Caoimhín Agyarko grabbed a debut victory under the Matchroom banner tonight in violent fashion, picking up his first professional belt in the process.
The Belfast middleweight broke down and stopped the gritty Noe Larios Jr M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool to claim the WBA International title.
In a fight in which he steadily raised the gears throughout, Agyarko hurt his opponent multiple times before forcing the finish in the ninth round.
An impressive stoppage, Agyarko hurt Larios and didn’t let up, pouncing on the hurt Hispanic fighter and closing the show.
Based in San Diego, 24-year-old Larios had built his record almost exclusively in Mexico against relatively weak opposition. In August he did go the ten-round distance, whitewashing Lisandro de los Santos, but he did not see the final bell against a ferocious Agyarko.
It was a Matchroom debut for the West Belfast boxer who had moved from Frank and Francis Warren to Eddie Hearn’s outfit and new manager Paul Ready. While the iBox fighter did score an impressive win over Jez Smith last July which has aged like a fine wine, tonight was a platform for Agyarko to catapult his career and one which he took with aplomb.
Feeling Larios out, Agyarko jolted the head back of the Latino numerous times with jabs in a quiet opening round.
The visitor caught Agyarko with a nice counter in the second after a lunging shot which only seemed to snap the Irishman into action and he began to land volleys on Larios.
A huge left hook from Agyarko at the start of the third round rocked Larios but the Belfast boxer did not lose the head, remaining patient.
An aggressive counter-puncher, Agyarko appeared somewhat frustrated by the lack of aggression from Larios in the fourth but, when he eventually, did get an opening, he rocked the American again with a left hook.
Switching southpaw in round five, Agyarko sent Larios into the ropes with a flurry before timing a lovely right hook. Cornering his opponent in the closing seconds and rocking his head back, Howard Foster took a look but Larios survived the stanza.
Larios, bloodied at the mouth, was being forced to fight and engage, leading to increasing amounts of damage inflicted by Agyarko in the sixth.
A right hook in the seventh almost made Larios touch down and the ensuing follow-up had the Californian in a bad way. Immensely tough, Larios fought through, actually landing his best shots of the fight, before being hurt again by a succession of left hooks in the final seconds of the round.
Again sending Larios careening into the ropes and snapping his head back with every jab, the Agyarko dominance continued into the eighth before the finish finally came in the penultimate round.
A left hook sent Larios stumbling and, instantly smelling blood, Agyarko raced to the ropes, unleashing punches and Foster jumped in to halt proceedings.
The stoppage sees Agyarko improve to 10(7)-0 while the tough-as-nails Larios drops to 14(6)-1(1) following a hard night.
The maiden professional belt for the 25-year-old will likely see him added to the WBA rankings in the organisation’s next update and tonight perhaps could be seen as step one towards the title currently held by unified champion Jermell Charlo. The Texan, of course, is a long, long way away but it will doubtlessly be an exciting journey – and one with potential Belfast pit-stops in 2022 and beyond.