Lamont Roach Jr. Returns Home to TKO Feargal McCrory

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lamont Roach Jr. was victorious in Friday’s homecoming, fighting through a gritty challenge from Feargal McCrory, scoring three knockdowns and picking up an eighth-round technical knockout.

If ever there was a time for Roach to come home, it was his first title defense. Roach won the WBA’s junior lightweight title last November, defeating Hector Garcia by split decision on the undercard of David Benavidez’s victory over Demetrius Andrade.

This headlining bout at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C., was Roach’s first time fighting in front of his hometown crowd since November 2017. Somehow it was only the fourth appearance ever in the area for a fighter who was born in the nation’s capital and now lives in a neighboring county. 

“I’ve been training my ass off to put on a spectacular performance,” Roach said afterward.

McCrory, meanwhile, was in hostile territory – though he had vocal supporters in attendance who made sure they were heard both from the outset and throughout. They chanted, “Olé, Olé, Olé” as the fight began, and McCrory was spurred forward. It was Roach, though, who landed the first notable blows of the bout with a one-two combination, and soon two left hooks followed by a right hand. McCrory continued his pursuit, and as the round closed he pounded away at Roach’s body.

McCrory tried more bodywork to start the second; Roach wisely tied him up. He couldn’t spend the entire round holding McCrory, who dedicated much of his offense to Roach’s midsection. Roach landed with two blows to the head and a left hook to the body, and soon dug another hook to the body followed by one upstairs. McCrory appeared to be reeling in the waning moments of the round.

Roach scored a knockdown early on in the third round, timing a left hook as McCrory moved forward. McCrory rose and returned to his standby, the body shots underneath and around Roach’s high guard. Roach retaliated with a pair of body shots of his own, plus some punches to the head.

Roach scored two knockdowns in the fourth round by giving McCrory a dose of his own medicine.

McCrory had been trying to smother him, and Roach sought to create breathing room to work, finding spots for an uppercut here, a hook there, punching and then moving, rinse and repeat. Then Roach went downstairs with two body shots, then another right to the core, and McCrory hit the floor. McCrory rose at the count of eight, and Roach went straight back at him with a left to the body. McCrory went down again, shaking his head, rising and pounding his gloves.

The bell ended, saving McCrory from further agony. He wasn’t going away just yet, though.

Roach again landed a left hook counter as McCrory approached at the start of the fifth, followed soon by two more shots to the head. Then came an extended sequence with McCrory on offense and Roach throwing little. Then Roach, with his back still on the ropes, began to let his hands go again, using McCrory's proximity and aggression against him.

They fought at close quarters for much of the sixth, McCrory digging to the body and mixing in short shots to the head, trying to suffocate Roach's own output.  Roach found room and took advantage of it with a series of flush shots in the final 30 seconds of the round.

McCrory started the seventh taunting Roach by holding his gloves down by his side. He wouldn’t end the round with anywhere near as much bravado. Roach pummeled him with a varied attack, buzzing McCrory, who teetered and tied up.

As the eighth got under way, McCrory was less able to get inside, which meant Roach was also more able to pick McCrory off as he came forward. A counter right turned McCrory around. A left and a right to the head hurt McCrory, who was unable to tie up and prevent the onslaught to come. Roach flurried, trying to force the referee to step in, and instead McCrory’s camp alerted a ringside official, who stepped onto the canvas.

Roach moved to 24-1-1 (9 KOs). The lone loss was in a title fight against Jamel Herring in 2019. The draw came against Orlando Cruz in 2018. Roach has improved since then – and with a world title around his waist, now wants to add more to his collection.

“My next goal to conquer is unification,” he said afterward. “I'm the best at 130. I hope I showed it tonight, but I'm definitely going to show it when I unify.

Roach’s preference is O’Shaquie Foster, who will defend his WBC belt next week against Robson Conceicao. In a post-fight interview with Marco Antonio Barrera, Roach was asked about WBO titleholder Emanuel Navarrette.

“It would be a total, all-out war,” Roach said. 

McCrory, a prospect from Ireland who now fights out of New York, is now 16-1 (8 KOs). He said afterward that he appreciated his team making the tough decision to stop the bout given that he, as a fighter, never would’ve done so himself.

“We knew Lamont was a good fighter. They don’t give out world titles,” McCrory said afterward. “But we came here to win. We trained to win. We prepared the best that I possibly could. And tonight I wasn’t good enough.”

Follow David Greisman on Twitter @FightingWords2. His book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” is available on Amazon.

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