Ballymena welter Steven Donnelly, pictured above in blue, pulled out all the stops to record his fifth World Series of Boxing (WSB) victory of the season for the Hussars of Poland following a 69kg slug-fest with Dario Morello of Italia Thunder in Italy tonight.
The 2014 Irish Elite champion claimed a split (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) decision against the durable Italian from a see-saw five-rounder.
The fourth round, one of the best frames of the contest in terms of action, saw both men finding the target with solid hooks and jabs throughout.
Morello was down in the fifth, although it was ruled a slip, and was staggered backward into a neutral corner off a left from the All Saints BC man going down the final stretch.
This evening’s win improved Donnelly to 23 points in the WSB Individual rankings table. He remains in third place in the pecking order.
However, he has just one fight left and can only earn a maximum of five points from that outing. Russia’s Razhab Butaev and Morocco’s Mohammed Rabii, who also have one fight each remaining, are locked on 29 points at the top of the table, six ahead of Donnelly.
Likewise, Butaev and Rabii have now qualified for Rio 2016 as the top two ranked WSB welters, regardless of the outcome of their last fight(s) – which will probably be against each other when Morocco host Russia on April 24th.
Italia Thunder, who have Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Adam Nolan in their ranks, won tonight’s match 4-1. Donnelly was the only boxer to have his hand raised in victory for the Polish side.
Irish coach Eddie Bolger was working Donnelly’s corner against the Azzurri. Tyrone ref Michael Gallagher was the third man in the ring for the meeting with Morello.