Michael Conlan’s return home to Belfast today was supposed to see him rematch Vladimir Nikitin, the man who controversially got a win over Conlan at the 2016 Olympics. Nikitin got injured, though, and instead Conlan faced Argentina’s Diego Alberto Ruiz.
The hope was that Ruiz might actually be a better opponent than the limited Nikitin, even if it wasn’t the same easy story to sell. He wasn’t, though, as Ruiz presented Conlan with no challenge, a recurring theme in Conlan’s centimeter-by-centimeter climb of the ladder at 126 pounds.
Conlan (12-0, 7 KO) did get the stoppage, dropping Ruiz (21-3, 10 KO) on body shots in the ninth round, and stopping him with a couple more just after the action resumed. And he did win every round. There’s no question he outclassed Ruiz, who came in rated No. 55 in the world at 126 by BoxRec, and had been on a 10-fight win streak dating back to 2016.
But there was really no question that this was the most likely outcome — that unless Ruiz was dramatically better than his record, Conlan would dominate in the fashion typical of what we’ve seen from him thus far.
Conlan, who turns 28 in November, has said repeatedly that he wants world class opponents. Top Rank have not given him one. Whether that’s being overly careful or realistically careful is up for debate. He’s worth money in the UK and New York and really anywhere with large population of Irish or Irish descendants, and that means a lot. He’s a bit of a cash cow already, and matching him tough runs risks.
It’s time, though. I’m not saying throw Conlan in with Leo Santa Cruz or Josh Warrington or Gary Russell Jr. I’m not even saying throw Conlan in with Jessie Magdaleno, another Top Rank fighter. But he needs something tougher than these fights if we’re going to find out much at all about him. Kiko Martinez was mentioned, albeit jokingly, in our live thread — that would actually be a perfectly good next step for Conlan.
Just please, not Rico Ramos. The world has suffered through enough Ramos fights.
For me, Conlan looks a good but not great fighter, and far from special. But maybe the ESPN commentary is right, that Conlan, when finally tested, will prove his mettle and show another level. Certainly there have been fighters known to fight up and down to the level of their opposition, but Conlan has never fought down to level, it doesn’t seem to me, as he’s not lackadaisical or losing rounds to guys he shouldn’t. There just is something that isn’t there, a certain X-factor or “it” factor or however you want to say it.
At any rate, it’s time to start finding out. He only has 12 pro fights, sure, but he’s also an experienced amateur, not some 20-year-old kid.
Hey, maybe I’m way off-base. But those are my thoughts. As a fan, this sort of fight for Conlan has grown dull. He needs the test, and I think he’s as ready as he’s going to get, and I think he believes the same.
Chris Jenkins TD-9 Paddy Gallagher
Some controversy here. Scores were 86-85 across the board for Jenkins (22-3-2, 8 KO), who retians his British welterweight title and wins the vacant Commonwealth belt, with Gallagher dropping to 16-6 (10 KO). Jenkins was the favorite and expected to win, and he out-landed Gallagher, so the decision isn’t really controversial, even though Jenkins went down in the sixth round due to body work.
What’s sparking the issue is the fact that this was stopped due to a wicked gash on Jenkins’ eyebrow, which looked to be caused by a punch. Instead, it was ruled to be caused by a foul, thus we went to the cards instead of Gallagher winning by TKO. This is tough for Gallagher, who at 30 with five losses coming in was getting the chance of his career, and a blessing for the 30-year-old Jenkins, who gets at least another day in the sun. The BBBofC should probably order a rematch, but we’ll see if they do. I think Gallagher deserves it, but we’ve proven over many years that what I think doesn’t mean much.
Luke Keeler PTS-10 Luis Arias
Minor upset here, as Keeler dropped Arias twice (early in the first, early in the ninth) and had a fifth round point deduction balanced out by an eighth round point deduction against Arias, ultimately winning on a 96-91 score, which seemed fair. Arias got going again after the bad start, but Keeler (17-2-1, 5 KO) just outworked him and had the better conditioning down the stretch, and he earned the victory. This is another disappointing outing for Arias (18-2-1, 9 KO), who is one of those guys just never quite as good as he sometimes gives the impression he might be. Keeler’s no world class fighter, but a solid middleweight on the European level, and this was a good win for him.
Sean McComb PTS-8 Renald Garrido
McComb (8-0, 4 KO) was in with a good opponent for level here, as Garrido (24-25-3, 6 KO) is a tough, scrappy veteran who’s never been stopped, the perfect guy to give McComb some rounds and a few looks. McComb has a flashy style that will either get less flashy as his competition improves, or could prove his undoing as his competition improves. But so far, so good with him — he’s got some talent and potential, and for a tall guy (5’11” at 140) he doesn’t ignore the body, which is always nice to see. The referee had this 79-73 for McComb, which doesn’t quite tell the story of the fight, as Garrido was game and in there the whole time, but McComb deserved the rounds.
Padraig McCrory TKO-8 Steve Collins Jr
We looked potentially on the way to an upset here, as Collins (14-3-1, 4 KO) was giving McCrory (9-0, 4 KO) some real issues, particularly in the first few rounds, and it was only scheduled for eight. No idea if the judges gave Collins credit or not, but I had him up into the final round, and then McCrory rallied with a barrage against the ropes. Collins blocked or only partially ate pretty much every shot other than one good, clean right hand down the pipe, but the referee stepped in. It was a questionable stoppage, but Collins wasn’t throwing back, and you just have to throw something back or you’re giving the referee that opening.