By Jay Mwamba
Fighting twins Dave and Darren Conlon led a team of visiting Garda boxers to victory over their Police Benevolent Association opponents at the cavernous 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan last Thursday night.
The Garda pugs won all six bouts on the card, in the third meeting between the Irish national police force and New York’s finest since 1997.
The charity event was organized by Queens priest Fr. Coleman Costello to benefit his Walk the Walk, Inc., which supports abused senior citizens.
Darren, the older by 10 minutes of the 22-year-old twins who are peas in a pod both in looks and fighting style, was so impressive in his three-round destruction of old rival Robert Scopino, that he was named Boxer of the Night for his scintillating performance.
The Irish light middleweight intermediate champion forced four standing eight-counts on Scopino before the referee stopped the contest at 2:30 minutes of the third stanza. With the win, Darren avenged two earlier defeats
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to Scopino on his previous visits to New York.
"I knew I had to beat him convincingly to win. He’s a big crowd favorite here," Darren said. "I trained really hard this year and felt good."
He showed his good form by pummeling the shorter Scopino with vicious combinations throughout their match.
Dave Conlon, meanwhile, managed to box circles around Ron Bringham despite battling fatigue and spotting his PBA foe nearly seven pounds in a welterweight contest. He outjabbed Bringham and connected with sharp
one-twos en route to a points decision in the opening bout.
"I was tired. I don’t know what it was. And besides that, he was heavier than me by half a stone," said Dave, who improved to 29-4.
The Irish intermediate titlist at 147 pounds, Dave attributed the Garda fighters’ dominance to the introduction of computer scoring in amateur boxing.
"The Irish are more technically adjusted to the computer style. It’s about hit and move," he said. "Since computer scoring came on that’s how we’ve trained."
Andy O’Neill, a 24-year-old welterweight from Kilkenny, was outstanding in his international debut, dispatching Willie Ulero in two rounds. O’Neill decked Ulero with a barrage of blows that led to the referee’s stoppage.
He thanked his corner for scripting the win. "I had a good corner. It was a tough fight," said O’Neill, who’s now 18-2.
Trevor Markham, one of two 20-year-old Garda boxers, made a successful comeback to the ring after a three-year hiatus, decisioning John Mickel in a wild slugfest.
"I only had two sparring sessions before this," the 1997 national youth welterweight champ, who hails from Ennis, Co. Clare, said. "I’ve recently been accepted to the Garda, so that gives me the incentive to [resume] boxing seriously.
In other bouts, Dubliner David O’Brien landed the bigger shots in the decisive third round to get the nod over light middleweight Gregg Tragger, while the lanky Kieran O’Reilly, whose last loss came in 1996, beat the highly popular Gerard Sudan in a light heavyweight matchup.
"He was tough, very physical and it was a great feeling to win," the 20-year-old O’Reilly, who heads off to Templemore Police College next month, said.
Two of the Garda team, middleweight Conor Davis and light middleweight Willie Hamill, fought an exhibition match against each other because the PBA had no opponents for them.
Garda trainer Larry Morrison had predicted a successful evening before the bouts and was predictably thrilled by his fighters’ showing after the defeats of 1997 and 1988.
"I’m delighted with the results," he said. "We trained very hard and I’m glad. We look forward to coming back next year."
Said Superintendent Pat Killalea, who led the team of eight boxers and five officials:
"I thought it was an excellent performance," he said. "We were delighted to be invited over here to participate in this charitable event for such a worthy cause. We wish Fr. Costello and his venture every success."