Eamonn O'Kane's American dream ends painfully in Madison Square Garden
Eamonn O'Kane's dream of a world title shot was left shattered by a large dose of harsh reality at an atmospheric Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
The pummelling fists of Tureano Johnson had O'Kane on the floor twice in the first round.
Bruised and battered, O'Kane was the epitome of defiance in the face of a losing battle.
The 33-year-old had said that he would "empty the tank" in pursuit of victory and he did just that but unfortunately for him Johnson was more than equal to the contents.
The Dungiven man had stepped out of domestic class and up a couple of levels for this IBF World middleweight title eliminator and while he showed tremendous courage and grit, even winning the fifth and 11th rounds on my card with his aggression, O'Kane took repeated blows flush on the chin throughout and never looked likely to serious dent his opponent's armour.
Making it to the end of the 12 rounds was a feat in itself, such was the punishment that O'Kane was having to absorb as he tried desperately to grab a foothold after the devastating opening round.
Johnson, from the Bahamas used his height and reach to keep the distance he needed to unload his heavy artillery with impressive accuracy. The final stats revealed that he had landed 405 punches and O'Kane 234 throughout the 12 rounds, at the end of which the judges scored it 119-107, 118-108 and 117-109 all in favour of Johnson.
O'Kane will return home with a sense of dejection at the outcome but with some defiant satisfaction that on the biggest stage of his life he fought with real fortitude against mounting odds over the 12 rounds. Johnson was certainly quick to speak of his admiration for the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who can - if he chooses to - turn his sights to pursuing possible British or European title bids.
"This is my first time going 12 rounds and man does it feel good. It was a tough fight, no matter how many times O'Kane went down he kept coming at me. I have respect for him as a fighter," said Johnson.
"Winning this title eliminator really makes everything for me come full circle and legitimises me as a true threat in the middleweight division. You know this was a great fight that everyone enjoyed a true brawl, very Mexican Style. This is the beginning for me, the sky is the limit."
Johnson will now become the mandatory challenger for a shot at middleweight star Gennady Golovkin, who annexed the IBF belt to his WBA crown when he stopped hard hitting David Lemieux in the main event at the Garden.
"I feel great, it was a great fight, I felt his power, but I was strong tonight and my punches hurt him," said Golovkin.
"I want all the belts, now I have two. The winner of Cotto-Canelo for sure will be next. I'm not sure who will win that fight, but I want to fight the winner next. I'm staying at 160 until I have all the belts."
Paul Hyland took another step up the British lightweight ladder with victory at the Europa Hotel on Saturday night.
The Belfast man was a comfortable winner after an entertaining eight rounder with Hungarian Bence Molnar. Referee Hugh Russell Jnr scored it 80-73.
On the same card, Celtic champion James Tennyson stopped George Gachechiladze of Georgia, stopping the Georgian at 2:18 in the second round. Commonwealth Games silver medallist Joe Fitzpatrick chalked up a third successive win as a pro, stopping Hungarian Peter Mellar in the fourth.
Belfast fighter James Fryers comfortably outpointed Yordan Vasilev, 60-53.