Belfast welterweight Lewis Crocker negotiated some testing moments in the fourth before prevailing on the cards against a remarkably tough Deniz Ilbay in a fast-paced encounter at the Bolton Whites Hotel on Friday night.
Scores were 99-90, 97-92 and 97-93, as Crocker (13-0, 7 KOs) retained his WBO European 147lbs title.
The all-action Crocker scored a third-round knockdown with a left hook to the body but was buzzed in the fourth by a right hand before regrouping to largely dominate.
A last round blitz from Crocker wasn’t enough to dislodge sturdy German Ilbay (22-3, 10 KOs) who absorbed everything the Northern Irishman could muster in a captivating battle.
“He had the hardest head I’ve ever hit,” said Crocker afterwards. “That was a great learning experience, it is going to give me confidence going into my next fights. That was a quality opponent. I was only 12-0 coming into this, 24 years old, second main event in a row, I’m ready for the next one. I knew I could have outboxed him, so I was like, a fight suits me, so let’s do it.”
Irish lightweight hope Gary Cully (12-0, 6 KOs) caught the eye with a highlight reel, second round stoppage of Kazakhstan’s Viktor Kotochigov (12-2, 5 KOs) to earn the vacant WBO European belt.
After a dominant opening stanza, rangy southpaw Cully unleashed a devastating left hand to wipe out his opponent. The stunned Kotochigov made two attempts to rise, but couldn’t manage it.
“Viktor is very durable, but I have worked very hard in the last year to develop my strength and grow into the pro game,” said Cully. “I said it would go in the first three rounds and some of my friends won a few quid. Definitely the potential is there to go on and win a world title.”
On the undercard, former Commonwealth featherweight champion Isaac Lowe returned after a 13-month absence to outscore Blackpool’s capable Ed Harrison whose 2-6, 0 KO record belies his ability. Morecambe’s Lowe (21-0-3, 6 KOs) was cut in the third from a head clash but won 60-55 on referee Michael Alexander’s card.
“It was good to get the rounds in but it is just a shame about the cut. I thought my timing was a bit off and I was lunging forward a bit, but I still got the win,” said Lowe.
“There are a lot of big fights out there for me. The last 13 months have been terrible, not just for me but for every boxer. There are a lot of big fights out there so hopefully this cut isn’t that bad, as I want to be back out soon.”
Meanwhile, Luton’s Jordan ‘The Wanderer’ Reynolds (1-0, 0 KOs) made a winning debut at middleweight with a 60-54 verdict over Camden’s Robbie Chapman (6-7, 0 KOs). Northampton’s former Team GB representative Carl Fail (1-0, 0 KOs) also got off to a winning start, outscoring Barnet’s Jordan Dujon (4-0, 1 KO) at 154lbs by a 58-56 margin.
Bournemouth lightweight Mace Ruegg (4-0, 0 KOs) cantered to a 40-36 verdict over Londoner Levi Dunn (0-3, 0 KOs).
Main image: MTK Global.