BOSTON – Young Callum Walsh came to Boston intending to fight his first 10-round main event. It didn’t last ten minutes.
The undefeated junior middleweight dropped Wesley Tucker three times in the second round with rapid-fire flurries that finally left Tucker sitting on the bottom strand of ropes waiting for the sound of a saving bell. Instead he saw the waving arms of referee Leo Gerstel, who stopped the fight at 2:59 of the second round.
Tucker (15-5, 9 KOs) seemed clear headed and able to go on but, frankly, there seemed to be no point to that.
Walsh (6-0, 5 KOs) had been preparing for a tall, rangy conventional style opponent named Leonardo Di Stefano Ruiz but a week before the fight Ruiz broke his hand in sparring and had to be replaced by the 5-foot-5, left-handed Tucker. The change in opponents didn’t mean a change in plans for Walsh however, whose intention all along was to impress a surprisingly large crowd of 3,256 at Agganis Arena as the Irishman man from Cork made his Boston debut.
Walsh wasted little time forcing Tucker to back up, flurrying repeatedly as Tucker looked for an opportunity to counter. He landed once early with a check left hook but all that did was convince Walsh it was time to launch a whirlwind of punches.
“He caught me but it didn’t hurt,” Walsh said. “I knew then I could put pressure on him and get him out of there.”
Three times Tucker was sent to the floor from flurries in the second round that seemed to overwhelm his senses and his reflexes. The first time Tucker complained to Gerstel that he’d been pushed down on the top of his head. He had not but certainly his head had begun to feel like a well-pounded snare drum so his confusion was understandable.
Barely a minute later he again was hit by a flurry of punches, including two thudding right hands to the body and he sunk down along the ropes to the bottom strand before sitting down on his trunks for an eight count.
“I knew he came in (four pounds) overweight so he’d be weak to the body,” Walsh said. “You can’t train for that.”
With the round winding down, Tucker finally connected with a short counter hook but it was not enough to hold off Walsh or convince him to stem the rising tide of punches he was throwing. When the last flurry landed, Tucker was undone, awash in a sea of angry leather coming in waves.
“I feel if I can put the pressure on early I won’t ever have to go 10 rounds,” Walsh said. “Not many fellas can take it. I had one thing on my mind. Knock the guy out. I came looking for an early finish. I got the job done.”
In the semi-main event of the 360 Promotions card (streamed live on UFC Fight Pass), former junior welterweight title contender Danny O’Connor (31-3, 12 KOs) returned to the ring after a five-year layoff that resulted from being hospitalized with severe dehydration while training for a planned title shot against then WBC 140-pound titleholder Jose Ramirez in Fresno, California. Three days before stopping Luis Garcia on cuts at 1:55 of the fourth round in his comeback fight, O’Connor told a heart-breaking story of how he had lived for five years believing he had let down everyone who had supported him.
“I felt like I let everybody down,” O’Connor said. “Nobody knew the turmoil, how hard I tried to make it work.”
For years O’Connor had lived with a hidden eating disorder that had begun during his days as a high school wrestler. He did not begin boxing until he was 18 and then had a successful amateur career before turning professional. His career was on an upward arc until his fight with Ramirez had to be cancelled.
The result was a battle with both inner turmoil and his eating disorder. For a time O’Connor removed himself from social media and walked a lonely road, leaving New England for a fireman’s job in Colorado. Eventually he sorted out those problems, returned to begin training at a gym in Longmont, Colorado and finally came back to Boston to launch what he hopes will be a comeback of note.
“This week has been surreal for me. It’s been like a fairy tale since I stepped off the plane in Boston,” the 37-year-old O’Connor said. “I’m better than I ever was. I just want one last chance to prove it.”
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