Former world amateur champion and Olympic bronze medalist Michael Conlan wasn’t the only Irish boxer in action on Saturday night.
Conlan scored a convincing unanimous decision win over Argentina’s Luis Fernando Molina in a six-rounder on the undercard of the massive Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Guillermo Rigondeaux fight in New York, but in the hours before the Belfast boxer stepped into the ring at the Madison Square Garden Theater his countrymen Aaron McKenna and Sean Turner were also in action.
McKenna, a Monaghan native, signed with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions in the autumn aged just 18 and he made his professional debut early on the undercard of Saturday’s stacked GBP show at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. McKenna, an eight-time national champion and European Schoolboys gold medalist as an amateur, got his career off to a winning start by scoring a unanimous decision over fellow pro debutant Travis Connolly in a four-rounder.
The most significant victory of the night for an Irish boxer came from Turner, however.
A former national super-heavyweight champion in the unpaid ranks, Turner turned pro back in 2014. He went 10-0 with 1 no contest in his first 11 outings, registering seven stoppages along the way, before surprisingly losing on points to Polish journeyman Kamil Sokolowski over eight rounds in April of this year. The Dubliner bounced back with a points win in September though, before signing on for a gargantuan pre-Christmas challenge in Basel. There, on the banks of the Rhine, Turner took on 6’5 Arnold Gjergjaj, a Kosovo native based in Switzerland, whose only previous defeat in 31 professional contests came via second-round TKO to David Haye in London last May.
It looked a tall order for Turner, but under the stewardship of Katie Taylor’s father Peter, the man they call ‘Big Sexy’ caused a stunning upset. Turner dominated the fight from the off, dropped Gjergjaj in the second and eventually finished him with a barrage of punches in the eighth round. At the time of the stoppage, Turner was in a comfortable lead by scores of 69-63, 68-64 and 68-64(via Boxrec).
— Pete Taylor (@PeteTaylor01) December 10, 2017
— Pete Taylor (@PeteTaylor01) December 9, 2017
At just 5’11, Turner is very short for a heavyweight in the modern era but he showed here that he is capable of chopping down much bigger men. It will be interesting to see where the hard-hitting prospect, who at 26 is still a baby in heavyweight terms, goes from here.