Boxing | Conlan weathers tough Baluta test on super-bantamweight debut

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Michael Conlan has defeated Ionut Baluta by majority decision (114-114, 115-114 and 117-112) to win the WBO International super-bantamweight title at Bethnal Green’s York Hall.

Belfast boxer Conlan (15-0, 8 KOs) was making his debut at super-bantamweight, and is now the WBO number one contender in the division.

Baluta (14-3, 3 KOs), who had previously defeated Irish boxers TJ Doheny and David Oliver Joyce, proved a tough opponent.

Conlan started well, working his jab to great effect against his Romanian opponent in the early rounds.

However, Baluta produced some good counter punches, catching Conlan by surprise on numerous occasions.

Conlan, who switched stances at ease, also impressed with his counter-punching and head movement. The former Olympian landed 170 punches to Baluta’s 97, and had a far superior punch accuracy (36% vs 12%).

The Romanian also finished the last three rounds strongly, making the judges’ scorecards a more nervous wait for 29-year-old Conlan than many would have expected.

Baluta slipped six times during the fight as things got messy in the later rounds, with the fight turning into somewhat of a brawl in the championship rounds.

“Baluta is a tough character, tougher than I thought,” Conlan said afterwards.

“And he showed it in his last two performances. He’s as game as they come. But he was missing tons of punches, so I wasn’t really worried. But when {the first scorecard read} was a draw, I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’

“It was a good fight, good preparation for what’s to come.

“I’ll stay active. I’ll fight in August anyway, and I’ll get straight back in the gym.”

Conlan is now likely to pursue a world title shot against WBO super-bantamweight Stephen Fulton (19-0).

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