Mancuso: All Irish Smiles Again At The Garden

Top Rank granted their Irish Olympian featherweight Michael Conlan his pro debut at Madison Square Garden last year on St Patrick’s Day. That was a successful win before a sold out crowd in the Theater adjacent to the main arena. So promoter Bob Arum and Conlan did it again and it was another success.

A packed crowd at the Hulu Theater came to cheer and again  on St. Patrick’s Day it was all smiles for the Irish on Saturday night and for Michael Conlan. He is the rising star for Top Rank with a perfect 6-0 record with 5 KOs after a second round stoppage over 15-3 David Berena.

And Brena with 17 fights coming in, well that is no slouch for an opponent from Budapest. Conlan is a draw, over 4,000 of his followers in the 5,000 seat Theater came to cheer and they were heard as many waited outside to greet their eventual champion from Belfast.

“Smart boxing, spiteful boxing,” said Adam Booth his trainer. “That’s not brawling. Brawling is giving and taking and he’s too clever for that.” The fans love a brawl but it is becoming the punching and that smart boxing that is now making Conlan smart and a good place to be home in New York.

He draws fans and in boxing today, and more than ever, that’s what counts. He is a fan favorite type of fighter that was seen again after dropping Berna with a body shot. His opponent went down a second time in round two of the scheduled 8-rounder and the bout was stopped in the first minute.

And the fans waited a few hours for Conlan to get his latest win in New York. He was the last bout of a championship card that was televised on ESPN and showcased after Jose Ramirez won a unanimous decision over Amir Imam for the vacant WBC interim super lightweight championship.

Arum with  longtime and friendly rival Don King, promoter of Imam, was part of this night for the Irish in New York at the Garden. But Michael Conlan at the conclusion once again became a rising star and there is more to come.

“I am confident he will become one of the Garden’s biggest attractions,” Arum said. So count on this again again next St, Patrick’s Day or within that time period for Michael Conlan to win again in what has become his second home.

With Bob Arum and Top Rank that is very possible for Conlan. Only a few years ago, Miguel Cotto, the four-division champion from Puerto Rico, who recently retired under another promotion, saw Arum stage  an annual event in June on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Cotto sold out the Garden, got the wins and established a record number of gate receipts and pay-per-view revenue.

Welcome to New York Michael Conlan. See you next St. Patrick’s Day and perhaps in the main arena at Madison Square Garden.

Ramirez and Iman: Possible fight of the year candidate and a slugfest that went the distance. One punch after another and Imam fighting the 12th-round with one eye after getting hit early by a Ramirez punch. The unanimous decision gave Ramirez, a 2012 Olympian the vacant 140-pound WBC title that was vacated by Terence Crawford who moved up to 147.

The title fight was the 2,000th in the 55-year old history of the World Boxing Council. The fight did not disappoint with action from the first round. Arum is looking to get the title unified and there are a number of options with Ramirez Including a possible fight with mandatory challenger, undefeated Regis Prograis.

‘“I came here to see Ramirez and of course here to make my case and get the belt,” said Profrais who watched Ramirez from ringside.

Prograis is property of promoter Lou DiBella and the PBC management group, hence with boxing politics there would have to be some intense movement to get that fight signed and a venue that will be acceptable for both sides.  Arum did say he met with DiBella earlier this week and talks would be ongoing.

One judge had the fight 115-113, another 117-111 and a third 120-108 for Ramirez, who was trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach and used the inside approach. That last score for Ramirez meant he took every round but as subjective as ringside scoring can be, Imam took at least five rounds.

Said Ramirez, 22-,0, 16 KOs, an immigrant from Mexico, “Amir is a great fighter and he came well prepared. That’s why we gave the fans a great fight.”

Verdejo May Be Out: After another lackluster performance, Felix Verdejo the promising lightweight who was supposed to be the next Miguel Cotto, was stopped at 2:37 of the 10th and final round though he was ahead on the judges scorecards before going down against Antonio Lozada Jr. (39-2, 33 KOs) of Tijuana.

Despite the scores, Verdejo (23-1, 15 KOs) was a defeated fighter and sustained his first loss in a comeback fight after missing 13 months due to injuries and a severe motorcycle accident he sustained in Puerto Rico last year.

A source at Top Rank said, “He is not the same fighter and appears he doesn’t want it.” While other reports state that Verdejo, who was going to be promoted like Cotto, has lacked with the training and playing with disaster in Puerto Rico. Take it as you read it but it sounds like this is a damaged fighter who once was on his way to stardom.

That same Top Rank official said this could have been Verdejos’ last fight under their banner. Verdejo could not be reached for comment as he was sent to a hospital for observation.

More Of The Undercard :  Christopher Diaz the promising Top Rank Super Featherweight from Barranquitas Puerto Rico remained undefeated at 23-0-15 KOs after his opponent Braulio Rodriguez of La Romana Dominican Republic could not continue at 0:28 of round four because of a bad right hand that was diagnosed after the fight as broken. At time of the stoppage judges at ringside had the fight 2-1 for Diaz.  The scheduled 10-round bout was the first fight for Rodriguez since December of 2016.

In a bout scheduled for eight rounds lightweight Jose Pedraza of Cidra Puerto Rico improved to 23-1,12 KOs in taking the unanimous decision over Jose Luis Rodriguez, 26-12.1 of Monterrey Mexico. Pedraza was the skilled fighter in using the jab and connecting on his punches that scored points with the judges at ringside.

And 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Oleksandr Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KO’s) won the vacant WBC interim light heavyweight title with a 12-round decision over Mehdi Amar, 34-6-2, 16 KOs.

Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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