Pierce O’Leary showed he is a lot more than just a power puncher as he passed the toughest test of his career in London tonight.
It wasn’t quite as explosive as his previous performances live on TNT but he still managed to cement his status as one of Irish boxing’s brightest prospects.
The Dubliner took a significant step up the light welterweight ladder fighting Kane Gardner on the undercard of Zhilei Zhang and Joe Joyce‘s heavyweight rematch.
The Berwick native, who came into the fight on the back of two away corner upset wins, represented the 23-year-old’s toughest test to date and ‘Sugar’ certainly lived up to his billing, although it remained a test O’Leary passed with flying colours.
‘Big Bang’ was on top for the vast majority but had to deal with losing a round for a first time as well as a cut and crafty opponent.
The 23-year-old also passed a chin check in the last en route to retaining his WBC International light welterweight title.
In the end the fighter, who could one day become the King of Queensberry promotions, scored a 100-90, 99-92, 99-92 win in a fight he will take a lot more than victory from.
O’Leary applied pressure with his feet against a very cautious Gardner from the off. Boxing at a comfortable pace he began to find a home for his jab and hurt the English fighter with a cleverly picked body shot.
The educated pressure continued in the second as O’Leary looked to counterpunch off the front foot. Again ‘Sugar’ was defensively minded using a high guard but anytime O’Leary landed it was clear he was aware of the power the Dubliner possessed.
Gardner attempted to get some shots off early in the third but a beautifully timed right hand put him back into his shell and it wasn’t long before retreating to the topes again.
To his credit the English fighter was a little more pro-active in the final few seconds of the stanza, but O’Leary showed little respect for the shots that were coming his way and landed some more solid shots including another punch of note downstairs.
The Inner City fighter continued the downstairs work in the fourth in an attempt to get the challenger to drop his guard, the tactic worked initially. However, just when the champion began to move through the gears, picking some quality shots, Gardner started to respond and show why he was deemed such a step up.
Gardner held his feet for the first time in fifth and started to land some quality punches of his own, indeed he opened a cut over the eye of the Dub and finished the round coming forward.
O’Leary regrouped from possibly the first round he lost in his career and looked composed in the sixth, although Gardner was still landing shots and was competitive for the first two minutes.
However, when a long left hook landed on his temple the Brit was running for his life on unsteady legs.
The momentum was back in the Irish fighter’s favour and it was all the IBox Gym London boxer in the seventh, as he applied constant pressure, slipping inside defensive jabs and letting shots go.
The eight was a little more competitive as Gardner tried to get busy, but in truth, O’Leary looked comfortable, content to show off some of his skills and even boarding the showboat on occasion.
The ninth was similar while not just happy to go the distance, Garnder came looking for the stoppage in the last. The Sherrif Street fighter probably shipped the kind of shots his corner wouldn’t be happy with in the last three minutes but fittingly in a fight where he was asked genuine questions he passed a chin check or two.
The win sees O’Leary improve to 13-0 while Gardner’s record now reads 16-3.