Brave Spike O’Sullivan stopped by Erislandy Lara

Spike O’Sullivan has been stopped in New York – but the Irishman did not go down without a fight.

The Cork slugger lost in eight rounds to imperious Cuban Erislandy Lara at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.

While he was a couple of levels below the WBA ‘regular’ middleweight belt holder, O’Sullivan pushed and walked through a lot of fire, winning plaudits for a game showing in what was the chief support on the Gervonta Davis v Rolly Romero PPV.

However, plaudits are unfortunately all O’Sullivan will take home from New York. He was dropped in the fourth but did manage to fight his way back into the contest before being hurt again in the seventh and stopped in the eighth.

‘The American Dream’, Lara has had quite the career since defecting from Cuba in 2008. Having built his record, including an Interim title and hugely debated losses to Paul Williams and Canelo Alvarez, Lara finally became a professional world champion in 2014 with a dominant win over Ishe Smith.

This WBA title added to a 2005 World Amateur Championships gold medal, and Lara retained his status until 2018 and another hugely debated loss, this time to Jarrett Hurd. After a draw with Brian Castano, the Caribbean boxer reclaimed the WBA belt with a stoppage over Ramon Alvarez. Last year, Lara moved to middleweight where he won his first fight – and his ‘regular’ world title – with a first-round knockout of the overmatched Cornflake LaManna.

His first major fight since his gruelling loss to Jaime Munguia at the start of 2020, O’Sullivan was a huge 11/1 underdog/ The hope for the Mahon man tonight was that Lara, having turned 39 and not faced world class opposition since Castano over three years ago, had lost something. Of course, Spike himself is no spring chicken at 37 and was fighting above his preferred weight class but came into this bout with optimism.

However, Lara was just too good despite his advanced years. Indeed, the Ismael Salas-trained boxer has become more of a fighter in recent times, with Spike feeling the brunt of that tonight.

Like versus LaManna, Lara set his formerly fleet feet in the opening round, teeing off on a shelled-up O’Sullivan who was looking to build his way into the bout.

Going forehead-to-forehead at the start of the second, Spike targetted the body but Lara was proving elusive – and a potent counter-puncher.

Opening up in the third, the pair traded painful body punches but the additional sharp lefts upstairs from Lara were doing damage and reddening the face of the Irishman.

O’Sullivan was able to bring the fight to the ropes in the fourth but was having trouble landing anything of note on Lara who was countering at will. The big shot came in the closing seconds, another straight left, that seemed to leave Spike out standing up and he tumbled backwards to the canvas.

Rising unsteadily, the Celtic Warriors man was able to see out the round and he came out aggressively in the fifth, a last stand, perhaps. Lara approached things patiently but began to land huge single shots as the round progressed. O’Sullivan, to his credit, continued to barrel forward, looking to turn the tide, landing some of his own shots, and winning the approval of the crowd and commentators.

Keeping things at close range in the sixth, O’Sullivan enjoyed his best round of the fight, outworking Lara and giving cause for hope.

Entering the second half of the bout, the Spike fightback continued as he bludgeoned away at Lara before another huge left in the closing seconds left O’Sullivan on wobbly legs.

Implored to empty the tank in the eighth, it was immediately clear that O’Sullivan had nothing left and was sent quickly reeling back by Lara and referee Benjy Estevez jumped in, stopping the defiant Corkman standing.

The stoppage win sees Lara improve his ledger to 29(17)-3(0)-3 while O’Sullivan slips to 31(21)-5(4).

Spike had said in the build-up that tonight will not be his final fight, noting his ability to campaign in his favoured light middleweight class. A game showing, there may be opportunities for him at 154lbs but nothing is for certain.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie