By Matt Richardson at ringside
Photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Ireland’s Michael Conlan, the 2016 Olympian, was forced to win his first professional fight by decision when he went six rounds against Luis Fernando Molina in a featherweight fight. Conlan (5-0, 4 KO’s) dominated the fight, as was evident in three identical shutout scores of 40-36 that were tallied in his favor.
Conlan, who made his professional debut in the same venue back in March, dominated the action from the outside but never sat on his punches long enough to do any damage. Molina (4-4-1, 1 KO) constantly came forward but was never effectively aggressive. Conlan, meantime, will likely return to the Garden on Saint Patrick’s Day.
Undefeated junior lightweight Christopher Diaz (22-0, 14 KO’s) blew away Bryant Cruz in three impressive rounds. Diaz dropped Cruz once in each round before referee Harvey Dock appropriately elected to call the fight off following the third knockdown in the third round. The fight was over just 37 seconds into the round.
A combination dropped Cruz (18-3, 9 KO’s) to the seat of his pants in the first. Cruz, who was fighting just three weeks after winning by knockout in New York City, rose unsteadily but finished the round on his feet. The ending was inevitable, however. A hard left hook dropped Cruz in the second, although he had a delayed reaction prior to hitting the canvas. Dock gave Cruz a hard look after that knockdown but allowed the fight to continue but it didn’t last much longer. A third and final knockdown in the following round (also one in which Cruz seemed to have a delayed response) prompted the referee to correctly call the fight off before any additional damage could be inflicted.
Former U.S. Olympian Shakur Stevenson defeated Oscar Mendoza via second round stoppage in the first televised bout of the night. Stevenson (4-0, 2 KO’s) dominated every second of the fight.
He landed virtually every punch he wanted in the first round but when the action resumed in the second he picked up the pace and really started hurting Mendoza with quick combinations to the body and head. Mendoza (4-3, 1 KO) seemed hurt by a combination to the body but would occasionally throw a shot back to deter referee Sparkle Lee from calling the fight off. But following an additional flush combination, Lee stepped in to call the fight off with Mendoza still on his feet but completely defeated. Mendoza did not protest the stoppage, which came at the 1:38 mark of the round.
Female lightweight Mikaela Mayer used her 5’9” body frame and more polished boxing skills to dominate Nydia Feliciano over four one-sided rounds. Mayer (3-0, 2 KO’s) boxed well from the outside and kept Feliciano at the end of a sharp jab for the majority of the fight.
Feliciano (9-9-3) tried her best – and occasionally landed – but she was largely outclassed throughout the eight minute fight. Two judges gave Mayer each round, submitting identical shutout scores of 40-36, to fortunately overrule an absurd 38-38 score. Following the decision, Mayer said that she would like to move on to fighting longer fights, with six-rounders being the possible next step.
Featherweight prospects Jose Gonzalez and Adan Gonalez battled to a six round majority draw. It wasn’t an easy fight for either guy. Gonzalez (9-0-1, 2 KO’s) was banged up and bruised after absorbing a series of clean shots throughout the bout, particularly in the early rounds.
Gonalez (3-1-2, 2 KO’s) counterpunched effectively and was often able to halt any momentum it appeared that Gonzalez was about to generate but he also ate his share of hard shots. One judge tabbed Gonzalez a victor, 58-56, but that was overruled by two scores of 57-57.
In the first fight of the evening at “The Garden” former heavyweight title challenger Bryant Jennings (21-2, 12 KO’s) continued his comeback from consecutive 2015 losses to Wladimir Klitschko and Luis Ortiz to defeat Donnie Haynesworth via third round technical knockout.
After a largely uneventful first round, Jennings started to break through the guard of Haynesworth (13-2-1, 11 KO’s) in the second. His punches started having an effect in the third and after Haynesworth was rocked on the end of a right, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. called a halt to the action. It appeared that Haynesworth may have injured his foot or ankle when he went back after absorbing the shot but it wasn’t immediately clear. After briefly consulting with Haynesworth, Mercante called the fight off at the 2:29 mark with Haynesworth still standing.