When boxing fans lose faith over its problems, a fight like Conlan vs Gill reminds us why we love the sport.
In a do-or-die fight for both men, unheralded underdog Jordan Gill of Cambridgeshire, England (28-2-1, 9 KOs) shut down Michael Conlan of Belfast (18-3, 9 KOs) in a sensational performance. Gill scored a second-round knockdown and took control of the fight, eventually forcing referee Howard Foster to step in and stop the bout at 1:09 of the seventh round. Gill wins the WBA International Super Featherweight Title.
Roars from the lively partisan crowd at the SSE Arena in Belfast fell to silence. Gill changed his life and his future in an unlikely comeback, the kind seen in movie storylines.
On the other side of the ring, the defeated Conlan absorbed the devastating loss. The hometown favorite must now think seriously about retirement.
Gill Changes His Life With Shocking Victory
As the fight was stopped, Gill gestured to the crowd, later saying it was to acknowledge the silence after their cheers during the fight, all for his opponent.
“I’m just a small kid from Chatteris. We don’t have world champions where I come from. I want to be a world champion. I’ve done everything but become a world champion. I feel like after this week, I deserve a shot,” said Chatteris.
Conlan was coming off his second hard defeat to Luis Alberto Lopez in May, a five-round beating until his corner threw in the towel. Fifteen months earlier, Conlan was winning his fight against challenger Leigh Wood until Wood knocked him through the ropes and knocked him out in the 12th round. The 32-year-old veteran couldn’t weather another tough loss.
Similarly, Gill moved up to the super featherweight division after his own hard loss in four rounds last October against Spain’s Kiko Martinez. At age 28, he needed a win to keep his career and his championship hopes alive.
With Conlan’s former foe Wood cheering his friend on, Gill looked like a completely transformed fighter, with power and pressure to spare. Conlan fought on bravely after a straight right almost drove him through the ropes (again!) in the second round. But he had little to offer Gill other than heart. Referee Foster gave Conlan every opportunity to rally but made a good decision to stop the fight when he did to prevent Conlan from taking any more damage.
“The plan was to make Mick work,” explained Gill. “I knew he lacked efficiency. I thought I could hurt him with either hand. I hurt him every round.” Gill said he thought the fight could have been stopped after the knockdown in the second round. “I thought when he got up, I’m going to get him, it’s just a matter of time.”
Gill said he knew Conlan had a lot of heart and pride, fighting in front of his Belfast fans, and knew he would be dangerous. Accordingly, he took his time wearing Conlan out.
A New Ballgame for Gill at Super Featherweight
Gill called the move up a division to super featherweight “a different ballgame, mate. Looking back, I should have moved up three years ago after my first defeat.” He could still make the featherweight limit, but he said it affected his performance when he fought Martinez. “I couldn’t hold a shot against Kiko, it was bloody embarrassing. It was like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh, bouncing around.
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn agreed, calling it a breathtaking performance. “From the time he scored the knockdown to the neutral corner standing there, something in his eye tonight said, ‘I’m going to do it. That wasn’t just a good performance; that was a life-changing performance.”
Gill Reveals Suicide Attempt in June
It was not only life-changing, it was also lifesaving for Gill, as he poured out the truth about his heartbreaking challenges in the months leading up to the fight – to the point he nearly took his own life.
“After the Kiko (Martinez) loss, I lost touch with myself,” explained Gill. “I broke up with my wife. On the 30th of June, I was in a field. I drunk a liter of vodka. I was going to kill myself. Someone saved me that day.”
Gill said he returned to trainer Ben Davidson’s gym, and the opportunity came to face Conlan. “My dad has been by my side, my friends and my family have been there supporting me. I can’t thank them enough Look what, I just changed my life.,” said Gill. Gill also plans to open his own gym next week in Fenland, West Anglia, through his Jordan Gill Foundation.
“I’ve turned my life around this year in the last four months. If you’re thinking, what am I doing with my life? You can do it. You can make a change. Nobody believed I could do this. I did, and that’s all that matters,” promised Gill, earning the cheers and respect of the Belfast fans who were rooting against him just moments before. This is the power of redemption boxing offers.
Father and trainer Paul Gill stood proudly in the ring by his son’s side. “I love my son just like every parent should love their sons and daughters,” said the elder Gill. “We all pulled together. It’s been a tough time. We’ve been the foundation. If you believe in yourself you can do anything. You just need the right people behind you.”
Gill now becomes a potential title challenger in the division. Hearn mentioned IBF champion Joe Cordina of Wales and WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete as future foes.
Conlan Should Consider Calling It A Career
The path forward for Conlan is cloudy at best. With three hard stoppage losses in his last four bouts, Conlan must think seriously about retiring. His previous promoters at Top Rank Boxing cut him loose after his loss to Lopez out of concern for his well-being.
Conlan signed with Matchroom to see what he had left. He now has the answers, but they weren’t what he wanted to hear. If he wants to fight on, surely he can get a paycheck as a gatekeeper. But his best days in the ring are behind him. He must focus on having good days outside the ring in the years ahead.
Conlan vs Gill: Undercard Results From the SSE Arena
In the co-main event, Lewis Crocker (18-0, 10 KOs) stepped up to challenge Tyrone McKenna (23-4-1, 6 KOs) in what was billed as “The Battle of Belfast” between the two local welterweights. The 26-year-old Crocker promptly took McKenna apart across 12 hard rounds to win a near-shutout decision. Scores were 100-90 on two cards, and 98-92 on the third. McKenna had fought far superior opposition, but the 33-year-old could not keep the buzzsaw Crocker off him.
Popular super welterweight Caoimhin Agyarko of Belfast (14-0, 7 KOs) lived up to his nickname “Black Thunder,” handing Troy Williamson of Darlington, England (20-2-1, 14 KOs) his second defeat by split decision. Scores were 98-92 and 97-93 for Agyarko, and 96-94 for Williamson.
Super lightweight Sean McComb of Belfast (18-1, 5 KOs) dispatched veteran Sam Maxwell of Liverpool (17-3, 11 KOs) behind three knockdowns in the third, fifth, and ninth rounds to win a lopsided decision. McComb picks up the WBA European title.
Prospect Cameron Vuong of Northumberland, England (3-0, 2 KOs) is quickly making a name for himself with his flashy personality and good looks. Oh, and he can punch, too. The 21-year-old scored a fourth-round knockdown against 40-year-old Michel Dufek of the Czech Republic (36-32-2, 23 KOs, and came on strong to get the referee stoppage.