The Dublin middleweight scored a stunning, decisive win over Luis Arias in one of the Féile an Phobail chief supports.
Dropping the Cuban-American twice, Keeler showed power, smarts, skills, and chin in the Falls Park to claim a unanimous decision win and move into title contention.
Following a dominant rematch win over Conrad Cummings in March, Keeler had vaulted into the WBO Top Ten and the 32-year-old viewed tonight as something of a world title eliminator
Arias’s sole loss came versus former world champion Danny Jacobs, where he was dominated, and he held Gabriel Rosado, who was the initial intended opponent for Keeler, to a draw last time out.
A strong amateur who had competed at a far higher level than Keeler, Arias was a favourite going in but Keeler was not to be denied.
It was the most sensational of starts from ‘Cool Hand’ who had Arias down in the opening round with a left hook. Arias rose and looked to press Keeler but the Dubliner was doing damage with every shot he landed and almost had Arias down in the corner.
The American was shell-shocked but made it through the round, and was greeted with a heavy shoulder at the bell from an amped-up Keeler who was doing a brilliant job at rousing the crowd.
Referee Steve Grey was doing his utmost to keep a lid on things as we entered the second. Keeler was perhaps guilty of loading up and did ship too many stupid shots but staggered Arias’s legs with another solid right.
Arias began the third with a huge right hand that Keeler did well to stand up to and while the Ballyfermot boxer did enjoy a period of smooth boxing, a strong finish in the corner from the visitor where he landed a number of clean hooks looked to have levelled the scores.
A strong fourth from Keeler saw him establish something of a beachhead, frustrating Arias from range but the Florida fighter remained dangerous.
Arias began the fifth with a big wobbling shot before Keeler quickly got back to his boxing. A huge overhand from the bookies favourite somehow failed to dent Keeler before he was issued a harsh point deduction for hitting to the back of the head.
It could have unravelled from there but Keeler enjoyed a very strong sixth, boxing and countering well as Arias started to become somewhat ragged.
A fantastic seventh from Keeler saw him pick his shots perfectly, patiently racking up the points as a tired Arias drove forward.
In a messy eighth, the visitor received a point deduction of his own for hitting on the break and it looked like Keeler may be veering into ‘just stay on your feet’ territory and that certainly became the case at the start of the ninth when Arias walked into a short counter.
While he objected to the knockdown, Arias would be subjected to the 10-8 round as we entered the final three minutes.
The Cubano-American came for the stoppage in the tenth but had little left and Keeler was able to negotiate the round with relative ease as we went to the card.
It was referee Gray who was charged with scoring the fight and he turned in a 96-91 verdict in favour of Keeler – seven rounds to three with two knockdowns and two point deductions.
The career-best win sees Keeler improve to 17(5)-2(1)-1 while Arias falls to 18(9)-2(0)-1.