Belfast middleweight shows he’s an exciting work in progress
At just after 6.00pm on Saturday night in the Liverpool Arena, promoter Eddie Hearn sat down to watch his newly-signed prospect. Usually at that point he would have other things to take care of on fight night. Caoimhin Agyarko didn’t disappoint him, giving a glimpse of why at some point in 2022 he will headline a big show in Belfast.
American Noe Larios jnr was a game, unbeaten but limited foe - just the kind of opponent Agyarko needed on his first night under the Matchroom Sport banner. As auditions go to be the next headline act out Belfast, the 25-year-old can be happy with the manner in which he passed.
Athletic, intense, possessing sharp feet and good handspeed, Agyarko chalked up a 10th straight win with a ninth round stoppage as he detonated a right hand that sent shockwaves through his opponent’s body which sunk against the ropes.
As he kicked off what would have been a wave of blows, referee Howard Foster stepped in at 2:08. Job done and the WBA international middleweight bagged to make sure he has a world ranking.
Leading up to the fight Hearn had suggested that Agyarko needed “a couple more fights before we go to Belfast”. His opinion will not have changed as the middleweight prospect needs more refinement before he can be involved in the kind of bout Hearn wants for the SSE Arena.
While he brings an appealing energy to the ring, the desire for an eye-catching victory can turn that positive into a negative when assaults become a little reckless, leaving him open to counters. Larios could not take advantage in the same way others further up the middleweight chain would be able to.
But, this was only Agyarko’s 10th fight as a professional and he is mature enough to accept there are a few more hurdles to overcome before he is mixing it with the elite of the division.
Agyarko also needs to be more active and it was little wonder that he complained of being “a bit rusty” as this was only his second bout of the year. Hearn will no doubt put that right and Agyarko can expect to be out again in the first quarter of 2022.
A work in progress, Agyarko switched with ease between orthodox and southpaw against Larios who made it a competitive bout in the first half but the Belfast man was always in control and it was impressive to see his array of options when it came to attack.
Despite his dominance, the end came with a bolt from blue – just the finish he, coach Al Smith and Hearn would have wanted.
Agyarko is on the rise and his development over the next 12 months will be fascinating to watch — just as it has been to see Hearn guide welterweight Conor Benn to world level from complete novice. In the main event Benn, son of legend Nigel, knocked out former world champion Chris Algieri.
There was disappointment for cruiserweight Steven Ward who returned home from Kazakhstan after losing on points to Olympic bronze medallist Kamshybek Kunkabayev on a technical decision on Saturday. The 10-rounder was stopped in the seventh when Ward suffered a cut caused by a stray elbow.
It was ruled to be accidental but Ward, who was dropped with a body shot in the fifth round, insisted that was not the case. All three judges gave the home town man a 60-53 victory.
“The better man won on the night. I’m not arguing with the decision. But, the elbow was deliberate in my opinion. It was subtle but deliberate. I felt I was about to come on strong and he was tiring,” said Ward.
“It’s a very bad cut and will take some time to heal. It cut through the muscle… the guy stitched it up inside,”
Ward will now turn his sights to the domestic scene, hoping he can target the British or Commonwealth titles, which are currently held by European champion Chris Billam-Smith.