Michael Conlan kept on track for what he hopes will be a world title shot in the next six months, but only just, as he claimed a majority decision over Ionut Baluta at York Hall in London on Friday night.
In his first fight since switching down to super bantamweight, Conlan began well enough, but got dragged into a war by the Spain-based Romanian. The Irishman landed the better punches, but at times he was outworked by Baluta.
One judge, Ian John Lewis, gave it to Conlan comfortably, by 117-112. Bob Williams had it level, 114-114 and Howard Foster gave Conlan the edge by 115-114.
“He was tougher than I thought, as game as they come, but he was missing with a lot of punches,” Conlan said. “When they called it a draw, I was a bit worried.
“It was a good preparation for what was to come. It was my first 12-rounder, my first fight at super-bantamweight, so it was perfect test for where I am at.”
Conlan dominated the action behind his jab, but Baluta remained a threat, looking to counter with hard, and sometimes wild, shots as Conlan moved back with his hands down.
Sometimes it worked for Baluta, as he pushed forward and outworked the Irishman. And while Conlan tended to land the better punches – and avoided most of Baluta’s – he never really threatened to subdue Baluta.
In the eighth round, though, there were signs that Conlan was getting through to him, as he was able to get closer and land, Baluta looking hurt by a short hook to the body.
It was still hard, though, and often messy, with the heads cracking together when they got close. There was a big round for Baluta in the tenth, as he whaled away while Conlan struggled to get punches off.
And it was Bulta who finished the better, outworking Conlan in the last two rounds. It was often ragged stuff, but he made Conlan look one-paced.
The referee was Steve Gray. The WBO international belt was on the line.
Troy Williamson produced a brutal finish to stop Kieran Smith in the sixth-round of their super-welterweight ten-rounder.
Until that point, things had been a struggle for Williamson as the Scot beat him to the punch and, by the fifth round, seemed to have built up a healthy lead.
Williamson turned things on in the sixth, landing a heavy right hand that seemed to trap Smith on the ropes and then following up, landing seven clean shots that sent Smith spiralling to the floor, referee Bob Williams diving in to stop the fight as he fell. The time was 1:28 of the sixth round.
Smith was treated by paramedics in the ring, but he was up on his feet in time for the official announcement, while Williamson said he hoped to get
“That was a final-eliminator for the British title, I want the British title next,” Williamson said. “I am very capable of beating any of them on my day.”
Lightweight prospect Ryan Garner is now 10-0, although had to overcome a nasty cut before claiming a six-round points win over Jordan Ellison.
Garner began well, rocking Ellison with a good right in the second, but Ellison was till in the fight and landed a good right at the end of the third round that cut Garner over his left eye.
After that, Garner boxed with a bit more caution, keeping the pressure on Ellison to run out a comfortable points winner, taking the fight 60-54 on referee Ian John Lewis’s scorecard.
Joshua Frankham moved to 3-0 as a professional with a straight-forward four-round points win over Naeem Ali at super-welterweight. Referee Bob Williams scored it 40-36.
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.