Michael Conlan thrives in Belfast against the outgunned but courageous Doheny, writes Elliot Worsell

MOTIVATED no doubt by the support of a raucous Falls Park crowd, featherweight Michael Conlan produced arguably the finest display of his 16-bout pro career to dominate TJ Doheny over 12 rounds. The scores at the bout’s conclusion were 119-108 and 116-111 (twice), which, combined, served to both highlight Conlan’s dominance and also pay tribute to the efforts of Doheny, who, though outclassed, never stopped trying.

For Conlan, the night went according to plan, with the sole source of unpredictability the weather, which threatened to dampen the parade before kindly easing off by first bell. After that, it was time for the Falls Park crowd to find their voice and it was time for Conlan to demonstrate how he could beat Doheny in more ways than one, delighting his fans by giving them different looks, moves, stances and tempos throughout the fight.

Initially, Conlan, 16-0 (8), started proceedings in the orthodox stance before electing to switch to southpaw just 30 seconds into the opening round. It was then from this left-handed stance he went on to do most of his best work, especially with the check right hook, which was attempted time and time again, often catching Doheny, also a southpaw, whenever the man from Portlaois lunged in behind his left cross.

Investing heavily in his right hand, thrown as both a jab and hook, Conlan measured Doheny from afar and, save for getting a bloody nose, was fairly spotless in the first couple of rounds. He routinely stabbed well-picked jabs to head and body to keep Doheny from setting and, in truth, it wasn’t until the third round that Doheny finally managed to trap Conlan on the ropes, open up, and allow himself to get excited.

Even in these spots, however, Conlan would invariably show good composure and improved defence, defusing Doheny’s attacks before either firing back with body shots or tying him up. In the fourth, too, he cleverly predicted a Doheny cross, timed him for a check hook and followed it with a vicious hook to the body. A second hook upstairs, meanwhile, thrown moments later and just before the bell, rocked Doheny on his heels.

It was Conlan’s body attack, though, which inflicted the real damage, as was evident in the fifth round when a single left hand had Doheny doubled over and a series of additional body shots caused his left knee to touch the canvas. Wincing in pain, Doheny could only cover up as Conlan, mercilessly aiming at his midsection, then went after him and forced his knees to buckle a second time. Doheny survived – just. Better than that, he stayed upright and fought back, even ending the round on the front foot.

Building on this, Doheny, 22-3 (16), came out strongly in the sixth and had success with his left hand, backing Conlan to the ropes where he flurried away. It was to his frustration, though, that Conlan exhibited coolness with his back against the ropes and would often get the better of exchanges by virtue of having the quicker and snappier hands, each punch full of spite.

In the eighth, Conlan returned to orthodox, briefly, and achieved success with a stream of right hands to Doheny’s head and body in the final stages of the round. Doheny, as usual, covered up and survived. He then impressively came back with his own left cross, his best shot of the fight, which momentarily unsettled Conlan.

It was as good as it would get for Doheny, who, around that time, was both gradually slowing down and swollen around the eyes. This made him easier to control and easier to hit in the ninth and 10th before somehow in the 11th and 12th a sudden burst of energy and urgency saw him match Conlan every step of the way. Together, in fact, the two featherweights delivered quite the grandstand finish, bringing each other to a standstill and the Falls Park crowd to their feet.

In earlier action, European bantamweight champion Lee McGregor recovered from a second-round knockdown to drop and eventually stop Frenchman Vincent Legrand in the fourth. The result marked the first loss of Legrand’s pro career, moving him to 32-1 (17), and kept McGregor, 11-0 (9), in the world top 10 (where he is currently ranked ninth).

Also, the entertaining Tyrone McKenna, 22-2-1 (6), came out on top in a thrilling super-lightweight 10-rounder against Mexican Jose Felix, 39-5-1 (30), taking a unanimous decision at the fight’s conclusion, and Padraig McCrory, 12-0 (6), stopped Sergei Gorokhov, 11-3-2 (7), inside five rounds at super-middleweight.

The Verdict Conlan impresses again at featherweight but could drop back down to super-bantamweight in his next bout.



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