Liam Conroy has praised the resilience of opponent Steven Ward after he withstood everything the Barrovian could throw at him during what was an epic title fight last Friday night.

On more than one occasion, Conroy looked to be taking charge of the bout against his old sparring partner, who was left with blood pouring out of a cut that was opened up by a clash of heads in the second round.

The 26-year-old even scored the one knockdown, thanks to a vicious left hook in the fourth, but the fact that Ward went on to control the next two rounds summed up the nature of the contest at Belfast’s Ulster Hall.

The pace of it was unrelenting and both boxers were out on their feet by the time the referee stopped the contest midway through the eighth due to Ward’s blood loss.

All three judges scored the fight by one point in Ward’s favour, making him the new WBO European light heavyweight champion, but the swelling above his left eye showed just how much he had to battle for it.

A gracious Conroy said: “I couldn’t believe how he was recovering – I thought I was going to get him out of there about five times.

“I had him hurting and his head was getting rocked back and I was thinking the referee was going to jump in at any minute, and then 20 seconds later he’d be fully recovered and pressuring me again. He was an absolute machine.”

The bout was the headline act on what was a successful night for Belfast boxing as a whole, with Ward’s fellow hometown boys Tyrone McKenna and Paddy Gallagher claiming big victories in the undercard.

Watching on from ringside was Ward’s friend Carl Frampton and the two-weight world champion dubbed the war waged between the two as the ‘fight of the year.’

Conroy said: “He’s one of the most respected people in the game, in the UK at least, and he’s been there and done it himself, so to get of feedback from him was quite uplifting.”

What was his third fight in three months certainly took its toll on Conroy, who admitted to feeling ‘shattered’ by the time the bout was stopped, having tried to end the contest early with a flurry of punishing shots from rounds two to four.

Up next is a well-earned period of rest with fiancé Mel and son Rauri, but when he does return to the ring, he hopes there will be a repeat against Ward at some point.

“I keen for that to happen,” Conroy said, adding: “I don’t know when it will be, we’ll see what happens. I’d love it, either over there or over here, I wouldn’t mind. It would be good for them to come over here [in England] after I’ve gone over there, but I’d happily go back and box over there in Belfast.

“I love boxing at Ulster Hall because it’s a brilliant venue and the atmosphere was absolutely electric, so the fight would be quite easy to make on my side.”