Jamie Conlan stops Anthony Nelson in thrilling war, takes Commonwealth super-fly title

Conlan KO8 Nelson in WAR! Tonight at The Copper Box, super-flyweights Jamie Conlan and Anthony Nelson engaged in a fight so fierce, so thrilling, it simply has to go down as 2016’s Fight of The Year thus far into the 12 months. Conlan took Nelson’s Commonwealth title with a body shot KO at 40-seconds of the 8th-round, to improve to 16-0(10), with Nelson, who was making the first defence of the title, falling to 11-1(2) – but the final result does not come close to telling the whole story.

Conlan, of Belfast, unbeaten, against Nelson of South Shields, also unbeaten – the result: an epic war. The pace was hot from the start and soon the fans were screaming as the two traded leather, knockdowns, facial injuries and momentum.

In the opening round it looked as though Conlan, a year the older man at 29, might blast the defending champion out. A right hand decked Nelson, but, as Conlan went for the finish, Nelson fought back and landed head shots of his own. Already, Conlan’s left eye was marking up, as was Nelson’s mouth. The war was on.

In the 2nd, Conlan appeared to be a punch or two away from ending it. Pinning his man against the ropes as he teed off, Conlan had Nelson in bad trouble. Incredibly, the champion survived.

The 3rd saw Conlan take his turn on the canvas, as a right hand to the head put him down. Conlan got back up but he was being driven around the ring by a relentless Nelson. But Conlan – a fighter who is fast becoming an Irish version of the late, great Arturo Gatti – caught Nelson with another right of his own and by this stage, no-one knew who would win the barnburner.

The 4th saw more great action, with Nelson coming forward and Conlan looking to pick his punches. The 5th was terrific, as Conlan scored with a hard left hook upstairs and the two swung with everything – as they had pretty much all way through the fight. Then a big right stunned Nelson and it looked, again, as though it was all over for the defending champ. But no, Nelson, nicknamed “Baby Face,” somehow roared back! By this stage, Fight of The Year terms had to figure in fans’ minds.

Nelson was on top in the 6th, scoring with combinations. Conlan, again being driven back, had to eat a big right hand to the head. Both men were feeling the pace now, Conlan more so. And both of Conlan’s eyes were badly marked up. Still, the Belfast man, known as “The Mexican,” fired back with some quality shots at the bell.

In the 7th, after he took two uppercuts to the chin as he was on the ropes, Conlan went down. No knockdown was ruled, as the referee called the punch a low blow. But then, as action resumed, a right hand to the head sent Conlan down! Stuck on the ropes again, the challenger looked all done. What a round and there was still more drama to come.

Coming out in the 8th, looking perhaps as close to defeat as ever in his career (barring his unbelievable war with Junior Granados last July) Conlan whipped in a vicious left hand body shot and down went Nelson, badly hurt and winded. Just failing to beat the count, his sheer heart forcing him up, Nelson was waved off by the referee.

Fans were treated to something special tonight and already, in light of how great the fight was, there is talk of a rematch. Jamie Conlan is seemingly never in a bad fight, while Nelson showed astonishing heart, guts and strength. A return would be most welcome, but both warriors need a good, long rest first.