Thursday 18 January 2018

No answer to raw power

Joe Ward claims Kenny Egan's crown

Round One: The champ strides from his corner in blue. Taps his opponent's outstretched glove and sets down to business. He looks and moves well. An ocean of water has flown under the bridge since his Olympic silver in Beijing, but none of that seems to matter right now. Kenny Egan is back in his castle.

More than any Irish fighter, this celebrated canvas belongs to him. For 10 years he has reigned supreme as Irish light-heavyweight champion. Joe Ward, the latest pretender, advances menacingly, throwing huge lefts which Egan mostly dodges. Three minutes in the champ trails 2-1. But there are two rounds left and a lifetime of experience to call on. No cause for panic yet.

Round Two: It's gone scrappy now. The champ won't mind that. The knot on his faceguard comes loose and the fight is stopped so they can fix it. That won't upset him either. The kid, naturally, is that bit more impetuous, hungry to score points but the champ is hard to pin down and Ward is struggling to find his rhythm and nail his big punches.

Egan eases 4-2 ahead. But then all changes. To a mixed reception of jeers and cheers, Egan is warned for dropping his head and Ward is handed two points. The bell sounds. They are locked at 4-4. The champ faces a dogfight to save his crown.

Round Three: This wasn't the anticipated script. A great champion flailing around the ring, holding onto his title by the flimsiest of threads, his famed cuteness counting for little against the raw power being unleashed against him. Another two points slip away for ducking. A quick left and fierce right combination buckles his knees. A savage flurry of punches forces him to take a standing count and he is beyond salvation.

The years and the hard nights since Beijing have taken their toll. On the night he has encountered an unstoppable force: a 17-year-old man-boy from Westmeath some are already happy to proclaim as a future heavyweight champion of the world.

John O'Brien

Sunday Indo Sport

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