Blanchardstown light welterweight Darragh Foley moved into frame as a legitimate world title challenger this morning in Australia.
‘Super’ Foley gave a career-best performance at the Star Casino in Sydney to outpoint slick Canadian Steven Wilcox in a WBA world title eliminator
A cagey encounter, the Dubliner boxed smart and took over after the half-way mark to score a decisive win and close in on new champion Kiryl Relikh of Belarus.
Previously, Foley had scored four wins out of four in 2017 but was given a tougher time than he would have liked in three of those bouts. Wilcox, on the other hand, notched up three wide points wins over the past calendar year.
With Foley ranked #8 with the organisation [essentially #7 following Relikh’s title win last week] and Wilcox sitting at #10, the bout was by definition a world title eliminator and the winner had been promised a Top 5 ranking with the WBA.
In addition to the rankings situation, the bout served as a unification of sorts, with both boxers putting their regional titles on the line – Foley making the fifth defence of his WBA Oceania belt while Wilcox sought to defend his WBA NABA title for a second time.
It was the visitor who started the smoother – however, it was Foley who landed the heavier, cuffing shots in a cagey opening round.
The Dubliner looked to push the action in the second but Wilcox was proving a classy, elusive foe.
Foley tried to goad his Canadian opponent in in the third round and continued pressing forward and enjoying more success with the big southpaw left hand than previous while Wilcox pot-shotted from the outside, mixing in some nice long bodyshots.
Wilcox established a good rhythm in the fourth, his best stanza of the fight as he countered the Irishman well.
The counter left of Foley started to find its range in the fifth, a better round for him as the fight continued to simmer.
As was a pattern for the first half, 27-year-old Wilcox showed some smart work in the sixth, but it was Foley who landed the heavier shots as the bout entered a very different second half.
The Blanchardstown emigrant had a good seventh, as Wilcox’s footwork slowed ever so slightly, the big left hand finding its home at increasingly regular intervals as Foley began to get inside.
The equaliser finally landed after a minute of the eighth round, a southpaw left hook wobbling Wilcox badly. The 29-year-old went in for the kill as his opponent squared up, but Wilcox managed to regain his senses and make the bell as Foley stalked.
A hesitant Wilcox was reluctant to engage in the ninth as Foley, more composed than usual, applied intelligent pressure.
A quieter tenth exploded in the closing seconds as a big left from Foley wobbled Wilcox again – but the home fight stood off, goading the Canadian who, by then, looked to be on the wrong end of an unassailable scoreline.
Both fighters entered the championship rounds for the first time in their respective careers and it was the fit and strong Foley who was the aggressor once again, landing a big bodyshot in the closing thirty which seemed to affect Wilcox.
To his credit, Wilcox took the final round, however, needing a knockout, it was too little too late as the Irishman rounded off a statement win.
Going to the cards, Foley was confirmed a deserved victor on scorelines of 117-111, 118-110, and 116-112.
Irish-Boxing.com scored the bout 116-112 in favour of Darragh Foley.
The win sees Foley improve his record to 15(8)-2(0), while Wilcox dropped to 18(5)-3(0)-1.
The Fingal fighter, who has spent his entire professional career Down Under, had stated beforehand that he will now look to go abroad to the U.S. or the U.K. in search of major, major fights.
Three Irish fighters featured on the undercard in Sydney.
Donegal middleweight John Hutchinson [12(4)-2(0)-3] had to settle for a draw in his WBC Asia Continental title fight with Craig Parke.
Hutchinson dropped the raw-but-fit Aussie heavily in the third round but struggled to keep up the pace versus the former Rugby League player. ‘The Buncrana Banger’ dug deep and was landing the heavier shots, but a point deduction in the seventh for holding saw his knockdown disappear from the scorecards.
After a re-check, the final tallies read 96-94, 93-96, and 94-94 – a split draw. Hutchinson was incredulous at the result, and gave an impassioned post-fight interview in the ring, stating that he was robbed but promising that he would be back.
Galway light welter Gearóid Clancy [9(2)-5(0)] became a two-weight New South Wales champion with a wide points win over Sam Williams.
Looking better than ever before, the Oughterard man dominated, pumping out constant straight one-twos, and taking the fight 80-72 on all three cards.
Earlier on the bill, new pro Danny Keating moved to 2(2)-0. The young Cork welterweight stopped Hussain Wasette in the third round to score his second win in two months.