The Dublin light middleweight, who took the fight with the Rio Olympian at less than three weeks noticed, boxed well in the early stages and landed on Fowler more than his previous six opponents combined but was eventually stopped heavily at the start of the sixth round.
Full of confidence, the inner-city fighter brought a loud pocket of fans to the O2 Arena in London for what was the opening TV bout on the Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker pay-per-view card which also features a WBA-IBF lightweight world title defence from Bray’s Katie Taylor versus Texan Kimberly Connor.
Irish champion O’Brien showed his talent during the fight, tagging Fowler with many shots but the raw aggression, workrate, and power from the Liverpudlian saw him break the Celtic Warriors man down and eventually score a highlight-reel stoppage
A cagey opener saw the heavy-handed Fowler target the body early. O’Brien, moving well, unleashed a few nice flurries that caught the Scouser but the activity and forward momentum of the home fighter no doubt won him the round in the eyes of the scoring referee.
O’Brien, as expected, remained on the backfoot into the second as Fowler continued his body assault – some of which strayed low. The Dubliner’s counters and quick flurries did land at an encouraging ratio but his workrate was being outstripped.
Really investing in the body, the Matchroom prospect landed a thudding bodyshot in the closing seconds of the third which shook O’Brien. While he was not throwing enough to win rounds, the neat work and movements were making Fowler look somewhat cumbersome and a nick was opened above his eye.
Backing ‘The Iron’ up to the ropes in the fourth, the power of Fowler started to tell and O’Brien was beginning to sag. A big shot upstairs, in a way, granted the Irishman some relief as Fowler began to headhunt but the writing looked to be on the wall as the fight entered it’s second half.
With water in the basement, as Teddy Atlas would say, Dave Coldwell instructed Fowler to switch his attacks upstairs entering the fifth round and he would wobble O’Brien with a left hook at the close.
The end then came violently at the start of the sixth, a left hook again from Fowler dropping O’Brien heavily, head catching the bottom rope, and finishing the fight immediately with just a few seconds of the stanza gone.
— Paul Roberts (@paulchrisrobert) July 28, 2018
Paramedics quickly entered the ring to tend to O’Brien and thankfully he was soon up on his stool, looking shaken but unharmed as the loud contingent of Dublin fans continued to make themselves heard.
The first loss sees 28-year-old O’Brien drop to 8(0)-1(1), while the step-up win sees Fowler improve to 7(6)-0.
While the ending was abrupt and hurtful, O’Brien’s performance in the preceding five rounds no doubt won him admirers and he will look to quickly rebuild.
Brutal knockout by @afowler06 after a really good fight – glad to see Craig O’Brien on his feet after a great effort 👊🏼
— Eddie Hearn (@EddieHearn) July 28, 2018