Sexton tops Rogan, McCloskey dominates Rasilla in Northern Ireland

Sam Sexton (right) won decisively against Martin Rogan in their Belfast rematch. Rogan quit after six rounds of action. (Photo via www.irishnews.com)

On the Friday Sky Sports double-header from two sites in Northern Ireland, Sam Sexton came out with a much clearer victory over Martin Rogan in their heavyweight rematch, and Paul McCloskey dominated Spaniard Daniel Rasilla to claim the vacant European junior welterweight title.

First from Magherafelt, McCloskey improved to 20-0 with a completely one-sided victory over Rasilla, a late substitute for Souleymane M'baye, stopping him with two knockdowns in the ninth round. McCloskey won every round of the fight, and basically every minute of the fight, with his awkward, stalking southpaw style. His punches come from all angles, and he gave the outclassed Rasilla nightmares the entire evening.

Rasilla (15-3, 4 KO) gave a brave effort, but was just too slow and mechanical for McCloskey, who hopefully will get a fight on par with the M'baye proposal next. He's good, but it's time to find out how good with another step up. Rasilla was no challenge at all. McCloskey (20-0, 10 KO) probably won't be a world force, as he's already 30, but only the very best wouldn't have a bit of trouble with his style, I believe.

In the big heavyweight rematch in Belfast, Martin Rogan came to knock Sam Sexton out, which he likely should have the first time around, but failed to get rid of him. I had Rogan up four rounds to one (49-46) after five rounds, the fifth of which was an oddly desperate sort of charge by Rogan, who was clearly leaving it all in the ring in what smelled of a last-ditch effort.

As it turned out, it pretty much was. Sexton dominated the sixth round with jabs, combinations, lead rights, and left hooks, destroying Rogan and leaving him wobbling at the end of the round. After that sixth round, Rogan retired from the fight in his corner.

Afterward, Rogan (12-2, 6 KO) said he has a pinched nerve that was a holdover from the first fight with Sexton, and that his left arm felt "dead." Again, the fifth round felt like a guy who was fighting to get a knockout or that was it. He must have felt that injury creeping up fast, because he was winging every big shot he had in his arsenal. Sexton withstood it, blasted him around in the sixth, and Rogan decided that was enough.

Sexton (13-1, 6 KO) retains his Commonwealth heavyweight title with the big victory, and at 25 I think he has some solid promise, at least on the domestic level. He is getting better, and he mostly dominated the first fight with Rogan with his jab. This time around he wasn't in the same rhythm, but he also appeared much more calm, relaxed and aware of what he could do. They were confident this time, and it showed, even though I had Sexton down 58-56 when the fight was stopped. That sixth clearly had the fight going his way, and had Rogan come out again a stoppage wasn't far off.

At 38, Rogan has only a short window remaining. I actually think he's a better boxer than he's often given credit for being. Yeah, he's a lunging brawler and gets hit a fair amount, but his base skills really aren't that bad. He's not some hack; he knows what he's doing in there. And given that his fights are almost always entertaining and that he's absolutely adored in Northern Ireland, he's still got some fights left in him. His career's already been pretty improbable, but I for one am glad we've gotten to see it happen.

Congratulations to Sexton and McCloskey on their wins, and a hats off to the brave Rasilla and the always-fun Martin Rogan.

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