By Jay Mwamba
Limerick native Don O’Regan came on strong in the final stanza at the Foster Laurie PAL Center in Queens last Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the New York Daily News Golden Gloves tournament with a split points decision over Patrick Mathurin in the 178-pound novice class.
County Tyrone transplant Stuart Kelso and Corkman Noel Kennedy could also advance to the quarterfinals if they win their next bouts in the prestigious amateur event tonight and tomorrow, respectively.
The 22-year-old Kelso, O’Regan’s stablemate at the Yonkers-based Boxing Connection, fights tonight at the Freeport Recreation Center (Merrick Road, Freeport, Long Island) in the second round of the 165-pound novice division.
Kennedy returns to the ring tomorrow night at the Yonkers PAL (127 North Broadway and Ashburton Avenue, Yonkers), after defeating Jason Pica in their 156-pound novice contest at St. Catherine’s Church in Franklin Square, Long Island, on Tuesday Feb. 12.
Like Kennedy, O’Regan had to dig deep to earn a 3-2 decision over Mathurin, a lanky southpaw from Gleason’s Gym whose long reach made him an elusive target in the early exchanges.
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“It was tough going for the first two rounds,” said O’Regan, who emerged from the ring unmarked. “He had long arms and he was a southpaw.”
But as Mathurin tired and O’Regan’s superior conditioning kicked in, the distance between the two novices shortened and the former Limerick soccer player was able to connect the more telling blows.
O’Regan’s best punch was a short left midway through the third that dazed Mathurin.
Said O’Regan, who offered the win as a Valentine’s Day present to girlfriend, Sharon: “I knew it was close,” he said. “I showed that the Irish fight with more heart.”
The 26-year-old received kudos from his trainers Isr’l Rodriguez and Nick Delury for his effort.
“We’re confident he can go all the way. We’ve worked hard,” Rodriguez said. “I thought he did very well. He’s had to fight two southpaws.”
O’Regan was a points winner over Adam Resnick in his first bout last month.
Inspired by his buddy’s performance, Kelso observed that O’Regan pushed himself to the limit to beat Mathurin.
Looking ahead to his match tonight, Kelso remarked: “I’m ready and waiting.”
And Kennedy turned on the style late against Pica at St. Catherine’s Church to make a winning start in the Gloves for Gleason’s Gym.
A counter-puncher by nature, he was on the defensive for most of the first round as the hard-hitting Pica pressed the issue. It didn’t help that Kennedy was slowed by a chest infection.
“He was hitting me because I wasn’t moving,” Kennedy said. “I had a bit of a cold and cough and wasn’t myself.”
Kennedy, whose sturdy chin kept him in the fight, got more involved in the second round by getting on his toes and counter-punching. But he was still in danger of losing at the end of the round, a point his Armagh-born trainer, Conor Higgins, made clear in the corner before the start of the third.
“I told him that if the fight is close here, they’ll give it to the aggressor,” Higgins said. ” ‘You have to do something,’ I told him. ‘Go out there and do something, and he did.’ ”
Kennedy went after Pica and opened up with both hands. The ensuing barrage forced the battered Pica to take two standing eight-counts and receive a warning from the ref for holding in desperation.
The five judges gave Kennedy a 3-2 decision.
“I learned a lot from [the] fight and there are some things that I have to correct in my style,” Kennedy conceded.
“I couldn’t have been more happy,” Higgins, who’s 27, said. “It was a terrific performance.”