“It was a big statement” – Keeler could be set for world title shot after victory over Arias

By Stephen Leonard

LUKE Keeler could well have worked his way into position for a shot at a world boxing title later this year after serving up a superb victory over highly-rated American Luis Arias on the Féile an Phobail show in Belfast on Saturday night.

The Ballyfermot middleweight boxer appreciated the significance in surmounting his biggest hurdle so far that took his pro record to 17-2-1.

Luke Keeler v Luis Arias MTK Global 1

Indeed the 32-year-old has come a long way since his double defeat at the hands of British middleweight Tom Doran, with his decision to go full time with his boxing a year and half ago certainly reaping its rewards right now.

Speaking to The Echo after Saturday’s victory, Keeler said “I took his [Arias’s] best shots and I didn’t feel like I was ever in trouble. I have a good chin and that disheartened him.

“He’s a top-level boxer who has been around on the American circuit and to do a better job on him than what Daniel Jacobs had [in Arias’s only other defeat] was a big statement.

“I always felt I had a strong chin. Against Tom Doran [against whom he was stopped back in 2016] I rushed in and was caught. I’d had difficulty making the weight then and it was more a case of inexperience too.

“Being able to take his [Arias’s) shots got rid of any lingering doubts that I might not be able to take a hit.

“Before, while I might be hurting lads, I wouldn’t be finishing them off because I’d be worried at what might be coming back at me. It was a psychological thing, but I’ve put that to bed now.

“I was hurting him with my shots and I dropped him three times. He was out on his feet by the end of the fight.

“I’d had a few stoppages early in my career, but then they dried up a bit and I was questioning myself as to whether I did have the power.

“But in the last couple of camps and in sparring I’ve been really hurting people and it showed there. Working with Pete [Taylor] is great. He’s an amazing coach and he’s brought me on a lot”

Keeler was certainly not short of incentive coming into this fight especially in the wake of Arias’s comments that suggested the American was expecting a comfortable win.

“It was a case that I felt I was being overlooked and it gave me that bit of an edge” said Keeler. “As a boxer you want to have that bit of respect and that fear factor. I think it was a mistake on his part.

“Everything went to plan. The clouds cleared for my fight and crowd was all there and got behind me” he recalled.

Now looking ahead to his next bout, Keeler believes he will be back in action before the year is out, possibly November, and he’ll be ready to step up to the biggest of stages if required.

“My next fight could be for a world title” he said.

“Before this fight I was ranked sixth in the WBO and 12th in IBF. I wasn’t ranked in WBC and he [Arias] was seventh, so I’ll take his ranking and might even go higher.

“None of the champions in the Middleweight class are fighting each other so they need opponents and I’ll fight anyone.

“But I won’t be going into it just looking for a big payday, I’ll be going into it to win” he insisted.

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