By Jay Mwamba
Blood and guts was the story of Don O’Regan’s brave quarterfinal loss to teenage banger Adam Willet in a three-round war in the New York Daily News Golden Gloves tournament at Cipriani Restaurant in Manhattan last week.
O’Regan, who’s 26, was holding his own in exchanges with the 19-year-old Bellport, L.I., resident in the 178-pound novice class bout when he walked into a straight left late in the second round.
He went down, got up at the count of five and earned some reprieve when the bell sounded to end the round. But the gutsy novice’s brief trip to the canvas proved to be the turning point in a rousing contest before some 300 fans in the marbled midtown eatery.
Willet, with two quick first-round stoppages en route to the quarterfinals, came out fast at the start of the third and final stanza, searching for a knockout to keep his streak going.
The southpaw landed a right lead that hurt O’Regan, but the Limerick native, the only one of three Irish entrants in the Gloves to reach the quarterfinals, smartly held on in an attempt to smother his man’s attack.
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Occasionally outgunned in exchanges, Willet resorted to taking pot shots at the head of his hesitant opponent, bloodying O’Regan’s nose in the process.
Despite the young American’s power, O’Regan, who appeared to win the first round by throwing the better and shaper blows whenever the men went toe to toe, took all Willet could dish out until the final bell.
“I thought he was a tough kid. I’ve got to give him a lot of respect,” said Willet, who went the distance for the first time in the 2002 Golden Gloves. “He was hurt, but he kept coming back.”
In the locker room later, O’Regan, nose dripping blood, offered a post-fight analysis tinged only with the slightest of disappointment.
“I got caught flat-footed,” he explained the second-round knockdown. “I felt good otherwise and was fresh at the end.”
Tactically, O’Regan admitted that he’d erred by letting Willet get off first.
“I was waiting a bit too long trying to get him to throw first,” he said.
Overall, he had nary a regret about his debut performance in the Gloves, the world’s oldest and most respected amateur boxing competition.
“I was happy to get this far,” he remarked, while praising his co-trainers, Isr’l Rodriguez and Nick Delury of the Yonkers-based Boxing Connection gym, for whipping him into shape.
Said Rodriguez to his charge, who promised to return next year: “You went out like a champion.”
Delury told O’Regan that he deserved the nod over Willet for effort alone. “They should have given it to you because you came back,” he said.
To reach the quarterfinals, O’Regan won decisions over Adam Resnick and Patrick Mathurin. Oddly enough, all three fighters he faced were southpaws.
The other two Irish contestants in the 2002 Gloves, Stuart Kelso of County Tyrone and Cork-born Noel Kennedy both bowed out in the competition’s second round three weeks ago.