By Mark Eisner: In a stunning ending, IBF featherweight champion Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) scored a fifth round knockout over Michael Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) on Saturday night in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Lopez landed a powerful right uppercut to the head of the two-time Olympian Conlan to drop him down hard. Conlan’s corner immediately threw in the towel after seeing how baldy hurt their fighter was.
Conlan had been hurt in the fourth round by Lopez, who caught him with aa hard right hand to the head that sent the Irish fighter staggering backward to the ropes.
A smiling Lopez then rushed Conlan, nailing him with shots in the corner. To his credit, Conlan mad it out of the round and seemed to be doing well. However, in between rounds, Conlan looked shaken up, with his face marked up and a look of fatigue on him.
- WBC silver featherweight champion Nick Ball (18-0, 11 KOs) retained his title with a twelfth round knockout victory over previously unbeaten Ludumo Lamati (21-1-1, 11 KOs). Ball hurt the 31-year-old South African Lamati in the twelfth round, resulting in his corner throwing in the towel. Lamati was badly hurt and needed saving. Afterward, Lamati was taken out of th ring on a stretcher. Although it was a good performance from the 26-year-old Ball, it wasn’t the type that suggests that he’s capable of defeating WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas. Ball might need more experience before taking on a fighter like Vargas.
- IBO super featherweight champion Anthony Cacace (21-1, 7 KOs) outworked Damian Wrzesinski (26-3-2, 7 KOs) by a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision. The scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 118-111. Cacace took advantage of Wrzesinski’s slow jab all night, nailing him with counter rights to the head. In the fifth, Wrzesinski suffered a cut over his left eye from a hard right hand from Cacace. In the tenth, Wrezesinki started throwing a lot of multiple left hooks. At one point, he threw seven consecutive left hooks in a rapid-fire fashion, but the power wasn’t there.
Tonight’s card on ESPN+
Luis Alberto Lopez vs. Michael Conlan
Nick Ball vs. Ludumo Lamatii
Anthony Cacace vs. Damian Wrzesinski
Pierce O’Leary vs. Alin Florin Ciorcerii
It’s a tough fight for the 31-year-old Conlan to take after suffering a brutal twelfth-round knockout loss to then-WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood in March in Nottingham.
The fight showed that Conlan doesn’t possess the power or the chin to stand in front of sluggers at 126. In tonight’s contest, Conlan has hinted about returning to the pure boxing style he utilized effectively as an amateur.
Conlan sees holes in Lopez’s game
“It’s going to be an unbelievable fight and an unbelievable night and something I relish. I think I showed my levels in the Leigh Wood fight. The end was unfortunate, but it is what it is,” said Michael Conlan to iFL TV.
“Yeah, I think you see most of his fights. He puts a big push on from the start from the first bell,” said Conlan when asked if he believes Luis Alberto Lopez will start fast and begin pressuring him right out of the gate, trying to score an early knockout tonight.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. He thinks he’s going to get a stoppage, but I don’t think so. There are a lot of weaknesses [in Lopez]. You’ll have to see on Saturday night how I exploit them.
“There are a lot of things I see there. The things that work best for him will work against him in this fight. He’s a good champion. He was very respectful.
“That’s the way it should be. We’re two fighters putting it all on the line. I have respect for him, but I know where I can see holes in his attacks, his aggression, his defense, and everything. I have nothing but Lopez at the minute, but Nick Ball is a good fighter, there’s no doubt about that.
“My level is in the same breath as the other champions, and people know that. That fight made me believe I was in that league. I’ve always known I was in that league.
“It was tough to lose for the first time and tough to get knocked out for the first time, but you can’t sit and feel sorry for yourself in this game. Experience is what I’ve taken from it.
“I’ve gotten through that experience in a twelve round fight at a ferocious pace, trying to blast someone out, and they’re not going all the way up until the end, and it slips away from you.
“Experience is the main thing I’ve taken away from it. No when to push and when to pull back from it,” said Conlan.
Luis Alberto Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs) is hoping to hold onto his newly won IBF featherweight title when he defends it for the first time against two-time Irish Olympian Michael Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) tonight in Belfast, Northern Ireland. ESPN+ will show this Top Rank card at 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. PT.