By Diarmuid Sherry
Conrad Cummings and Alfredo Meli produced a pulsating but sometimes scrappy fight on the Cyclone Promotions “All on the Line” show at the Waterfront Hall tonight, ending in a split draw decision. The contest was an Ulster derby, with Meli being the local Belfast man, whereas Cummings hails from Coalisland in Co. Tyrone. The fight was for the vacant BBBofC Celtic Middleweight Title, which now still remains vacant. Judges Ian-John-Lewis scored the fight 95-92 for Cummings, John Keane 96-93 for Meli, and Paul McCullough saw the contest even at 94-94 draw, resulting in a somewhat anti-climactic result, after 10 rounds of actions in which both fighters had a point deducted and had left supporters of both Conrad and Alfredo on their feet.
This writer scored the fight 95-93 for Cummings, but in the end, a first round knockdown by “Dynamite” Conrad on Meli ended up proving vital in the final decision.
How easy must had Conrad thought the fight would be when he scored that knockdown within the first minute. It came from a perfectly executed straight left to Meli’s chin after taking a quick step to his left from a clinch. The West Belfast man was at up at 3, and wasn’t really hurt. Cummings continued to stalk his opponent, without going for the kill, probably acknowledging his opponent wasn’t in serious danger.
Conrad started the second brightly with a big right hand knocking Meli to the ropes, but Meli started to find his range and hit Cummings with quick combinations to halt Cummings forward momentum, clearly frustrating Conrad throughout the second and third rounds.
In the fourth, Meli continued to find Cummings too easy too hit, superbly picking off the advancing Conrad with jabs and quick combinations. However Conrad was throwing the more powerful shots which were starting to hurt the West Belfast man. Cummings was warned twice for holding his man down around the head by the referee.
Throughout rounds five and six, Alfredo appeared the fresher man, with Conrad noticeably breathing through his open mouth. Meli’s spatial awareness was fantastic, catching Cummings with flicking jabs, and one-two combinations before escaping unharmed. Cummings at this was visibly frustrated, consistently looking over at trainer Shane McGuigan for ideas. Cummings was again warned by the referee, this time for low blows.
Rounds seven through to nine proved to be scrappy affairs, which worked to Conrad’s advantage. Meli’s high volume punch output was slowing, and Conrad was able to make it an inside battle, landing several good body blows that helped Meli to tire at a higher rate. Meli was down at the eighth, but was correctly ruled a push.
Round nine was the messiest round by far. Referee Bob Williams warned both boxers for holding, before deciding to deduct points of both combatants. Cummings could count himself fortunate to not land further punishment, when warned again by the Williams, for the fifth time, this time for more low blows. At the end of the round, Conrad had Alfredo in big trouble on the ropes, firing shots in from all angles, but was stopped by the Williams’s quick intervention. This led for Conrad’s supporters to prematurely cheer a stoppage victory for their man, when it was in fact the end of the round, of which no one could hear.
Both fighters knew that everything was on the line coming into the tenth and final round, which proved to be Cumming’s best in the fight since that opening round. Cumming’s looked quicker on his feet than he had done before, and he grew in confidence. Meli was now not so elusive as before, and Cummings repeatedly hit Alfredo with hurtful shots. It must be frustrating for Conrad and his team that he was not able to box like this in the rounds previously, instead of making it so difficult for himself.
A draw is probably a fair, although disappointing result. Both contestants still have a 0 in their loss column however, as Cumming is now 7-0-1 (3KO) and Meli is 11-0-1 (2KO). A rematch could be a very good possibility, and those in attendance would not complain at seeing the pair clash again.