THE last time Kieron Conway tasted defeat he was boxing in America (Arlington, Texas to be exact) just hours before Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez would set foot inside the same ring and take apart Billy-Joe Saunders inside seven rounds.
Tonight, 16 months after that loss against Souleymane Cissokho, Conway would again experience defeat on a Canelo undercard, this time dropping a 10-round decision to Austin “Ammo” Williams (scores 97-92, twice, and 96-93) in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, much like the Cissokho loss, Conway will later go to bed wondering what might have been, particularly given the momentum he enjoyed in the middle section of tonight’s middleweight fight and the fact a ninth-round knockdown tilted a close encounter in Williams’ favour.
Until then, Conway had been competitive, ambitious, and full of hope. He boxed competently on the back foot, placing a great amount of emphasis on his straight right hand, and he appeared composed under pressure, of which Williams, from round one, tried to apply plenty.
Wanting to get the job done in style, having promised something spectacular at the pre-fight press conference, Williams would set about Conway early, launching his left hand – looped rather than straight – whenever in range. He found success with that punch due, in part, to Conway being upright and a little tentative early on, but, sure enough, once Conway settled down, it became more and more difficult for the American to find his range.
In an effort to keep Williams off, Conway would land well-picked right hands on the retreat and had a fair amount of success with that shot, thrown as Williams set himself to launch his left, in the third. However, what also became noticeable, even as early as the third, was that the man from Northampton, with just four stoppage wins in 21 pro fights and only one stoppage (in his last fight in August) in four years, lacked the power to either make a dent in Williams or keep him from encroaching his space.
This was a key factor in terms of how the fight looked. For while Conway may have been producing the cleaner work at times, especially in the fourth and fifth rounds, it was always Williams, a squat southpaw, who was the one marauding forward and throwing both hands with reckless abandonment. This, no matter how clean Conway’s counters looked, offered the impression that Williams was busier, ballsier, outworking him. Not only that, it also caused Conway to tire late on, a swing of momentum crucial in allowing Williams to take over and ultimately win the fight.
Before tiring, Conway had a good sixth, steading Williams with a right hand, and imposed himself in the eighth, too, a round in which he claimed the centre of the ring and started, bit by bit, to bust Williams up. Yet, if that appeared a breakthrough, it was to be short-lived for Conway, with Williams coming out fast for the ninth and stunning the Brit with a sharp left hand.
This mini crisis was then compounded by a subsequent attack along the ropes, which resulted in Conway being staggered by a lead right uppercut and, moments later, slumping to the floor. It was at that point, if the fight was at all close, Williams, 12-0 (9), triumphantly pulled away, making the required statement he may or may not have needed to make to leave Conway, now 18-3-1 (4), once again ruining his luck on American soil.
A somewhat less interesting fight at super-middleweight between Kazakhstan’s Ali Akhmedov and Gabriel Rosado followed Williams-Conway and ended with Akhmedov sweeping all 10 rounds.
A circumspect start to the contest saw Akhmedov, 19-1 (14), stalk Rosado, 26-16-1 (15), from the middle of the ring and both men try to make an impression on the other via overhand rights. Of the two, it was the right hand of Akhmedov that seemed the cleaner, with Rosado’s more a desperate lunge, and it was enough, this punch, to see Akhmedov take control early.
It was not enough, however, for the T-Mobile Arena crowd, a section of which could be heard booing as early as round one. (Admittedly, the arena was at that stage in the process of filling up with Mexicans, the majority of whom are not accustomed to the concept of a “feeling out” process, yet it still appeared a tad unfair to make their displeasure known within three minutes of the fight unfolding.)
Reacting to this criticism, the Kazakhs in attendance rallied behind their man, chanting “Ali! Ali! Ali!”, and the action soon improved, with the fifth, in particular, a decent one, and the sixth a round in which Rosado, steaming forward, landed some solid right hands as Akhmedov appeared to tire.
The ninth was a good round, too. In that one Rosado, limited but always game, tried to stick it on Akhmedov and bowl over right hands, scoring occasionally, while Akhmedov, on the back foot, stung his 36-year-old opponent with straight and sharp clusters of punches to take the round.
By far the cleaner of the two, it was ultimately Akhmedov’s sharp-shooting at mid-range that would not only keep him one step ahead of Rosado throughout but, after 10 completed rounds, persuade three ringside judges to score the bout identically (100-90) in his favour.