a couple of a occasions, and he even wobbled the hometown favourite in the eleventh to set up a tense finish.
But at the end of the bout there was a clear winner, and Frampton's arm was raised with the scorecards reading identically at 117-111 moving The Jackal's impressive record to 25(14)-1, whilst Donaire falls to 38(24)-5(1).
Who Frampton will fight at the home of his beloved Northern Ireland football team still remains to be seen. Oscar Valdez holds the full WBO featherweight world title, but is currently sidelined after breaking his jaw against Scott Quigg in his last outing and isn't expected to be fully recovered in time for an August date. Frank Warren stablemate Josh Warrington challenges IBF world champion Lee Selby on 19 May at Elland Road Stadium, but realistically such a quick turnaround might not suit the eventual winner in time to prepare for such a big defence.
It's also been rumoured that Frampton could be elevated to full champion if Valdez was to move up in weight, but those rumours have been quashed recently by Top Rank promoter Bob Arum.
On the undercard, Tyrone McKenna dropped and outpointed Anto Upton over ten-rounds in a light-welterweight West Belfast derby. The win sees McKenna up his unbeaten record to 16(6)-0-1 whilst Upton dropped to 17(6)-2. 'The Mighty Celt' will now look forward to another domestic dust-up against Phil Sutcliffe Jr on Michael Conlan's 'homecoming' card on June 30 in the same venue.
Irish middleweight champion Luke Keeler captured the WBO European title with an impressive ten-round victory over former champion Conrad Cummings to extend his professional record to 14(5)-2(1)-1 with Cummings dropping to 13(6)-2-1.
Mullingar lightweight David Oliver Joyce extended his unbeaten record to 7(6)-0 with a sixth-round stoppage of Englishman Jordan Ellison [9(1)-14(4)] in his first scheduled eight-rounder.
Derry super-bantamweight Tyrone McCullagh moved to 10(6)-0 with a third round stoppage of Nicaraguan journeyman Elvis Guillen 9(6)-37(9)-4, and will now challenge for his first professional title when he takes on Glasweigan Joe Ham [14(5)-0] for the vacant BBBofC Celtic title, also on the Conlan undercard on 30 June.
Belfast's Marc McCullough was due to challenge Dublin's Jono Carroll for his super-featherweight IBF trinket on the card, but a cut during sparring ruled Carroll out, so instead the Shankill Road man downed and outpointed Nicaraguan Arnoldo Solano to move to 19(11)-4(3).
And finally, Belfast banger Lewis Crocker continued his KO streak with a third-round stoppage of Englishman Scott James [1(0)-3(1)].
On 7 April, at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition centre, Dennis 'Hurricane' Hogan secured himself a shot at the WBO world light-middleweight title, with a hard-fought twelve-round points victory over Mancunian former world title challenger Jimmy Kilrain Kelly.
The 33-year-old Kildare puncher (now 27(7)-1(0)-1) added the WBO Intercontinental title to his WBO Oceania strap.
Staying 'Down Under', Dublin light-middleweight Tony 'The Irish Psycho' Bates returned to the ring for the first time in over three years with a four-round majority decision victory over Thailand's Wanchaloem Chanajan, to up his unbeaten record to 11(8)-0-1, at the Orion Function Centre, Sydney, on 6 April.
Eighteen-year-old Monaghan welterweight Aaron 'The Silencer' McKenna moved to 3(2)-0 with a first-round stoppage of American Keasen Freeman [4(2)-2(2)] at the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio, on 12 April.
MHD Promotions returned to The Europa Hotel, Belfast, on April 14, with future British lightweight challenger Paul Hyland Jr topping the bill, and disposing of England's David Birmingham inside four rounds.
The 27-year-old 'Hylo' now 18(7)-0 will now travel to Tyneside to challenge one of the hottest prospects in British boxing right now, Lewis Ritson [15(9)-0], for the British lightweight title.
On the undercard, Dublin's Jay Byrne [7(2)-4(1)] put in a excellent performance to outpoint Belfast's Jamesy 'The Chin' Gorman [8(3)-50(5)-1], while Vladimir Belujsky made quick work of English journeyman Iain Jackson, to up his record to 3(3)-1-1.
Also on 14 April, two of Belfast's toughest journeymen travelled to The Ice Arena, Cardiff, and picked up a couple of good results. The Irish Eye 'Warrior Of The Year' for 2016, Alec 'The Belfast Spartan' Bazza picked up a draw against undefeated Welsh prospect Kristian Touze over four-rounds, and can once again find himself very unlucky to have not picked up the win after downing Touze in the opening round. Still chasing that elusive first win, Bazza's record now stands at 0-34(4)-3, whilst Touze moves to 5-0-2.
Also on the card, Bangor middleweight Casey Blair provided another shock and picked up the first stoppage win of his career when he finished Afghan national Lotty Quryshi, who was making his professional debut. The win sees the Ulster journeyman up his record to 5(1)-38(9).