ILLIES GOLDEN Gloves welterweight, Willie McLaughlin hopes his rapid return to the ring in the World Series of Boxing will help soften the blow of defeat suffered in last Friday night’s Irish Elite Final in the National Stadium.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Inishowen man will now focus his attentions on the quarter-finals of the lucrative world amateur boxing tournament with his Italia Thunder team on March 25th next after losing out to Adam Nolan in the televised welterweight showpiece at the weekend.
Wexford-born southpaw, Nolan - who works as a Garda in Bray, earned a 23-12 verdict over McLaughlin in one of the ‘fights of finals night’ as he secured his third consecutive national title in the 69 kgs division.
It was an enthralling encounter as Nolan showed exactly why he was selected to represent Ireland at last summer’s Olympic Games.
The rangy, awkward southpaw produced a polished performance as he boxed off the backfoot and kept McLaughlin at arm’s length with his effective right jab and long reach.
That was certainly the case in the opening two rounds anyway as he cleverly avoided getting involved in a toe-to-toe brawl with the Buncrana boxer who stalked him around the ring relentlessly.
It was a different story midway through the final round, however, as McLaughlin went for broke in an attempt to claw back Nolan’s dominant 16-5 lead.
And he had huge success with a beautifully timed overhand right which landed flush to the chin of Nolan, causing the reigning champion’s legs to tremble and he was in all sorts of trouble.
McLaughlin had Nolan on the ropes but was unable to find that finishing shot as his opponent clung on desperately and saw out the remainder of the round.
Nolan admitted afterwards that had McLaughlin followed up that shot with another damaging punch, he would have expected the referee to call a halt to proceedings.
In the end it was too little, too late for McLaughlin as Nolan weathered the storm and deservedly had his hand raised in victory.
And while McLaughlin graciously accepted he had lost the fight, the Illies ABC member felt the 11 point margin of Nolan’s victory was well wide of the mark.
“I don’t think I should’ve been so far behind after the first round,” he said. “There wasn’t that much of a difference. And I thought the referee was terrible in the second round. He should’ve warned Nolan for holding my head down a few times but didn’t and it ruined the fight.
“He deserved to win the fight but definitely not by that margin. I was disappointed with the scoring. When I caught him with that right I knew I had him so I went ‘body hunting’ but couldn’t find the shot to end it. I needed another round because he was tiring and it ended too soon for me unfortunately.
“It’s unfortunate because John Joe Joyce and Adam Nolan are now Ireland’s number one and two. Hopefully, I’ll be back again next year. Right now I’m looking forward to getting back into the ring again.”
There was certainly no disputing that Nolan won the fight and it was the early rounds which proved crucial as he showed his class and kept McLaughlin at range with his long reach.
The Illies man was always the aggressor and kept the pressure on the Co. Wicklow boxer, however Nolan was content boxing on the backfoot and fully controlled the opening round.
When the judges revealed a 7-3 margin in favour of Nolan at the end of the opening three minutes, the generous advantage was met with a chorus of boos from the travelling Donegal support.
It may have slightly flattered the London Olympian but there was no doubting he was comfortably ahead as he landed cleanly, timing his counters to perfection.
McLaughlin adopted a similar approach at the start of the second round as he stalked Nolan around every square inch of the ring and this time with a bit more success.
Nolan, however, was slipping and sliding away from McLaughlin’s powerful combinations, showing neat footwork and the Bray man landed cleanly with a straight right and sharp uppercut midway through the round.
And despite a strong finish from McLaughlin, he lost the round by a seven point margin and was facing a 16-5 deficit going into the third and final round.
Both boxers met in the centre of the ring at the start of the final round, trading punches which suited McLaughlin who landed a powerful combination to the head and body of Nolan.
The Buncrana boxer was relentless and had Nolan on the ropes as the Bray man struggled with his breathing.
And when McLaughlin caught his opponent flush on the head with an overhand right Nolan’s legs appeared to buckle and the Illies man sensed a stoppage.
Nolan was hanging on in the end and did his best to survive the ensuing onslaught. But it came too late for McLaughlin as the bell sounded for the end of the fight.
McLaughlin had done enough to share the round on seven points apiece but it wasn’t enough to close the 11 point deficit, Nolan awarded a 23-12 victory to secure his hat-trick of national titles.