The Dublin middleweight had claimed the Irish title last year but had sought to make changes, moving trainers from Paschal Collins to Pete Taylor and becoming a full-time boxer – and he saw this pay off on the day of his 31st birthday with a big upset win over Cummings.
Coalisland’s Cummings had trained away in both Tenerife and Manchester with tonight’s headliner Carl Frampton was in super condition and fought for every second of the ten rounds but could not claw back an early lead banked by Keeler.
An exciting opener saw both have success, Cummings pressing forward and Keeler scoring with his trademark left uppercuts off the ropes before the pair both landing big shots at the bell.
Keeler had a sensational second, landing volleys of shots, goading and then wobbling Cummings with a huge right in the closing seconds – followed by an unsavoury slap to the head of Cummings after the bell.
The Dublin success continued into the third, a left hook to the body hurting Cummings as Keeler remained the busier fighter.
Keeler again went to the body at the start of the fourth and landing flurries upstairs. Cummings rallied but then shifted a huge right upstairs which stopped him in his tracks momentarily.
It had been an incredibly fast start from Keeler and he was starting to show signs of fatigue toward the end of the fourth and the pace did slow in the fifth. Here Cummings was very much on the front foot and enjoying a bit of a resurgence but the snappier shots were still coming from the retreating Keeler.
Keeler was sporting damage around both eyes as we entered the second half of the bout and his face quickly became a bloody mess following an early clash of heads. With Keeler in obvious pain, Cummings sensed his chance, bulling forward in the sixth and forcing the Dubliner to trade.
The cuts only got worse in the seventh, and 26-year-old Cummings seemed to hurt Keeler, who looked like he was crying blood, at the start of the stanza.
With the lacerations ruled to have been from a clash of heads, the ringside doctor took a long look at Keeler before the eighth – there would be no technical decision, though, and the action resumed, with the Ballyfermot fighter boxing well off the back foot to stem the flow of both his wounds and the pressure from ‘Mr. Dynamite’.
Cummings stepped it up in the penultimate round. throwing more and seemingly hurting Keeler in the closing seconds. Needing to just stay on his feet, Keeler began the tenth round with a flurry before going on the back foot as Cummings rolled forward relentlessly for every second but just couldn’t force the stoppage he needed.
Going to the cards, Keeler was confirmed the winner with scores of 98-92, 97-93, and 99-91.
‘Cool Hand’ Luke improves his record to 14(5)-2(1)-1 and picks up the WBO European title following the career-best win while Cummings drops to 13(6)-2(0)-1.