Conlan prevails in a thriller to land Commonwealth title

Jamie Conlan celebrates his victory over Anthony Nelson that saw 'The Mexican' crowned Commonwealth super-flyweight champion Jamie Conlan celebrates his victory over Anthony Nelson that saw 'The Mexican' crowned Commonwealth super-flyweight champion
By David Mohan

HE doesn’t do things the easy way, but Jamie Conlan continues to get the job done although it took a perfect left hook to the body in round eight to rescue Saturday’s Commonwealth super-flyweight title challenge to Anthony Nelson at the Copper Box in London.
The West Belfast man was in a fight of the year contender last summer against Junior Granados and this ultimately successful outing surpassed that thriller in the National Stadium.
Both men were down twice and both in trouble on a couple of occasions, but when it came down to it, ‘The Mexican’ had that little bit extra to claim the title.
Ahead of the bout, the general consensus was that Conlan would have too much for his South Shields rival and win comfortably, but perhaps the omens suggested differently just before the action got underway.
“I said before it (fight) to Derry Matthews to pick my song and he picked ‘The Irish Rover’ and I said ‘don’t do that, the last time I had that it was the (Junior) Granados fight’. But he said ‘it’ll be over in three’,” said Conlan in his dressing room after.
“We expected him to come on and in the second round I kind of punched myself out a bit. I thought it should have been stopped in the second, he was all over the show but he showed brilliant recuperation.
“I have to give him every respect for staying in there and fighting back.”
Certainly, Nelson was not there to meekly surrender his title although early on it seemed he was slightly out of his depth when being decked by a huge right hand.
However, he had his moments too with Conlan’s left eye swelling badly throughout the opening frame.
The second round saw the defending champion pinned on the ropes as Conlan went on the offensive that looked like it would signal the end, but referee Marcus McDonnell allowed Nelson the chance to ride the storm.
Perhaps the Belfast man believed he could do as he pleased, but in the third the momentum swung when Nelson landed a big right that had Conlan on the floor.
“He caught me with a cracking shot, it didn’t hurt me but I went out loud ‘woahhh’. It was a very good shot,” admitted the new champion.
“I remember saying that I’d never been down, I’d never been down in sparring, but now I’m going over more and more times as a pro. I always seem to get up that extra time.”
Conlan recovered from that shot well and nicked the fourth before having Nelson in real trouble once again in the fifth when landing a big right that signalled another barrage of punches on the ropes.
The South Shields man looked out on his feet, but he somehow saw the end of the round and his powers of recovery were evident as he went on to dominate the sixth with Conlan now looking like he was having trouble.
This had now descended into an all-out war and in the seventh, it was Conlan who again looked on the brink when going down from a body shot that appeared to suck the life out of him, but it was called low.
Another body shot after had Conlan down again, this time a count was given, but he rose to beat the count and with Nelson piling on the pressure, Conlan was forced onto the back foot and managed to survive.
“I said to myself I was going to take a round off but it was the wrong time to do that because he took a round on and he caught me a peach of shot on the hip and I though ‘ohhhhh, what a shot’,” he said of the seventh.
“Lucky enough the referee called it a low blow and then I found my second wind pretty well.”
It looked bleak for Conlan at this stage, but when he needed it most, he found the answer when, 40 seconds into the eighth, he slipped a right and landed that left hood under the ribcage that had Nelson down and in agony. This time he couldn’t continue and was counted out.
“I saw the shot coming and slipped it and caught him perfectly,” said the new champion who sported two badly swollen eyes after.
“I knew it was over, I saw him just grimacing, it was right on the floating rib where I caught him.”
While this bout was an utter classic, it was not what the West Belfast man wanted going in.
He admits that the lure of getting into a war is something that develops, but is certainly not what is planned in advance.
“It’s something that just happens,” he admitted.
“We trained all camp to control the distance, control the pace but it seems that I have to dig it out from somewhere and lucky enough I have that one-punch power. For a wee guy I can bang and that was a shot I worked at right through the camp – slip the right hand and go with a left hook to the body.”
For Nelson, there was complete devastation at losing his title and undefeated record, but is keen on a rematch that would certainly be welcomed by anyone in attendance on Saturday.
“I’ve got good heart and I’ve got a good engine,” Nelson said. “It was a little bit of a slow start and I think the problem with me is that I’ve been out of the ring for a long time.
“That was my first fight defending the Commonwealth in a year and Jamie is a tough man to be in there with for my first title defence.
“I knew I was up against it but I came back into the fight and I thought to myself ‘that’s it and back into this now’, and then I got a bit complacent.
“Jamie knew I was coming on strong and he knew he’d have to put it back on me, and he did and he caught me with a brilliant shot just below the ribs. It was one where you just can’t recover – it took the wind straight out of me.
“Full respect to Jamie. I’d love to see Frank (Warren – promoter) and get the fight on again.”
The new champion says he would be happy to do it again, but on home soil and is targeting a defence in summer.
“I want the Ulster Hall in July,” he confirmed.
“I would even take him again – we could scrap it out in the Ulster Hall and what a fight it would be.
“We’ll see what the lads say. When you go away from your family and you sacrifice everything for eight or nine weeks and he’s hitting you on the ropes you think ‘well, what did I do all that for?’ and you dig it out from somewhere.”