Philip Sutcliffe Jnr enjoyed his biggest win to date last night at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin. Sutcliffe outpointed Yoann Portailler by a score of 79-72 but was made to work hard for his victory by a solid and well-chosen opponent who refused to be dispatched like so many of the puncher’s previous foes.

Portailler was ranked number 15 at lightweight in the recent EBU rankings. In his last contest he lost a 12-round decision to Belgian Jean Pierre Bauwens for the EU title so the 28-year-old clearly had title experience and was able to negotiate a championship distance. Yoann was no stranger to hitting the road either and winning away from home, having knocked out Brett William Smith (15-1 at the time) in his native Queensland, Australia in 2013.

Portailler began strongly, bobbing and weaving behind a high guard, the Frenchman pumped the jab and tried to give Sutcliffe angles. The 25-year-old Dubliner sized up what his opponent had to offer early on and set about him as the round progressed, unleashing the usual plethora of slashing right hands and left hooks mixed in with some tasty body blows. Portailler was clipped at the end of the first and staggered across the ring, opting to take a knee as Phil buzzed around looking for the finisher.

The plucky visitor managed to see out the opener and started having a go back in the second round. This trend continued through the third and fourth as even though Yoann was not bossing the fight he was giving Sutcliffe something to think about with some decent overhand rights. Portailler took the fifth on my card as Sutcliffe’s corner team screamed for their man to box behind the jab, work the body and let the shots flow more naturally as Phil rushed in for the kill too often.

By the sixth round Sutcliffe was beginning to time his man again and found a second wind. After putting his foot on the gas in the seventh ‘Sucko’ decided it was futile trying to remove the man from Blanzy and boxed in circles, in and out, throughout the eighth to take home a deserved, wide points win on Emile Tiedt’s scorecard. For the record, Mr Tiedt refereed all six contests on the card.

Father and trainer Phil Sutcliffe Senior commended the toughness and bravery shown by Portailler who was the perfect opponent for young Phil at this stage of his career. Manager Pat Magee is now looking for another step-up in levels. Despite a few grimaces post-fight as Bernardo Checa removed his gloves (which were the Japanese “Winning” brand as the team search for a softer option to preserve Philip’s brittle digits) it appears that there was no obvious hand damage.

“He was a tough guy and I expected a couple of rounds off him but he went the distance which is something I needed,” said Sutcliffe Jnr, now 8-0 (6 KOs).

“The hands are OK. There’s a bit more padding in the Winning gloves and hopefully we’ll be using them from now on. Hopefully Pat can push me on again and we can get bigger fights. I would like another eight-rounder but I’ll leave it to Pat to see where we go next.”

Belfast boxer Alfredo Meli made short work of Valentin Stoychev. The talented southpaw came out aggressively and whacked Stoychev with snippy portside leads and flurries of shots. The hapless Bulgarian soaked up a right hook to the body but seconds later stumbled into the ropes and looked at Emile Tiedt for help. The Dublin referee doled out a count and tried to coax Valentin back out for more punishment but the away man declined by wobbling around on unsteady legs. The scheduled eight-rounder was terminated at 2:10 of the first session.

Meli will no doubt get tougher tests than this one and he will need them as he closes in on title class. The Belfastman has skills and an Irish title fight with the likes of Luke Keeler or Anthony Fitzgerald would certainly whet the appetite.

Lightweight puncher Ciaran Bates defeated Pepi Perov 40-36. Bulgarian southpaw Perov always comes to have a go and provide some entertainment and this visit was no exception has he winged away gamely at Bates even copping the Dubliner with a few meaty hooks. Ciaran stayed calm and focused, however, and used his spearing jab and greater economy to subdue Perov who smiled as the rounds wore on and continued to take his lumps.

Bates was forced to travel a longer distance than usual but will be all the better for the experience.

There were wins for three local boxers earlier in the evening. Craig O’Brien opened the show with a 40-36 victory over Bulgaria’s Asen Vasilev. Light-middleweight O’Brien made his size and reach advantages work for the most part and peppered his opponent’s body with well-timed flurries. Podgy Vasilev, a well-travelled veteran, used his ring smarts to tie and smother and both men tired slightly as the bout wore on.

Despite this only being his second pro fight there are definitely signs that O’Brien has some skills to work with.

Gorey heavyweight Niall Kennedy enjoyed a 40-36 points success over Ugandan survivor Moses Matovu. Kennedy introduced a crisp, sharp jab from the start and landed enough variety to keep Matovu on his toes. The Belfast-based visitor displayed all of the feints and moves from his usual bag of tricks to keep referee Emile Tiedt at bay – not that Kennedy ever looked like stopping or really troubling his man. Trainer Paschal Collins implored his charge to keep throwing his range-finder and to ignore the antics of Moses.

Kennedy has ability and a bit of pop to go with it. Don’t we just love a good heavyweight to get excited about?

All-action welterweight Gerard Whitehouse went to war with Bulgarian brawler Teodor Stefanov and prevailed 40-36 on Emile Tiedt’s scorecard. Gerard threw plenty of leather to please his excitable following while Stefanov spoiled as much as he could to get through.

Midway through the show the Boxing Union of Ireland (BUI) presented their awards from 2014. Andy Lee was awarded Boxer of the Year, Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan collected the Knockout of the Year for his first-round dismissal of Anthony Fitzgerald in the 3 Arena last November. Jono Carroll was announced as Prospect of the Year and shared the Fight of the Year accolade for his barnburner with Declan Geraghty.

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