Lewis Crocker never stopped punching for ten rounds, but try as he might, he couldn’t get rid of the incredibly tough Deniz Ilbay, who took just about every punch the Northern Irishman threw in their welterweight top of the bill in Bolton. 

Crocker claimed a unanimous decision and, while he had the German on the floor, he was rocked himself before dominating the second half of the fight. 

Crocker was on top from the first bell and seemed to be making a breakthrough when he landed a left to the body, early in the third round, which almost bent the German in half. He shrugged it off, though, and came forward continuously, although Crocker fired back and dropped Ilbay with a left to the body and a clubbing right to the head. 

There was success for Ilbay in the fourth round, though, as, after taking 2½ minutes of constant stick, he fired back with a big right hand that had Crocker wobbling and then followed up with another solid right.  

In the main, though, Crocker dominated. He looked best when he got his jab working, but some of his body punches seemed to rip through Albay. As good as Crocker was, it was hard not to admire Albay, who soaked up everything Crocker threw – and it was a lot. In the final round, Crocker unloaded, battering Ilbay around the ring, although he couldn’t move him. 

Bob Williams scored it 99-90, Terry O’Connor had it 97-92 and Michael Alexander 97-93. The referee was Steve Gray. The bout saw Crocker retain his WBO European belt. 

“He had the hardest head I’ve ever hit,” Crocker said. “That was a great learning experience, it is going to give me confidence going into my next fights. That was a quality opponent. I was only 12-0 coming into this, 24 years old, second main event in a row, I’m ready for the next one. 

“I knew I could have outboxed him, so I was like, a fight suits me, so let’s do it.” 

Gary Cully recorded the best win of his career to date as he knocked out Kazakhstan’s Viktor Kotochigov with a ramrod left in the second round of a lightweight ten-rounder. 

The 25-year-old Irishman, who has a huge amount if international experience behind him as an amateur, is 6ft 2in and towered over Kotochigov, beating him to the punch to collect the WBO’s European belt. 

Cully made a good start, picking his shots well in the first round and forcing Kotochigov back into the ropes. In the second round, he set a ferocious pace, throwing punches while keeping out of Kotochigov’s range.  

The long left kept finding its target and it was a long, straight left that finished the job, smashing through the Kazakh’s guard and dropping him on his back. Kotochigov made several attempts to get up, without success, before referee Bob Williams waved it off with the count at seven. The time was 2:14 of the second round. 

“To be honest I expected it,” Cully, who extended his unbeaten record to 12 fights, said. “Viktor is very durable, but I have worked very hard in the last year to  develop my strength and grow into the pro game. I said it would go in the first three rounds and some of my friends won a few quid. Definitely the potential is there to go one and win a world title.” 

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.