MICHAEL CONLAN HAS made a victorious debut at Madison Square Garden’s Theater Arena, recording a third-round stoppage over American Tim Ibarra.
Referee Benjy Esteves Jr stepped in at 59 seconds of the third round as Conlan teed off on his 26-year-old opponent, who did not offer any defence when trapped on the ropes.
The Belfast native attracted a sizeable crowd to the famous fight venue’s Theater with a 5,102 sell-out crowd present.
A bubbling atmosphere built up in the Garden Theater despite the fact that there was not much Irish interest in the undercard other than Monaghan native Larry Gleeson recording a points win after injuring his hand early on in his welterweight bout against Gabriel Solario.
A Top Rank promotional video set the scene for Conlan’s entrance with highlights of some of the US promotional giants’ greatest contemporary fighters, such as Manny Pacquiao and Vasyl Lomachenko, broadcast to the arena along with footage of greats like Muhammad Ali, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns.
Chants of ‘Olé Olé and republican songs swept through the venue where there was barely standing room as Irish fight fans stayed on their feet.
Ibarra’s entrance was bizarrely subtle. He entered the ring to a few boos and a nondescript rap song. Conlan had a promo video play before his arrival with traditional music and republican ballads accompanying his ring walk as Conor McGregor carried the tricolour to the ring.
UFC star McGregor was a vocal presence at ringside, offering encouragement to his fellow Irish fighter throughout the bout.
Conlan waltzed through the first two rounds, threatening a premature finish at the end of the second as a clearly overwhelmed Ibarra tired.
Esteves rightly stepped in during the third to halt the bout after Conlan put together a number of combinations as Ibarra lay on on the ropes.
“This is the real deal”, said Conlan after the fight. “I hope to Ireland’s greatest fighter… I was telling people all week I’d stop him in the third round… What an atmosphere, what a night”
McGregor, enthusiastic at ringside hailed his colleague, stating: “Tonight is Michael Conlan’s night… tonight is St Patrick’s night and the Irish are in town.
“That was beautiful work… he got the win and the win was the most important thing.”