EAMONN O’Kane was forced to dig deep into his reserves to keep intact his pursuit of a world title challenge as he edged victory over previously unbeaten Englishman, Lewis Taylor in a bruising encounter at Lavey Community Centre last night.
O’Kane stretched his professional record to 14-1-1 and retained his IBF Inter-Continental title with a majority decision win over slick-punching Derbyshire native Taylor, but it was far from his most impressive display.
Regardless of the performance, the win will catapult the Banagher man up the IBF’s middleweight rankings. Therefore it’s a case of ‘job done’ as he edges ever closer to a world title tilt.
O’Kane, who sustained a cut above his right eye in the fifth round following an accidental clash of heads, admitted he was far from his best and claimed he was surprised by Taylor’s willingness to trade leather.
“It didn’t seem like the usual Eamonn O’Kane,” said the Derry middleweight afterwards. “I tried to control myself and didn’t get overawed by the occasion. That would definitely be a good excuse to use but that wasn’t the case.
“I just felt I didn’t get out of the blocks,” added O’Kane. “His style was clashing with mine. Every time I went to let shots go it seemed like he was coming up with his head or just nullifying what I was doing.
“I was maybe closing the gap too much or he was closing it and we were just hugging each other most of the time. But I thought I let the quality combinations go at times and I let the bigger shots go, and that was the telling factor in the fight.
“It was two come forward boxers who were trying to make different things work and maybe it just didn’t get together.
“Fair play to Lewis Taylor who give me more of a fight than I gave him credit for. I expected him to box and be a very good boxer but I didn’t expect him to be as tough and take some of the good shots and he took them well and came back throwing punches.
“So hats off to him for a good fight and I think that was entertaining for the crowd. I think it was the better quality of shots that counted in the end.”
O’Kane did his best to keep Taylor at reach with the ‘well educated’ left jab he had claimed he would employ in the pre-fight build-up. And while his straight left hands snapped back the head of Taylor in the early stages of the first round, the Englishman wasn’t to be deterred as he flew out of the blocks.
In fact Taylor, who finished the final 30 seconds of the opening round in the ascendancy stunning O’Kane with two strong right hands to the temple in quick succession, proving he wasn’t to be intimidated in the Co. Derry venue.
So used to dictating the pace of his fights, which are normally set at a blistering pace, O’Kane’s attempts to box clever and keep his opponent on the backfoot were quickly shelved as the determined Taylor clearly came to fight.
O’Kane appeared surprised by the Englishman’s workrate and when he lowered his hands to invite his opponent on after a heated exchange in the centre of the ring, Taylor duly obliged and he shaded the second round.
Fair play to Lewis Taylor who gave me more of a fight than I gave him credit for. I expected him to box and be a very good boxer but I didn’t expect him to be as tough and take some of the good shots and he took them well and came back throwing punches.Eamonn O’Kane
There was a quickfire start to the third as O’Kane tried in vain to corner his opponent against the ropes but Lewis managed to get out of danger. O’Kane traded punches with Taylor and while he came out of that particular exchange on top, the Englishman landed with a hefty right hook of his own just before the bell.
‘King Kane’ was slowly warming to the task and was enjoying some success with his right and left combinations to the body but Taylor recovered quickly and finished the fourth round strongly.
After trading blows at the start of the fifth round O’Kane sustained a cut above his right eye following a clash of heads but, rather than slowing him down, the Banagher boxer scored with a strong right followed by a combination to the body and the crowd responded.
Ending the round with a barrage of punches which had the attendance on their feet for the first time on the night, O’Kane looked like he was finally beginning to control proceedings.
And from the seventh round onwards O’Kane was growing in confidence and adopted a more measured approach, re-introducing his left jab which was finding its way through the guard of Taylor. The Englishman did land a sweetly executed right hand to the chin of O’Kane in the eighth round but the Co. Derry man shrugged it off.
A low blow had O’Kane doubled over on the canvas towards the end of the eighth and when he finally recovered, his attempts to land a telling blow were nullified by the fleet-footed Lewis.
As the fight entered the championship rounds, Lewis was tiring and the judges clearly appreciated O’Kane’s superior workrate and the power behind his flurry of attacks as he desperately tried to swing the result in his favour.
It was a tight contest and it was O’Kane’s quality punches which probably proved to be the decisive factor as he took a majority decision victory, the three ringside judges, Harry Davis, Grzeqorz Molenda and Dave Paris, scoring the fight 116-112, 115-113 and 114-114 respectively.
Admittingly it was a below-par performance from the big punching O’Kane but he remains on course for a big money clash with one of the elite domestic middleweights and, of course, a potential world title shot!
See Tuesday’s ‘Journal’ for full coverage and fight reaction