Steven Ward and Tyrone McKenna provided Belfast with a night to remember as they claimed titles on a sensational #MTKFightNight at Ulster Hall.
With the ESPN+ cameras rolling, Ward climbed off the canvas to claim the WBO European light-heavyweight crown in a barn-storming bout against determined visitor Liam Conroy, while McKenna lifted the WBC International super-lightweight belt after outpointing Dublin’s valiant Darragh Foley.
There was a crucial early stoppage win for another home fighter in Paddy Gallagher, who halted brave welterweight prospect Liam Wells inside three, while Lewis Crocker knocked down former French champion Karim Aliliche on his way to a cosy points win.
There were victories on the undercard for Caoimhin Agyarko and Owen O’Neill, while Taylor McGoldrick suffered defeat to Gennadi Stserbin.
STEVEN WARD bt LIAM CONROY TD8
WBO European light-heavyweight title
Ward said: “It was a war! Me and Conroy have done lots of sparring together and I got stuck in a bit. Luckily, Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis were there to put the reins on me a bit.
“I knew Liam was tough and he was coming off a defeat to Joshua Buatsi, who’s a phenomenal fighter. I was getting a telling-off in the corner and they got me through it.”
Conroy said: “It could be worse. I could’ve been stopped. I put up a good fight. I thought I had him about five times but he was a machine and fair play to him. He recovered quickly and kept coming.”
TYRONE McKENNA bt DARRAGH FOLEY UD10
WBC International super-lightweight title
McKenna said: “People get handed easy belts. I haven’t. I’ve fought hard opponents my whole career and getting this belt means the world. It’s deserved.
“He hit me with a beautiful body shot in the second round but I’m a tough wee **** and I knew if I’d have gone down, it would have spurred him on so I knew I had to stay on my feet. Then I got in my rhythm and executed Danny Vaughan’s game plan.”
Foley said: “Win at all costs is what it’s about. If you don’t win, it’s no point having a good match. You want to win.
“This is what it’s all about. Two gentlemen getting in there and just fighting. We got in there and kept swinging. He’s a warrior.”
PADDY GALLAGHER bt LIAM WELLS TKO3
Gallagher said: “It means a lot to me. I said that if I didn’t win tonight, I was retired. I couldn’t have come back, so it was a must-win and the show goes on.
“It was always going to be that because he was out of his league in terms of experience. Fair play to him for taking it. I see a lot of myself in him. He’s a brilliant fighter and he can come back.”
Wells said: “I’m sure I’ll learn a lot for it. I’m gutted. I feel I want to go again right now and carry on. I feel like I want to go in there and finish it off.”
LEWIS CROCKER bt Karim Aliliche PTS6
Crocker said: “It was great. I went in there and did the job I was supposed to do. He was hard and kept coming forward. We gave Belfast a good fight and that’s what I want to do every time.
“I’m here to fight. In the last round I was like: ‘Let’s go!’ and I wanted to go toe to toe with him. He was a credible opponent and has never been stopped.”
Gennadi Stserbin bt Taylor McGoldrick KO1
Caoimhin Agyarko bt Paul Allison PTS6
Owen O’Neill bt Geiboord Omier PTS4
The #MTKFightNight series heads for Glasgow on Saturday night and then York Hall next week, where local super-lightweight puncher Ohara Davies collides with former world champion Miguel Vazquez atop a colossal bill – live on ESPN+ in association with Top Rank and on iFL TV.
Joining Davies-Vazquez on the card is Ryan Walsh’s British featherweight title defence against Lewis Paulin, Anthony Yigit vs. Siar Ozgul, Daniel Egbunike vs. Martin McDonagh and much more.