Michael Conlan's first tilt at 10 rounds ended in success as the Irish puncher cruised to victory over Jason Cunningham to secure the vacant WBO Intercontinental Featherweight Championship.
The Irish puncher was considerably dominant against a dogged but limited opponent. His conditioning and fluidity were strikingly impressive in a good but not great showing. Prior to the fight, Conlan told the Belfast Telegraph "I don’t just want to win, I want to go and try and knock the guy out, I’d love a knockout to finish off the year."
That quest went unfulfilled.
The fight took place in front of a quiet Manchester Arena and was broadcast live on BT Sport and ESPN/Top Rank. The BT Sport commentary team were certainly impressed by the 27-year-old, although it was a view challenged by the American representatives.
Describing it as 'target practice' and any criticism as 'nit-picking', the team which included Joe Tessitore and Mark Kriegel were collectively critical of Conlan's punching power and lack of a knock-out.
Kriegel: We said the same things about Curtis Stevens, where is his man strength? He has got to sell-out and show us something.
Maybe he doesn't have it in him to take him out, okay. No problem with that. But you have got to give it a shot. It is not like you have seen something that is going to scare you on the way in.
His partner was in agreement: "He is hitting him flush but very little damage."
Having been docked a point after three low-blow shots, the result was still never in doubt for the Irishman. Conlan to his credit showed all the fitness necessary to go ten rounds and came exceptionally close to delivering the big KO.
Overall, it was a good fight against the best opponent of his career. Now 10-0 with five fights under the astute training of Adam Booth, Conlan's 2019 looks bright.