Conor Wallace produced one of the Irish performances of the year to massively change the trajectory of his career on Saturday afternoon.
The Newry light heavyweight beat a Top 10 world-ranked fighter on a world title undercard to become a continental champion in just his tenth fight.
Wallace gave two fingers to the wide pre-fight odds and upset world title hopeful Faris Chevalier to win the WBA Oceania and vacant IBF Pan Pacific belts on the undercard of Maris Briedis and Jai Opetai’s Warresman Boxing promoted IBF cruiserweight world title fight.
The 26-year-old was brilliant over the first five rounds, producing career-best form to open up a lead, he did have to contend with a French revival attempt in the second half of the fight but for the most part looked the better fighter.
There was a scare in the last round when a right hand tested his legs and staying power – and a bigger scare when it was confirmed judge Rodney Marsh had scored the bout 96-94 in Chavealier’s favour. However, the southpaw wasn’t to be denied deserved victory, scorecards of 98-92, 98-92 giving him a huge win.
Although they may want to bank more experience and continue to fight at the top end of the Australian domestic level, the win does open world possibilities for the Wallace.
The fighter he just defeated was recently offered the chance to fight Saul Canelo Alvarez defeater and WBA world champion Dmitry Bivol – and Wallace now has the belt that made him eligible and allowed him to be deemed worthy of that offer.
As promised Wallace brought it early and looked to set a high pace. He marched forward behind a solid southpaw jab in the opening two stanzas and backed his foe onto the ropes, landing some backhand lefts along the way. The French fighter’s skill set ensured he had moments of success off the back foot but the Newry fighter looked on top.
Chevalier looked to hold his feet in the third in a bid to impose himself on the fight but Wallace showed he was able to box picking nice shots from range. The former Australian champion looked to be hurting the more experienced operator and at this stage was making a mockery of the pre fight odds. By the end of the fourth and after watching their man eat some big straight lefts and lovely timed uppercuts, a worried home corner called for Chevalier change and action.
However, Wallace continued to impress and dominate in the fifth, using his reach to good effect and landing the punch of the round, a lovely southpaw right hook.
The French fighter ditched his usual chess game for a more aggressive approach in the sixth and it reaped dividends against a tiring Irish fighter.
A boxing match broke out in a close seventh, Wallace ate a big looping left at the start of the round but landed some backhands of his own before the pair traded counter punches in the final 20 seconds.
Wallace doubled, even tripled up his jab in the eight preventing his French foe from countering, which allowed the Ulster man to win the round without having to dig too deep.
Chevalier dropped his hands in the final two and was verbally taunting Wallace hoping to draw an error he could punish with one fight-changing shot. He did land a right hand in the final round that seemed to hurt the Irish light heavy but he recovered well, finished the round strong and was eventually awarded a career best win.