Eamonn Loughran hurt Angel Beltre so often that a stoppage looked inevitable from the moment in the second round when the fighter from the Dominican Republic tottered back to the ropes like an extra from Riverdance. But in the end 12 repetitive rounds passed and Loughran kept his World Organisation welterweight title at the Ulster Hall, in Belfast's City Centre, on Saturday night.
Loughran was glum after the win. He has been the champion for 23 months, has made five defences but has failed miserably to persuade the Belfast fight public that he is worthy of their support. "Other boxers like Chris Eubank beat fighters like Beltre and they get the praise, but I can't win," said Loughran, whose gentle voice and low profile have led to the unfortunate sobriquet, The Quiet Man.
"If I had knocked him out in round two when he was hurt, people would just say he was a bum, but instead I won every round and still I'm criticised," Loughran added. It is an odd dilemma but it is not unique in modern British boxing. Duke McKenzie won and lost three world titles at different weights and was never given the respect he so desperately sought.
Loughran's trainer, Freddie King, found some comfort in elements of his boxer's performance. "A boxer can stop another boxer and look terrible and not learn a thing. Eamonn showed he is getting better but I wanted him to step it up in the later rounds," King admitted. The crowd in the Ulster Hall wanted the same thing.
Now Loughran will defend against Mexico's Jose Luis Lopez in late November or early December, possibly in his home town of Ballymena or back in front of the harsh Belfast crowd. Whether Loughran likes it or not, he will one day have to meet a quality boxer and perhaps then the verbal bullies in the Belfast audiences will show him more respect.
After Lopez, a meeting with Glasgow's proven Gary Jacobs would be an ideal move before the vicious welterweight champions Felix Trinidad of the IBF, Ike Quartey of the WBA and brilliant Pernell Whitaker of the WBC.