By Jay Mwamba
Alo Kelly boxed his way into the final four of the New York Daily News Golden Gloves 178-pound Open division last week. But Irish hopes of placing three fighters in the semifinals of America’s biggest amateur boxing tournament were dashed when the Mallon brothers, Martin and Sean, lost controversial decisions.
Kelly booked a berth in this Friday’s semis with a brilliant points win over tough Aneudi Santos of the Hempstead PAL at Our Lady of Angels in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, last Tuesday.
The County Westmeath prospect’s victory came on the heels of his Irish Ropes teammate Martin Mallon’s close defeat by Ehinomen Ehikhamenor in another light heavyweight contest.
And two night’s later, at an Elks Club packed to the rafters in Queens, Martin’s older brother Sean lost a hotly disputed quarterfinal decision to Bronx lightweight Julio Cardenas on the Camlough native’s 23rd birthday.
"They took my birthday present away," said the dejected Sean, while a chorus of "bull . . . !" lifted the Elks Club.
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"Robbed!" cried Mallon’s young trainer, Conor Higgins. "What do you have to do? The luck of the Irish wasn’t with us."
But while Sean may have gotten no credit for outpunching his Bronx foe Cardenas from pillar to post over four rounds, there was no denying Kelly, who was a controversial loser himself in the Gloves’ light heavyweight Open final two years ago.
Kelly, who’s 22, showed his trademark professional poise in outboxing Santos, in arguably the most impressive 178-pound contest of the night in Brooklyn.
He made his powerful left jab a factor from the first round, tagging Santos repeatedly and banging him with lead rights. Later in the four-rounder, Kelly began landing a thudding left hook to the body that further bothered the Long Islander.
The young Irishman, who plans on turning professional after the Gloves, underscored his dominance of Santos with a fierce barrage in the third round that forced a standing eight-count. Santos, however, survived the round and came back the busier fighter in the fourth stanza. But it was too little, too late.
"I had him hurt in the third," Kelly said later. "I’m very happy with the win. He was a tough a kid. I’m going to get better for the semifinals."
Kelly’s trainer Eddie McLoughlin was awed by his charge’s performance in the first three rounds.
"Very impressive," the trainer remarked. "But I was a bit concerned about his stamina. I like my fighters to have a little reserve in the tank. The last round was a toss up."
Kelly can return to the Golden Gloves final for the second time since his losing effort in 1998 if he wins his semi-final contest at St. Patrick’s Church in Brooklyn on Friday. St. Patrick’s is located at 9511 Fourth Ave. The first fight is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Earlier, 19-year-old Martin Mallon, the Irish intermediate champion at 178-pounds, shrugged off a slow first round to seemingly outbox Ehinomen Ehikhamenor, but it was the Gleason’s fighter who had his hands raised in victory.
After giving away the opening stanza, the younger Mallon started stepping up in the second round with left jabs and hooks to the body. He landed several big shots in the third round, including a vicious uppercut and one-two combination that rocked Ehikhamenor.
The two men fought to a standstill in the final round, eliciting a loud standing ovation from the crowd in the crammed gym at Our Lady of Angels. Nonetheless, it was Ehikhamenor who stole the show, according to the judges.
"They know best. I was boxing and couldn’t see it," Martin remarked after the decision had been rendered. "I felt good in the last two rounds, but I suppose I didn’t do enough in the first round."
Mallon’s father, Mickey, who flew in from Dublin with his wife, Regina, to see their sons box in the quarterfinals, said it could have gone either.
"Being the father, I’d give it to my son," he said. "But I thought it was 50-50. It leaves him in good stead."
Sean’s fight was hardly that close. The 1997 New York Metro Games titlist landed the cleaner, harder shots against the Bronx’s Cardenas from the first round, and proved an artful dodger in the second stanza as Cardenas tried to press the action. Cheered on by the capacity crowd at the Elks Club, Sean dominated the toe-to-toe exchanges that highlighted the third round.
And even after the referee had taken a point off him for supposedly slapping in the final stanza, he came back smoking and had the weary Cardenas staggering around the ring until the final bell.
Still, it was the New Yorker who got the nod, proving that poor decisions in boxing are not confined to the pro game.
"Martin’s result was close, it could have gone either way, but Sean’s [decision] was disgraceful," proud dad Mickey observed.
Said Anthony Colome, a 1996 Golden Gloves winner at 125 pounds: "That was a ridiculous decision."
The Mallon brothers are now gunning for the Ulster Championships, which start in Belfast on April 4. After that, a tour of Australia.