Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Brave Rogan fighting back

Martin Rogan was beaten on Saturday night but he can reflect on a courageous performance
Martin Rogan was beaten on Saturday night but he can reflect on a courageous performance
Martin Rogan and Sam Sexton during their fight at the Odyssey

As the mist started to sweep across the Odyssey Arena carpark in the early hours of Saturday morning John Breen let out a sigh of disbelief and admiration. "What a fighting man, what a fighting man..."

Amid the anger and recriminations at the awful refereeing of Dave Parris which cost him his Commonwealth heavyweight title it would be easy to lose sight of how in defeat Martin Rogan stood tall as a true braveheart of the ring.

With his left eye closed over through a combination of a thumb and head clashes and 17st Sam Sexton slamming home right hands which he couldn't see coming, the 38-year-old produced an astonishing rally in an eighth round which will be long remembered for the chaos which ensued.

Wincing as Eamonn Magee applied the endswell to the large swelling after just soaking up some hard blows in the seventh, Rogan as he has done so valiantly over the past 12 months, defied the odds.

In a round that must have lasted around four minutes rather than three, Rogan rose from the valley of despair and drove himself forward to unleash a furious two-fisted assault that had Sexton reeling and almost bludgeoned to the canvas. "One shot Rogie, one shot!" screamed Magee and Breen in unison as the end loomed. Then Parris intervened.

"He stopped the fight and then let it go on. It was a total disgrace," raged Rogan as he explained why, when a defenceless Sexton was at his mercy, he didn't land the conclusive blow.

Why Parris did not prevent Sexton from taking further punishment will forever be a mystery as will his decision to allow Sexton time to have his gumshield washed out after it was spat onto the ground. The end came when he brought Rogan over to the doctor who had no option but to call it off as the Belfast man only had vision through his right eye.

Slumped over the ropes Rogan may not have known it but to the 7,000 in the Odyssey Arena and those watching on Sky he was now an even bigger hero. But his title was gone and the pain of Sexton's punches allied with a slashed tongue which required stitches the next day was nothing compared to his sense of injustice.

Rogan said: "The British Boxing Board of Control don't know what the referee is going to do in the fight but now they have seen it they have to act on it. I'm sure there are a lot of the guys who are disgusted at it.

"I've beaten Audley Harrison, I've beaten Matt Skelton, Commonwealth and European champion, and Sam Sexton came here with the referee and I fought the two of them in the ring. But they can take the belt home and I hope they're proud of themselves because it's a total disgrace.

"They might as well cut the belt right down the middle and have half each. I just hope the re-match can be made right away because I want it bad, I want it, big time and next time he won't even hit me and I'll stop him.

"I felt the referee was against me right from the start and even said to me in the first round that if I caught him again with head and cut him he would throw me out. He had no right to say that, it was an accidental clash of heads and him saying that naturally put me on the back foot."

Rogan paid tribute to coach and manager Breen and was adamant that while his fairytale rise from taxi driver to champion may have been cut short this was not going to be the final chapter.

"John did a great job and I'm not going to let it all go now because me and John have travelled a great distance and he's been a great inspiration to me and he's helped me with other problems that fighters face," added Rogan.

"He has been there to lend an ear and this is not just a defeat for me, it's a defeat for John as well and he has to go home and lick his wounds but I'm going to take a few weeks off but then train harder than ever and do John a favour."

For all his anger at the manner of the defeat, Rogan could reflect on an "electric atmosphere" the like of which has not been heard since Barry McGuigan was blazing a trail to world title success.

Promoter Frank Warren has already started making plans for a re-match at the Odyssey Arena, which he rightly says "will be bigger than ever".

The Rogan story still has some way to go.

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