Hartlepool’s Peter Cope edged out but shows he belongs on big stage

Peter Cope (left) battles it out with Paul Hyland Jnr last night. Picture by Lawrence Lustig
Peter Cope (left) battles it out with Paul Hyland Jnr last night. Picture by Lawrence Lustig
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Peter Cope says he would fight Paul Hyland Jnr again tomorrow in a bid to avenge his agonising points defeat.

The two lightweight contenders may not meet again so soon, but don’t rule out a title match somewhere down the line following last night’s eight-round scrap.

Cope produced the best performances of his professional career, only to be edged out 78-76 in a gripping lightweight contest with the unbeaten Northern Ireland prospect at the York Hall.

This reporter had Cope up comfortably at the half-way stage at the famous East End venue.

But the 26-year-old, from Belfast, shaded the second half of the bout on Matchroom Sport’s first NXTGEN show which promoted some of the UK’s most promising talent.

And on this performance in front of the Sky Sports cameras, the Neil Fannan-trained southpaw will not be short of work or hope after pushing Hyland Jnr every inch of the way.

Cope connected to the favourite’s chin early on with a right upper cut and landed another two rights in an exciting opener, though Hyland might have just shaded it on volume.

Roared on by his noisy Irish fans on St Patrick’s Day, Hyland shot out of the blocks in round two and got through with a right to the head, but back came Cope with a left to his rival’s chin.

Cope followed it up with a long left, a left upper cut and a right-left combination which found the target.

And the Poolie carried it on in the third, first with some good close-quarter work followed by six stunning head shots with no reply.

Cope was enjoying plenty of success and round four was another good session, picking off Hyland with a number of right-left combinations.

Round five was a close one to score, an improved Hyland coming forward but Cope very competitive.

The contest began to change in round six as the Belfast boxer forced his opponent back and he started the seventh in a similar vein, though Cope came back well at the end.

He found the mark in the last with a few eye-catching shots, but each time he landed with one blow, Hyland would respond with two punches.

This writer marked it 77-75 to Hyland on his very unofficial card, but with just a one round swing it would have been a draw and few could have complained if that’s how it ended.

A number of pundits had Cope a couple of points up, it was that sort of contest.

But the only view that mattered was judge Jeff Hinds, who saw it 78-76. It was a cracking fight and desperately tight and while Hyland edged it, Cope showed he belonged on the Sky Sports stage and this could go again.