Regis Prograis will fight for the WBC world title after Tyrone McKenna was stopped because of a nasty cut above his eye.
A blood-soaked final eliminator for the super-lightweight belt was delivering on the pre-fight hype but McKenna, who had been floored in the second round, was pulled out in the sixth round.
Prograis was winning the fight but McKenna, true to form, was showing plenty of heart and guts, which rallied his fans at ringside.
But the doctor decided that his cut was too severe and handed victory – and a shot at the WBC crown currently held by Josh Taylor – to American Prograis.
“He’s a tough man, I knew he was going to be tough and when I knocked him down, I knew he was going to get up,” Prograis, now 27-1, said.
“But I stayed calm. He kept pushing forward and so I had to change my game plan and box more.
“I’ve been world champion before and I will be world champion again.”
A valiant McKenna, despite his pre-fight claims, admitted Prograis carries serious power.
“He’s world class, he’s heavy handed and he’s probably the hardest puncher I’ve ever been in with. He’s got massive power,” he said.
Probellum President Richard Schaefer was at ringside in Dubai and said: “That was an unbelievable show from Regis Prograis.
“In my opinion he is a top 10 pound for pound fighter, he is one of the best fighters in the world.
“And Tyrone McKenna has to be one of the toughest fighters I have ever seen.”
Prograis put McKenna on his back at the start of round two with booming overhand left but the Irishman, who says he loves going to war in the ring, was smiling at his rival as he lay on the canvas.
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Blood started to run from the side of McKenna’s head as former world champion Prograis took a firm hold of the final eliminator at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium.
The ringside doctor inspected McKenna at the end of the session and allowed him to continue and the ‘Mighty Celt’ whipped up his fans at ringside by attempting to mount a fightback.
Prograis remained in command, but McKenna refused to be beaten and enjoyed success in the fifth round as the American’s pace dropped.
However, a nasty cut above McKenna’s right eye opened up and forced the referee to call on the doctor to take a look.
After an inspection, it was ruled that the brave McKenna was in no condition to continue and Prograis, who called out new Probellum signing Jack Catterall after the fight, had his arm raised.