By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Michael Conlan had to work harder for his fifth professional win than any of his first four.
Northern Ireland’s Conlan went the distance for the first time in his career Saturday night in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Argentina’s Luis Fenando Molina made Conlan go all six rounds and took everything the 2016 Olympian could land in their featherweight fight.
The 26-year-old Conlan (5-0, 4 KOs) shut out Molina on all three scorecards in a bout ESPN televised as part of the Vasyl Lomachenko-Guillermo Rigondeaux undercard. Each of the three judges scored the fight 60-54 for Conlan.
The 29-year-old Molina (7-4-1, 2 KOs) still hasn’t been knocked out as a professional.
An aggressive Conlan pressed for the knockout in the sixth round, when he landed several hard body shots that stopped Molina from coming forward. Conlan connected with a left uppercut early in the fifth round that snapped back Molina’s head.
Conlan switched back and forth from his orthodox stance to a southpaw stance during the second round and continued to employ that strategy throughout the bout. Just as he did during the first round, Molina landed right hands in the second round that got Conlan’s attention.
Molina was able to land several right hands that kept Conlan on his toes in the first round. Conlan switched to a southpaw stance late in the first round, but didn’t have enough time to make it work for him.
Conlan will return to fight at The Theater on St. Patrick’s Day in 2018.
Promoter Bob Arum announced Conlan’s March 17 fight during a press conference Thursday. Arum also announced the main event for that night, a 12-round fight for the vacant WBC super lightweight championship between No. 1-ranked Amir Imam (21-1, 18 KOs), of Albany, New York, and third-rated Jose Ramirez (21-0, 16 KOs), of Avenal, California.
ESPN also will televise the Imam-Ramirez and Conlan fights March 17.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.