OWEN O'Neill produced a left hook for the ages to to claim the vacant BUI Celtic light-middleweight title as he knocked out Owen Duffy after 32 seconds of the eighth and final round of their tear-up at Girdwood on Saturday.
'The Operator' was behind going into the round and needed a stoppage, duly delivering with a punch that had Duffy put cold and in distress with paramedics rushing to the ring to administer oxygen, the Cavan man leaving the ring on a stretcher and taken to hospital.
Thankfully, the reports were positive as to his condition and he did appear to be responsive as O'Neill urged a raucous home support to quieten down and show some respect to the stricken fighter, an act of sportsmanship and respect that was fitting given what the two men served up.
"It's a dream come true but I hope Owen Duffy is alright and that's all I can think about at the minute," said O'Neill.
"I couldn't really celebrate there as it was a bad knockout, so I just hope he's alright."
There was no settling-in period as both men tore into one another from the off, Duffy wasting no time in targeting the fleshy midriff of O'Neill who was also happy to dig in and whip in shots downstairs.
The Belfast man began to get a measure, getting more on the front foot as the opener progressed as the breathless pace continued.
O'Neill marched back out in the second, looking to close the gap on his southpaw opponent, but was picked off a couple of times on the way in that stopped him in his tracks.
Peach of a shot from Owen O’Neill !!💥 pic.twitter.com/xmFhWFHnrI— Ray Ginley (@Ray_Ginley) November 19, 2022
Yet the North Belfast man also had his moments, seemingly happy to make this a fight on the inside and he did get through with a good right, but a jolting right from Duffy just looked to stop the home favourite in his tracks at the end of the round.
Both men were throwing everything at this fight that lived up to predictions and then some, a war that's predicted and duly delivered.
Everything was being thrown with menacing intent - jabs almost non-existent - with both landing big hooks, first Duffy and then O'Neill with a right hand that drew a huge roar from his support.
Blood seeped from a gash to O'Neill's temple in the third, the result of a head clash and another coming together in the fourth as they continued to slug it out forced a break with Duffy's vision temporarily affected.
A pair of looping rights had an off-balance Duffy staggered in the fifth as the pattern continued, but it was probably enough to earn O'Neill the round, yet Duffy returned fire in another see-saw of a round in six.
A pair of lefts down the pipe had O'Neill in real trouble at the start of the seventh as he tried to hold on and he was stung again towards the end of the round, but somehow found a response with a right that to thru temple that appeared to buzz the Cavan man and force him into retreat.
The eighth and final round saw O'Neill knowing he had to go for it and he found the home run shot, a vicious left knocking Duffy out cold, the count abandoned as the Cavan man was completely out.
He didn't deserve to leave the ring on a stretcher, but it was necessary even though he was showing signs of recovering and was talking to the doctors. A sad end to a classic battle and one that will live long in the memory of all who were there.
Just a quick update. Thanks everyone for the messages. All good, currently getting checked out in hospital, as a precaution.— Owen Duffy (@OwenDuffy__) November 20, 2022
Congratulations to Owen O'Neill and his team on the win.
Thank you for one hell of a fight. pic.twitter.com/JKcTWthDJt
"Dee said to me that I needed it (stoppage) in the last round and to go for it," O'Neill revealed.
"I actually asked the judge after and he said Duffy was up by one.
"It's the best shot I've ever thrown and my first stoppage - what a time to get it. I can't believe it, a dream come true. I didn't think he was going to come out like that - I thought he would box and I'd be the one pressuring him, but he came out and gave me it. It was madness."