Michael Conlan knocked Colombian Miguel Marriaga down three times
Victory was needed and delivered in emphatic fashion by Michael Conlan as he scored three knockdowns on his way to a comprehensive points win (99-88, 99-88, 99-89) over Miguel Marriaga at the SSE Arena last night.
Having lost in his bid to relieve Leigh Wood of the WBA featherweight title in March, Conlan had zero room for error as a second loss on the trot would have spelt curtains for his ambitions.
He promised to learn the lessons from that defeat and he did just that, surviving a late rally from the visitor. This time a slip to the floor was ruled just that. Conlan picked himself up to finish on the front foot, ensuring this homecoming was a glorious one.
"I couldn't have done it without this fantastic crowd," he said after.
"I got rid of a lot of demons tonight. Even in the last round, I slipped but he caught me with shots and he forced the pace, buckled me a bit.
"To come through that in the last round says a lot - I'm back and ready for anything."
Conlan opened at southpaw in what was a quiet opening round, pawing a prodding with little coming from the visitor.
Marriaga did go down, but from a clear slip when off balance that gave further encouragement to the raucous crowd.
Marriaga had greater ambition in the second, but was tagged by a crisp left. He did land a solid right-hander as Conlan pivoted to his right.
Both men seemed wary of one another but Conlan had the better success early on, luring Marriaga in and punishing him with a right in the third.
The Colombian was bobbing, weaving and looking for that perfect right hand, but he was getting picked off with the jab as Conlan's head movement made him an elusive target. Conlan forced errors and he capitalised with the right to make it four rounds from four.
The visitor pawed the jab in an effort to draw a mistake from Conlan who remained poker-faced. There was a small glimmer of success in the fifth at close quarters. It proved to be his best moment of the opening half, but the Belfast man was simply quicker and crisper in his work. His moments were more plentiful in a fight that was struggling to catch fire.
Given what had happened in Nottingham, this was no bad thing as the Belfast man was not here for a moral victory - the harsh truth of the fight game is a win was required at all costs.
Conlan popped out the right jab, went low with right hooks to the midriff and continued to the boss as the visitor followed him around the ring, only to taste leather.
One wondered just when, if ever, the visitor would gamble as he had made little to no impression. He did step on the accelerator in seven, yet his advances were crude and subsequently exposed. As he rushed in, he was tagged with a left and right that had him on the floor.
Conlan remained stoic in the aftermath, refusing to waste a shot or indeed, energy – that was his downfall in March - remaining happy to bamboozle Marriaga and remain on the front foot.
Still, he wasn't shy in making his moments count. In the eighth, an advancing Marriaga was dropped under the weight of a right to the ribs that underlined this classy display.
A rapier-like left down the pipe in nine had Marriaga buckled and his gloves grazing the canvas, as he fell for the third count of the evening. He turned away with a look of dejection but this moment soon passed as he found a home for a heavy right hand in the closing seconds.
Marriaga finally went for it in the 10th and final round, landing some thudding shots that clearly troubled Conlan, but he had been here before and was in no mood for a repeat of his previous loss, spinning Marriaga and whipping home some sickening shots to the body that seeped the ambition from the visitor and finishing on the front foot to finish on a high and put himself right back in the world title picture.