By Steve Bateson: Cristofer Rosales broke Irish hearts as he finished Paddy Barnes with a brutal fourth round body shot knockout, successfully defending his WBC Flyweight Championship in the process at the Windsor Stadium in Belfast, Northern Ireland on Saturday night.
It was a fight fought at a tremendous pace, very easy on the eye, and it ebbed and flowed until the stunning finish toward the end of the fourth. Barnes was quicker but Rosales was stronger and more dangerous, the trench warfare suited the champion much more than it did the challenger and that became dramatically clear with one big punch.
The first round began with both men happy to swap leather. Barnes looked the quicker, snapping his jab out and countering, as Rosales bombed forward and looked to utilise his jab with the reach advantage. Barnes was making the champion look crude at times but then Rosales did land a meaty right hand that momentarily stunned the challenger as he was trying to pull out of the trade off. The second round continued at the frenetic pace and Barnes was again quicker off the mark but Rosales seemed undaunted, constantly coming forward, and soon he had Barnes bloodied around the face with his snapping shots. Both fighters settled centre ring and swapped hooks to head and body before a jab from the champion knocked Barnes off balance and then a long reaching right hand rocked his head back once more. It was a good start from both fighters but the danger signs were there for Barnes that his opponent had the firepower to hurt him.
In the third Rosales took a little more control and was able to shove Barnes back on the ropes and bombard him to the body and head with several heavy compound blows but Barnes was happy to swallow the onslaught and then roared back with shots of his own. The fight found its way back to centre once more and Barnes’ faster hands brought him back into the mix but Rosales’ early work won him the stanza.
Barnes started to move around the target in the fourth and countered well as Rosales lunged in. Barnes scored a tremendous left counter off the ropes and then another left to the body as Rosales was pressing his way forward with devilish intention. Rosales looked the aggressor but Barnes took most of the impact on the gloves and answered with a left/right hook combo and as a toe to toe war broke out it was Barnes who was dodging the big impact whilst finding a home for his own work. But just as it seemed Barnes was going to even the bout up at two rounds apiece the fight reached a dramatic conclusion; Barnes landed a body shot, leaving himself wide open, and Rosales replied with a devastating right straight to the solar plexus that dropped Barnes, agony all over his face. The referee administered the count but Barnes had no answer and just could not get himself back up.
Was it the wrong tactics from Barnes? Should he have boxed and frustrated Rosales more? My initial thoughts were that perhaps the pace set was just too high and that the challenger had underestimated Rosales’ ability to match his workrate, but only Barnes and his team will know if he was feeling the heat in there at such an early stage. I certainly feel boxing and using his speed advantage would have benefitted Barnes a lot more but Rosales’ come forward approached forced Barnes to engage. It may be a case of too much of a jump in class for Barnes, despite his fantastic amateur background, with this being only his sixth professional fight and at 31 years old you have to wonder whether he’ll return to domestic/European level to work back up or call it a day. For Rosales, at only 23 years old, the future looks bright for the tall, rangy and heavy handed Nicaraguan.
Heavy handed Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker continued his dominant professional career but he was taken the distance for the first time by the seasoned William Warburton. Crocker (now 7-0 with 6 KO’s) was always in control but struggled at times to tie the wily Warburton down and get his shots off, he was never able to land the kind of punches that have fed his reputation thus far and a lot of credit should go to Warburton for that as he displayed excellent movement at all times. It is a great learning curve for Crocker though and will stand him in great stead as he progresses through the ranks, meeting tougher tests along the way.
In the battle of the undefeated Cruiserweights; Steven Ward took the points victory and the BUI Celtic Title over Steve Collins Jnr . It was a nip and tuck, back and forth, affair with Ward trying to work off his jab and slicker skills whilst Collins Jnr, much akin to his father, just bustled forward and applied constant pressure. Both men were more than happy to stand their ground and trade at points, giving the fans plenty of action, but as the fight progressed Ward used the reach advantage and was able to keep the fight at range wherever possible, Collins wasn’t finding it easy to negotiate the jab and get on the inside and that allowed Ward to pull away to a fairly comfortable victory. Fight scored: 79-75
Dublin’s Luke Keeler took a hard fought eight round decision over Dwain Grant. Keeler, off of the back of that April shock victory over Conrad Cummings, should have had a much bigger showcase fight here tonight but instead was forced to settle for this treading water contest. Keeler (now 15-2-1 with 5 KO’s) was his usual relentless self, constantly putting Grant on the backfoot, and he bullied his foe against the ropes over and over but could not find the punches to push a stoppage. Hopefully the WBO European Middleweight titleholder will find himself in a testing affair next time out. Referee scored the fight: 79-73
Sean McComb was the second debutant of the night and he looked destructive against Reynaldo Mora, ending proceedings in the fourth and final round. McComb had looked dangerous throughout but got the breakthrough late with a crunching left hook, followed up with two powerful right hands as Mora was falling all over the ropes.
Conrad Cummings looked back on form as he took a wide points victory over the veteran Nicky Jenman. Cummings suffered a shock loss to Luke Keeler back in April, a result that prompted a hiatus from the sport for the Northern Irishman, but he returned here with a much more refined and polished performance. Time will tell whether Cummings (now 14-2-1 with 6 KO’s) will manage to become a threat to his domestic rivals at 160lbs let alone beyond that but for now the rebuilding will continue. Fight scored: 60-54
Belfast’s own Marco McCullough always puts on a show and tonight was no different as he secured an entertaining six round decision over Sunderland’s Jordan Ellison. Ellison is renowned for testing his opposition, only the talented get by the gatekeeper, and he pushed McCullough all the way but the former Irish Featherweight champ just had too much. It’s more than likely McCullough will find himself in more meaningful fights later this year in a division that is currently brimming with talent. Bout scored: 60-55
Liverpool’s Sam Maxwell added another early finish to his ledger as he forced Chris Truman’s corner to retire their man before the start of the third round. Maxwell (now 9-0 with 7 KO’s) pummelled his man around the ring throughout, demonstrating his ever growing skillset, and it’s likely we’ll see him contesting titles at 135lbs sooner rather than later.
Former Commonwealth Featherweight champ Isaac Lowe picked up a rust burning four round decision over Nicaragua’s Jose Hernandez. Lowe hasn’t fought since February but will re-match Ryan Walsh in October for the vacant British Championship, the same belt they drew for earlier this year. Referee scored it a shutout: 40-36
Ballymena Super Welterweight Steven Donnelly opened up the bill and earned a debut victory over Kevin McCauley, who was competing in his 199th professional contest. Donnelly showed good movement and skill to outwork his much more experienced opponent. Referee scored the bout: 40-36