Michael Conlan debuts with KO of Tim Ibarra in third round

NEW YORK -- The largely Irish crowd that packed the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Friday night -- St. Patrick's Day -- got exactly what it came for: the celebration of its next potential boxing superstar.

Junior featherweight Michael Conlan, the Irish Olympic hero, made his professional debut in the main event and delivered a one-sided, third-round knockout of Tim Ibarra before a raucous sellout crowd of 5,102. That was the round Conlan predicted he would end it in.

"It was a debut you couldn't even dream of," Conlan said, adding that all he wanted to do after the fight was have pizza, donuts and hot wings.

"I was relaxed coming to the ring, but then you want to impress and perform. I didn't think I performed that well, but who has a debut like this and has this much pressure on them? It was like nothing I every experienced before. I am happy with how things went."

The crowd chanted and sang and was thrilled by Conlan's dramatic ring walk with his pal and countryman Conor McGregor, the UFC superstar lightweight champion, at his side draped in an Irish flag.

In the dressing room before the fight, McGregor offered him prefight advice: "Stay calm in the chaos, controlled in the chaos. Relax, let it come to you. This is your night."

It sure was -- just as expected.

Conlan, 25, opened the scheduled six-rounder mainly working his jab as McGregor stood at ringside next to the media section and shouted instructions to him. Conlan turned up his offense in the second round, throwing more hooks and body shots and continuing to rock Ibarra's head back with the jab.

Conlan (1-0, 1 KO) continued to pound on the tough Ibarra (4-5, 1 KO), 26, of Denver, with body shots and hard hooks in the third round. He was hammering him all over the ring and had him on the ropes and eating punches from a two-handed assault when referee Benjy Esteves Jr. stepped in to wave it off 59 seconds into the round.

McGregor loved what he saw, telling Conlan in the ring, "That was beautiful work. You did what you had to do, you got the win."

Conlan's manager, former middleweight contender Matthew Macklin, was pleased.

"Michael was too eager at first," he said. "But he had a lot of pressure on his shoulders."

Top Rank chairman Bob Arum is very high on Conlan's prospects.

"I think this kid can be absolutely huge. He excites people," Arum said. "To be really, really great it will depend on his ability, but he's a hardworking guy. He trains every day with world champions. He's dedicated. He's making the sacrifices, so I think he'll be very good."

Conlan won a gold medal at 123 pounds at the 2015 world amateur championships and a bronze medal at 114 pounds in the 2012 Olympics, but he made international headlines at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics because of what he did after being eliminated in extremely controversial fashion via decision against Russia's Vladimir Nikitin in the bantamweight quarterfinals.

An emotional Conlan, 25, gave double middle fingers to the judges while still in the ring and then ripped them and the AIBA (International Boxing Association), the organization that oversees amateur boxing.

Then he signed with Top Rank and relocated with his fiancée and their 2-year-old daughter from Belfast, Northern Ireland, to Marina Del Rey, California, in mid-January so he could focus on his career and train with Manny Robles. He also came to the United States so Top Rank could build him into the star he yearns to be around the world, not just in Ireland.

He is off to a good start and will be back May 12 or May 19 in Boston.

"I think this is what boxing is about," Arum said. "Isn't it shortsighted that there is not one [English-language] network in this country that would pick up this fight for reasons only they can see. That's what's hurting boxing. This was theater, entertainment. Was it a great fight? Of course not, but it was a really good show."

Said Conlan, "What an atmosphere, what a night."

Saucedo knocks out Garcia

Junior welterweight up-and-comer Alex Saucedo (24-0, 15 KOs), 22, of Oklahoma City, dominated Johnny Garcia (19-5-1, 11 KOs), 34, of Holland, Michigan, in a second-round knockout victory. With trainer Abel Sanchez -- also Gennady Golovkin's trainer -- in his corner, Saucedo ripped through Garcia with ease.

Saucedo started fast, badly hurting Garcia along the ropes with a left hook and a barrage of follow-up punches in the first round. Later in the round he nailed Garcia with a left hand to knock him down.

In the second round, Saucedo caught him with a hard right and then a left that severely rocked his head back, and referee Steve Smoger intervened at 2 minutes, 22 seconds.

"Everything in camp is power, power, power, power. We're not looking to outbox the other guy," Saucedo said.

Sanchez liked what he saw, giving him an A-minus grade.

"He needs two or three more fights like this before he can get into a title situation," said Sanchez, who was working with Saucedo for the second time.

• Junior lightweight Robson Conceicao (3-0, 2 KO), 28, who became the first Brazilian boxer to win an Olympic gold medal, doing so in front of the home crowd in Rio de Janeiro at the 2016 Games, stopped Aaron Hollis (4-4, 2 KOs), 19, of Cincinnati, in the second round.

Conceicao dominated the fight. He dropped Hollis with a flush right hand with about 15 seconds remaining in the first round of their scheduled six-rounder. In the second round Conceicao unleashed a series of unanswered punches and was rocking Hollis when referee Shada Murdaugh stepped in to stop the fight 36 seconds into the round.

• Davie, Florida, lightweight prospect Teofimo Lopez Jr. (3-0, 3 KOs), a 19-year-old 2016 Olympian for his parents' home nation of Honduras, cut through Daniel Bastien, 20, of Mexico, with ease. Lopez, with blazing hand speed and good power, dropped him with a body shot early in the second round. Bastien got to all fours but had no interest in continuing as referee Murdaugh counted him out at 39 seconds. Just after Murdaugh completed the count, Bastien jumped up.

"He was a tough fighter and he was coming on strong, so I knew that I had to finish him and that's why I went to the body," Lopez said.

Lopez has looked sharp in each of his fights since turning pro in November on the Manny Pacquiao-Jessie Vargas undercard. It's what he expects from himself.

"When I was 13, I wanted to turn pro but I had to do it by the regulations, but I've always had it in me. I've sparred with the best -- Ashley Theophane, Shawn Porter, [Guillermo] Rigondeaux, Amir Imam, Rances Barthelemy. I've sparred with the best and that's why I make it look easy. I think there's a special fighter who comes along every 20 years, and I'm the next one."