Belfast boxer Jamie Conlan on rise after Titanic Showdown undercard win over Mexican Jose Estrella
Jamie Conlan had his hands full with sprightly Mexican Jose Estrella on the Titanic Showdown undercard but managed to eke out a unanimous victory.
Scores of 97-93 (twice) and 99-92 enabled the Belfast super-flyweight to take away the WBO inter-continental belt. Estrella pressed the action throughout and was not easily deterred, making it a tough night's work for Conlan who also suffered a cut.
After a promising start rounds four and five were difficult for Conlan who was forced to dig deep into his reserves to repel the Mexican's advances. Having battled through the rough spots he finished strongly to take a clear and deserved points win.
The WBO later told Conlon that he had made a "statement performance" and he could expect a lofty world ranking for his efforts. With the experienced heads of John Breen and Eamonn Magee in the corner, Conlan's nasty cut was never allowed to become an issue.
However, this was a bruising introduction to the upper echelons of the 115lb division that is dominated by Latin American and Asian boxers.
"When I got the cut I couldn't see a thing for the whole round but as usual Eamonn Magee told me to stop whining," said Conlan.
"I hit him with some cracking right hands that I even felt but he just nodded back at me and smiled. That's good though, you don't want someone who's going to fall down."
Eamonn O'Kane had to make do with a technical draw after an untidy brawl with Lithuania's Virgilijus Stapulionis. Eamonn dispensed with the jab and was dragged into the trenches by Stapulionis who came out swinging.
O'Kane got caught towards the end of the opening round with a right hand behind the ear and was stretched across the ropes receiving punishment before Marcus McDonnell administered a count. O'Kane's legs were unsteady but he managed to fiddle his way to the bell. Stapulionis ended the round with a cut to his right eye (from an accidental clash of heads) which would play a key role in the fight's conclusion.
In the second round the visitor was deducted a point by Mr McDonnell for "illegal use of Vaseline" as the corner tried to work on his cut during a mid-round inspection. The laceration was visibly worsening and an unstoppable stream of blood prompted the officials to call a halt midway through the fourth. Under IBF rules it was ruled a technical draw as four rounds had not been completed.
"He was an awkward guy but I'm defending this IBF title and if I'm going to be looking to fight for world titles then I have to be boxing better than I did," said O'Kane.
Unbeaten Anthony Cacace opened the show with an impressive second-round dismissal of Dawid Knade in a four-rounder. Laying in to Knade from the opening bell and working behind a stiff jab the Belfast super-featherweight showed just why Cyclone Promotions plucked him from a period of obscurity.
Cacace landed a body shot and fizzed over a right hand to the head that dropped Knade heavily. The Polish boxer rose and tried to continue but was counted out at 2:09 by referee Hugh Russell Jnr.