Domestic boxing for 2023 gloves off at the Europa Hotel in Belfast tonight.
The MHD promoted ‘The Climb’ card is headlined by Conor Quinn with a special attraction in the form of a BUI light heavyweight Celtic title fight between Kevin Cronin and Jamie Morrissey.
Also on the bill are BUI Celtic champions Owen O’Neill and Colm Murphy as well as Irish Boxing Debut of the Year winner Dave Ryan and fellow second fight participant Gerard Hughes.
FULL RUNNING ORDER:
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Super-bantamweight: Gerard Hughes v Sean Jackson
The first of four Dee Walsh trained fighters in action tonight claimed victory on the first fight of the first card of 2023 and in his first fight in Belfast.
The entertaining and intelligently aggressive Gerard Hughes dominated Sean Jackson over four to take a 40-36 points win.
Hughes pressed forward in the first round against a fighter who gave Cian Doyle a go in the first round but did so quite cleverly showing good head movement and a good shot selection.
The second round saw Jackson try to be more aggressive but his adventure was punished by some big Hughes right hands and left hooks.
As the round progressed the away fighter began to retreat to the ropes again but he couldn’t hide from the Belfast man’s punishment, much to the delight of the home support.
The Kevin Maree managed super bantamweight moved through the gears in the third, forcing the English fighter into survival mode. Hughes still managed to pick some eye-catching shots amidst constant pressure but Maguire was proving himself tough.
The entertaining new addition to the game continued to press in the last, looking for a stoppage in Debut 2.0. He hurt Jackson to the body but the away fighter managed to make the final bell and Hughes celebrated a second career points win.
David Ryan vs Dale Arrowsmith
Dave Ryan showed a different side to himself in a whitewash 40-36 win in tonight’s second bout.
The Munster man overcame the experienced Dale Arrowsmith to increase his winning start to two fights – and did so in less dramatic but possibly more impressive fashionfashion than his debut.
The Shaun Kelly coached fighter was controlled, measured and accurate over four rounds. He did have periods of aggression and marked up the face of the Manc, but even when he upped the pace there was thought behind his work, showing he a ‘Machine’ with a boxing brain.
Irish Boxing Awards Debut of the Year winner Ryan came into this fight promising to show he had skills as well as will after a bombastic debut.
He certainly started less aggressively using his jab to feel his way into the fight and switch-hitting for good measure. However, as the round progressed he increased the volume of work and thus his crowd, working body and head well.
The Clare fighter had the bigger and much more experienced Arrowsmith’s eye black and swollen by the second stanza. The former kickboxer of note looked more than comfortable with his hands, putting the combinations together impressively. Indeed, at one point it looked like he was hurting a fighter who has only been stopped six times in 71 defeats.
It was back on the jab for Ryan in the third against a fighter whose puffed-up face told the story of the fight.
There were bursts from Ryan in the final round and some quality bodywork, but with the finish line in sight, final bell specialist Arrowsmith was never going to fold.
Owen O’Neill vs Josh Cook
Irish Knockout of the Year winner Owen O’Neill went the distance as he kickstarted what could be a huge 2023 with a routine win in Belfast.
Tripple O shut out Josh Cook over six to improve his unbeaten record to 11 fights. One-half of the Fight of the Year was as ever entertainingly aggressive in front of vocal support and got a solid six-round workout, his hopes of a stoppage victory spoiled by the fact his opponent was naturally much bigger.
O’Neill had to try to find passage passed the long jab of the tall Cook in the first session of the third fight of the night. The BUI light middleweight title holder got under the rangy fighter’s shots and let right hands go, before working the midriff when he pushed the Brit back to the ropes.
The second followed a similar pattern but with a bit more aggression and a higher work rate from the Irish Boxing Awards Knockout of the Year winner.
Cook opened up a little in the third, which in turn afforded the entertaining and popular ‘Operator’ the opportunity to land clean. A solid jab scored frequently and looping right hands tested the chin of the English fighter.
The away boxer, who did a Tyrone McCullaugh on it and decorated his feet with runners rather than boxing boots, had a go in the fourth, obviously told to bring in the uppercut against the smaller he held his feet more and let combinations go. Sensing a possible shift in momentum the Belfast man’s support got loud and buoyed their man to a strong finish.
Cook became increasingly fond of the left hook uppercut combo in the fifth, making it increasingly difficult for O’Neill to get in under the tall fighter’s work. The Dee Walsh trained fighter won the round and did land a beaut of a right hand but had to work harder for his success.
For the second fight in a row, O’Neill landed a big left hook in the final stanza but it didn’t result in a knockout this time. Cook a fighter who has fought up as high as super middleweight took the shot well in another round O’Neill won to secure a 60-54 points victory.
Colm Murphy v John Spencer
Colm Murphy dished out a methodical beatdown to the teak-tough John Spencer to register a seventh pro win on the Climb card.
The 23-year-old BUI Celtic featherweight title holder chipped away at the bare-knuckle champion turned solid journeyman for five rounds, forcing the English fighter to retire on his stool before the sixth could start.
The benefits of a solid debut year and the confidence gained from becoming a champion were on full display from Murphy in the first round.
The previous million miles-an-hour ‘Posh Boy’ was composed and assured. The work rate was still there but there was a lot more thought behind his work.
Murphy also dropped the jab down to the body constantly in a bid to lower the defensive fighter’s guard, a tactic that looked like it may reap dividends later in the fight.
The Belfast fighter found his range in the second and was in and out with good work, landing clean on a regular basis much to the delight of his loyal following – and judging by his grin Spencer too.
The Dee Walsh trained feather was really enjoying himself by the third.
He was producing more eye-catching bodywork than anything ever seen on Pimp My Ride, with right hands rammed straight down the solar plexes and hooks just under the rib cage delighting the crowd.
Murphy’s mastery of distance against the former bare-knuckle champion was more apparent than ever across the fourth but soo was Spencer’s toughness.
Spencer’s ribs were battered a purply blue rather than tickled pink by the fifth and he sported a big cut under his left eye. Still he was still there talking and smiling.
However, he wasn’t to see the sixth. In consultation with the doctor and the referee, his corner decided to pull him out before the final round, handing Murphy a second career stoppage.
Conor Quinn v Stephen Maguire
Conor Quinn made the most of his time in the spotlight putting on a brief but eye-catching performance on top of the Climb card.
The flyweight prospect made short work of 38 fight veteran Stephen Maguire to enhance his reputation as one to watch out for.
‘The Magnificent was always meant to beat Quinn but getting the solid journeyman out of there in less than two and without getting out of first gear is impressive.
Quinn came out fast and flirted with a volume stoppage as early as the first round. Maguire wasn’t hurt per say, but referee Eamonn Magil did have to have a look or two as the Belfast wee man let fly with a volley of shots.
It was a sign of things to come as the stoppage arrived in the second. The super flyweight began to hurt a fighter who goes as far back as Luke Wilton. A long right hook wobbled the English opponent before a straight right in the next exchange had him on unsteady legs. ‘The Magnificent sensed blood and went for the kill to get a fourth career stoppage win.