It was a mixed night for the Irish fighters in action at the Resorts World Casino in Jamaica, Queens, last Saturday night. Featherweight Allan Phelan lost a close unanimous decision to Micah Branch early on the undercard before Irish American Joe Smith Jr. stopped Yasin Rachid in the third round of their fight.
Phelan, a native of Kildare, was involved in a very competitive fight with Branch, who was extremely motivated and possessed a level of skill that belied his 0-2 record. The pair was evenly matched, with Phelan scoring solidly with his left hook, while Branch's overhand right was his best weapon.
In the third round, Branch hit Phelan below the belt and seemed to wind the Irishman slightly. Referee Benjy Esteves Jr. offered Phelan the chance of a timeout to recuperate, but he declined and fought on, and the two slugged it out for the rest of the stanza.
In the final round Branch got the better of Phelan with some hard right hands and three unanswered left hooks that had the Irishman holding on to his opponent. That said, at the final bell, the fight was very close to call.
The three judges all scored it 39-37 in favor of Branch, who went to (1-2) with the victory. Phelan drops to (0-2) after this setback.
"Back to the drawing board. It is very disappointing. I felt he did enough to win, and I don't know what to say. I thought he won three rounds there. I thought he lost the last round. I am very disappointed and I am sure Allan is the same," said Old World Boxing promoter Jim Foley after the fight.
Though Foley admitted Phelan could have been a bit busier during the later stages of the fight, he still felt that he had the fight under control.
“I thought he was fighting a smart fight and winning the rounds. That was the game plan going in,” said Foley.
The Irish Voice caught up with Branch after the fight to get his take on the evening.
"He was tough and I was expecting him to come out tough, but at the same time I knew that he was out for two years and I used that to my advantage to keep the pressure on him,” said the man from Cincinnati.
Light heavyweight Smith, meanwhile, took the decision out of the judges’ hands when he TKO’d Rachid in the third round. The 23-year-old had his opponent on the floor four times over the course of the fight and moved to 11-1 (11 KOs) with this win.
In other news, London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Michael Conlan has been drafted by Team USA in the World Series of Boxing amateur tournament. Should the Belfast fighter decide to accept the offer from the American team his first fight will be in mid-November.
Finally, light welterweight Danny O’Connor (18-1, 6 KOs) will fight Josh Sosa (10-3, 5KOs) this Saturday night on the non-televised undercard of the HBO Boxing After Dark card at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.