IBF featherweight champion Luis Alberto Lopez (28-2, 16 KOs) ended the title dreams of the hometown fighter and two-time Olympian Michael Conlan (18-2, 9 KOs) in stopping him in the fifth round on Saturday night at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern, Ireland.
In round five, Lopez dropped the 31-year-old Conlan with a perfectly placed right uppercut. Conlan’s corner recognized immediately that he was too hurt to continue fighting, and they threw in the towel. The time of the stoppage was at 1:14 of round five.
Lopez struggled in the first two rounds, getting hit a lot and having difficulty landing headshots against the elusive Conlan. In round three, Lopez stunned Conlan with a shot, which was the beginning of the end for the Irish fighter.
Conlan was hurt in the fourth round after Lopez caught him with a jarring right to the head. The punch caused Conlan to stagger back to the corner to cover up. Lopez teed off on him for much of the remainder of the round. If not for Conlan’s excellent defense, he wouldn’t have made it out of that round.
Unbeaten Nick Ball (18-0, 11 KOs) had too much firepower for Ludumo Lamati (21-1-1, 11 KOs), working him over with hard shots with his volume attack to score a twelfth round knockout.
Lamati’s corner threw in the towel in the 12th after Ball hurt him and flurried on him against the ropes. With the win, the 26-yer-old Ball retained his WBC silver featherweight title.
IIBO super featherweight champion Anthony Cacace (21-1, 7 KOs) put in a workmanlike performance tonight, beating Damian Wrzesinski (26-3-2, 7 KOs) by a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision. The judge’s scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 118-111.
This is a must-win for Conlan, 31, as he already failed once in challenging for a world title, and it would be devasting for his career to lose again.
Conlan was stopped in 12 rounds by WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood a year ago in a fight that he was winning going into the final round.
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
“I think [Mauricio] Lara wins quicker this time, but once I win this belt [WBA featherweight], I’m ready for any unifications,” said Michael Conlan to iFL TV about his desire to fight the winner of tonight’s rematch between Mauricio Lara and Leigh Wood if he successfully defeats Luis Alberto Lopez.
“Right now, it’s the fear of not fulfilling my potential, and I know what I’m capable of doing,” said Conlan to Boxing Social. “I believe I’ll be champion, but if it doesn’t happen, I’ll go again until I get there.
“I know if I have to go again, I’m not going to give up. I’m relentless in everything I do. I stick by my comments. This could be the last chance for me in terms of a world title.
“I believe I have the ability to do it. I just have to go and do it. I can’t let anything get in my way. I don’t care what Lopez brings and what happens. I just know my hand will get raised.
“I don’t worry about anything he does in fights and stuff,” said Conlan about Lopez potentially trying to run out the clock of feigning an injury. “I don’t pay attention to it. I’ve watched his fights where he performed, and I’ve watched his fights where he didn’t perform.
“I know if I go fight my fight, it doesn’t matter what he does. It doesn’t matter how much he complains and what he does. The only thing that matters is me performing.
“You got to go in and get your work done, and the boys weren’t taking it easy on me. They were trying to take my head off. So you’ve got to be ready for anything,” said Conlan about his last sparring session before tonight’s fight with Luis Lopez.
Michael Conlan (18-1, 9 KOs) will have his hands full tonight, taking on the speedy unorthodox Luis Alberto Lopez (27-2, 15 KOs) for his IBF featherweight title in Belfast, Northern Ireland. ESPN+ will be showing the event at 1:30 p.m. ET.