Michael Conlan has boosted his professional record to 3-0 after a third-round stoppage victory on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s WBO world welterweight title defence in Brisbane.
Belfast’s world amateur champion halted Aussie Jarrett Owen midway through their scheduled six-round featherweight undercard fight, which took place in a Suncorp Stadium that was bathed in sunshine.
The fight card was scheduled for Sunday morning/afternoon local time to be screened live on Saturday-night US primetime TV, translating to an approximate Irish start time of 3am for Conlan’s tussle with locally-based fighter Owen.
Conlan came into the bout with an undefeated 2-0 record following wins over novice journeymen Tim Ibarra and Alfredo Chanez.
The latter bout was a particularly messy affair due to Chanez’s reluctance to engage, with promoters Top Rank booking Brisbane-based Owen as an opponent for this bout in the hope a local fighter would offer a determined challenge.
Owen carried a 5-4-3 record into the fight, unbeaten in his last two bouts, including one draw, having suffered three prior stoppages.
The 31-year-old Aussie originally started his fighting career in MMA before transferring to pro boxing five years ago, and proved to be a game, but limited, opponent.
Walking to the ring first, Conlan entered to the ‘Lonesome Boatman’ with the Suncorp bathed in beaming sunshine. Owen, nicknamed ‘Juarez’, wore a sombrero en route to the ring as he had for the pre-fight weigh-in.
The temperature was around 17 degrees Celsius at ringside during the fight, although it certainly felt hotter in the consistent sunshine.
Wearing white shorts with a green and orange trim, Conlan sized up his opponent in the first round switching to southpaw during the opener. Owen, wearing black-and-gold trunks, held his own in the round before tasting a Conlan body-head combo in the second.
The Irishman peppered the Aussie with various punches throughout the second, with some body work appearing to make Owen wince towards the end of the stanza, although the home fighter attempted to return fire.
The Brisbane-based battler stood in his corner between the second and third rounds, while he was presented with the challenge of Conlan switching back to orthodox midway through the bout.
A body shot was the beginning of the end in the third, a hard left from Conlan causing Owen to wilt before the Belfast native launched a series of blows on his opponent.
Owen stayed on his feet but, failing to defend himself, referee Tony Kettlewell called a halt at 1min 56secs of the round – the official appearing for a moment to be slightly hesitant to step in as he attempted to assess the visibly-hurt Owen.
Conlan did not appear to be visibly ecstatic with the finish, approaching ESPN commentators at ringside to explain that he thought the referee had called ‘stop’ a few seconds before the eventual stoppage, but the Irishman was happy to record his third win in front of a strong and vocal Irish contingent in attendance.
A crowd of 51,025 were eventually in attendance for the main event, but a significant portion were in their seats for Conlan’s bout with the lower tier of the Suncorp Stadium and pitch level appearing to be nearly three-quarters full.
“It’s an amazing atmosphere, an amazing amount of Irish here so I have to give my country credit,” said Conlan, who insisted he was not bothered by fighting outdoors in the beaming sun. “It wasn’t a problem for me,” he added.
“I think we’re looking at the 22nd of September for the next one and I’ll be looking for a better performance than this one. Every performance is getting a little bit better and better.”
In the main event, home fighter Jeff Horn caused a massive shock by claiming a contentious unanimous points victory over Pacquiao.
All three judges scored the bout in Horn's favour - 117-111, 115-113, 115-113 - and while the Aussie put in a competitive 12 rounds, it was a highly questionable call.