Michael Conlan Edges Ionut Baluta, Moves One Step Closer To a World Title Shot
There has been an expectation that Michael Conlan is a future world champion. The hype goes back to his storied amateur career when he won bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games, gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2015 European Championships, and the 2015 World Championships.
With eight KO’s in his previous fourteen bouts, he has steadily progressed up the ladder, showing improvement with each fight. Having fought at 126 pounds in the first thirteen bouts as a pro, Conlan has decided to move down in weight and campaign in the junior featherweight division.
His alignment with Top Rank promotions has been beneficial as he faces Ionut Baluta in a 12-round contest at the York Hall in Bethnal Green, England. Despite this being Conlan’s first fight at 122-pounds, he is already ranked #1 by the WBO at junior featherweight.
He is facing a Baluta who is on a six-fight winning streak. In March of 2020, he scored an upset win over former IBF World Junior Featherweight TJ Doheny. Ranked ninth by the WBO at 122, the 27-year-old resident of Madrid, Spain cannot be overlooked.
For Conlan, this fight carries great significance. With a win, he moves inline for a world title opportunity against current WBO World Junior Featherweight champion Stephen Fulton.
MORE CONSISTENT EARLY
Conlan (15-0, 8 KOs) is a boxer who can switch between orthodox and southpaw. He also sports a good jab and is good at judging distance. He used the jab and his advantage in hand speed to set the tone early on. Baluta (14-3, 3 KOs) is aggressive and awkward, and throws wild shots from odd angles. However, he was unable to close the gap to find a home for any significant punches regularly.
Round four saw Conlan press the action more on the front foot. Baluta adjusted by trying to get off with three and four punch flurries in an attempt to steal rounds.
TURNING INTO A DOGFIGHT
The action picked up from both men in the middle rounds. Baluta displayed an excellent work rate. While the accuracy of his punches was not the greatest, he was fighting very hard. Conlan was overall the more consistent fighter. He was also beginning to wear down Baluta with body shots. Yet, the Irishman was having a tough fight on his hands and was far from dominant.
Fighting with a sense of urgency, Baluta pressed the action over the last three rounds. He charged forward with shots and finished the stronger fighter. The action was intense up to the final bell.
In the end, Conlan ended up scraping out the fight by a majority decision (114-114, 115-114, 117-112). This reporter scored the fight in Conlan’s favor by one point. Afterward, Conlan said he wants to return to the ring in August for another tune-up fight, then go for a world title shot.
By: Michael Wilson Jr.