New British Champions Crowned In Okolie vs Billam-Smith And Lara vs Wood But Conlan Falls Short
This week’s box office picks saw fights from all corners of the British Isles, as well as minimumweight title action from California. With all 4 bouts being for world titles, this week’s picks certaintly didn’t disappoint, with upsets, knockdowns, and schoolings, it was a great weekend of action.
Luis Alberto Lopez vs Michael Conlan – Lopez wins via 5th-round KO
In perhaps the most competitive fight on paper going into the weekend, home town favourite Michael Conlan got his 2nd attempt at world honours against Mexican road warrior Luis Alberto Lopez in Belfast. Conlan started the bout as a slight favourite over his rival and wasted no time asserting himself in the first, with the pair standing and trading blows from the opening bell. Conlan won the first round clear, but the warning signs were there to see.
As the fight entered the 2nd, Conlan upped the pressure even more, landing plenty of flush blows on Lopez, however, the master boxer continued to stay in the pocket for way too long. Lopez, although taking a barrage of punches through the first two, and clearly losing them, never really looked concerned by Conlan’s power, and the unorthodox champion kept firing back.
The turning point in the fight was in the 3rd round, in which Lopez badly hurt Conlan, who did well to stay on his feet. This continued into the 4th round, with Conlan continuing to sit in the pocket with the hard-punching Lopez. The ending came in the 5th round, as Conlan ducked straight into a beautiful right uppercut from Lopez, rendering the Belfast man unconscious.
Lopez will now look to finally have a ‘home’ fight as champion, having been the away fighter for almost all of his major wins, including Gabe Flores, Isaac Lowe, and Josh Warrington. A possible opponent for him will be Reiya Abe, who won a final eliminator earlier this year.
Mauricio Lara vs Leigh Wood 2 – Wood wins via UD
Leigh Wood entered the ring a heavy underdog against WBA champion Mauricio Lara, who won the title against Wood in February, with the scandal of the check weight during fight week, with Lara eventually coming in 4lbs heavier than the Nottingham man, his chances were looking even more ominous.
‘Leightal’ however proved all the doubters wrong, dropping Lara in the 2nd with a beautiful backhand. This set the tone for the rest of the fight, with Wood boxing superbly throughout, winning almost every round on his way to a decision win.
The only adversity Wood suffered in the bout was a cut over his eye, however, this was tended to extremely well by his corner team. Whether is was Wood being exceptional, or Lara underperforming, Wood walks away the WBA champion of the world at 126lbs.
With promoter Eddie Hearn mentioning Nottingham Forrest’s City Ground as a potential venue for his next fight, one would imagine Wood’s next opponent would not be unknown Uzbek mandatory challenger Otabek Kholmatov, and would more likely be Leeds man Josh Warrington in a domestic dust-up.
Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith – Billam-Smith wins via MD
The Vitality Stadium was the venue for the WBO Cruiserweight title contest between former gym mates Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith, With Okolie entering a strong favourite, it seemed like business as usual for the champion through the first three rounds, Winning them all in his negative style of nullifying his opponents work.
This all changed in the 4ht round, however, as CBS landed a thunderous left hook off of a break, dropping Okolie. ‘The Sauce’ made the count however he was holding on for dear life. So much so that Okolie had a point deducted in the 5th for persistent holding.
Okolie may have been winning rounds throughout the contest, although when he again got a point deduction for holding in the 7th, he needed the stoppage to get the victory in reality. This led to Okolie trying to open up on Billam-Smith, however, this left the champion open, and he was dropped again in the 10th and 11th rounds. Okolie could not finish Billam-Smith in the 12th and final round, and the bout ended without doubt in favour of Chris Billam-Smith.
There was a brief moment of panic as the absolutely disgusting card of 112-112 from Benjamin Rodriguez was read out, however, this was fortunately cancelled out by a 115-108, and a 116-107 card. The next step for both men is likely a rematch as Okolie had a rematch clause. Ben Shalom expects this to take place in Bournemouth.
Melvin Jerusalem vs Oscar Collazo – Collazo wins via 7th round RTD
Oscar Collazo attempted to become the quickest Puerto Rican to win a world title, as he challenged Melvin Jerusalem for his WBO Minimumweight world title in just his 7th fight. Jerusalem started the fight well, landing the jab followed by his backhand at will. He looked well on his way to his first successful defence through 3 rounds, causing bruising around Collazo’s eye.
However, in the 4th round, the challenger turned the tide, deciding to walk down the champion instead of the previous plan of boxing off of the back foot. After this adjustment Collazo simply battered Jerusalem, landing body shots at will, hurting his opponent at will. The fight could have been stopped at any point from the 5th round onwards.
After a fantastic 7th round, in which Collazo hurt Jerusalem multiple times, Jerusalem simply had enough and said he did not want any more in the corner. The 7th round stoppage for Collazo announced him onto the world scene. The Puerto Rican announced his intention to defend his title in August in the post-fight interview.
Also Read: Veteran Nonitio Donaire will land another world title opportunity against top contender Alexandro Santiago. The bout is likely for July 15th in America and will likely be a PBC production NoSmokeSport understands.