HOME favorite Gary Cully was stunned by Mexico’s Jose Felix Jr who produced a brutal third-round knockout to dampen spirits in Dublin.
The Diva had hoped to emphatically announce himself as one of Ireland’s most exciting fighters by stealing the show as chief support to Katie Taylor at the 3Arena.
But his dream opportunity turned into a nightmare at the hands of Sinaloa’s Felix, who claimed the 31st inside-distance victory of his career. He had barely been in the fight for the first two rounds but that all changed in the third.
He dropped Cully twice and had him against the ropes and in a world of trouble when the referee, who let it continue too long, finally stepped in to stop the assault.
From the off, Cully was bouncing up on his toes behind a high guard. Felix, meanwhile, looked tiny in comparison to his opponent's vast frame. Southpaw Cully spent most of the first probing with a long jab but did get through with a long left hand in the closing stages of the round.
His previous five opponents have lasted a combined total of just 13 rounds and many expected 6ft 2in Cully to close the show early here too. He was boxing well but Felix was comfortable, staying elusive and landing with the straight right hand to the body on occasion.
But inside the first minute of the third, Felix turned his attention upstairs and crashed home a perfectly timed counter right hook which sent Cully down.
He got back to his feet inside the count but more sustained pressure made the 27-year-old Irishman crumble to the floor for a second knockdown. The 10,000-strong crowd in the arena did their best to roar Cully back into the fight but it did not work.
He climbed back to his feet but it was apparent that his head was not clear. As such, he took a huge left hook which sent him stumbling backwards. Felix was straight onto him and simply refused to let the tall southpaw off the hook.
The towel had already been thrown in by Cully’s trainer Peter Taylor, father of Katie, but the referee did not see it. Cully took a few more huge hooks before the referee finally waved it off.
Before that, James "JJ" Metcalf outhustled Dennis Hogan to claim a unanimous decision victory and the Irishman’s IBO super-welterweight title.
There was nothing to choose between them in a cagey first round and it was more of the same in the second. Hogan was the more upright of the two and he was attempting to keep Metcalf at range.
Metcalf, meanwhile, was edging forward in a half crouch, doing his best to get in close and force his opponent towards the ropes. In the third, he did exactly that and got through with a big left hook. Hogan took it well and responded with a big right hand of his own before the round was out.
Hogan was cut on the outside of the right eye by an accidental clash of heads in round six but the bleeding was stemmed well in the corner and it did not seem to affect him much. Metcalf continued to march forward and was having success with the overhand right with Hogan often caught with his chin in the air.
After a minute of the seventh, Metcalf landed a big right hand, left hook combination which seemed to hurt Hogan. But again the Australia-based Irishman stood firm and was throwing back in the closing stages of the round. By now, Hogan’s compatriot Conor McGregor was on his feet at ringside barking instructions.
In the corner between the eighth and ninth, Metcalf’s trainer Joe McNally told his boxer that his opponent was ‘done’ and instructed him to up the pace in the next three minutes. But Hogan was equal to everything that the Liverpudlian threw at him.
By now it had descended into a reasonably ugly fight. There was a lot of holding and wrestling but clean shots and quality work were at a premium. Metcalf, however, was always seemingly the one forcing the action.
In the 12th round, Hogan was deducted a point for spitting out his gumshield on multiple occasions but it was really inconsequential on the scorecards. Judges Patrick Morley and Steve Weisfeld had it 117-110 in favor of Metcalf while Giulio Piras had it slightly closer at 115-112 and Hogan, who applauded during the announcement, did not seem to have any complaints.