Jay Byrne has called on the country to get behind Lynn Harvey [5(4)-0-1] as she represents Irish boxing on the international stage and bids to become the first female from these shores to be crowned European champion.
The 37-year-old will hopes to move the famous blue strap from the screensaver on her phone to her mantlepiece as she challenges Catalina Diaz [4(0)-2(0)] for the vacant EBU strawweight title in Spain on Wednesday February 27th.
Byrne, who trebles up as a fighter, manager and coach, points out that it’s a massive fight for one world boxing’s historic titles.
However, he fears that, despite challenging for a belt which Carl Frampton and James Tennyson won en-route to world title fights in front of packed arenas, Harvey’s efforts may go under the radar somewhat.
In fact, the reigning BBBofC Celtic light middleweight champion has called for Irish fight fans and the wider public to recognise the opportunity and to lend the Kilbarrack star the support she deserves.
“What a fight we have here,” a delighted Byrne told Irish-Boxing.com.
“I don’t think people will realise just how big this is.”
“This is Ireland vs Spain and the country should be getting behind Lynn in a big way.”
“They would be going crazy if it was Katie Taylor. This is elite level title not a national title or that.”
The last, and in fact only, fighter to win the 105lbs continental belt is another Spaniard, Joana Pastrana, who is now the IBF world champion.
Victory abroad in Cadiz next month could similarly spring Harvey toward a world title shot predicts Byrne.
The EBU belt is affiliated to the WBC and a win for Harvey would put her in line for a fight with German world champion Tina Rupprecht – and there are also other lucrative avenues to go down with a fight versus top German light fly Sarah Bormann still on the table.
“If Lynn wins this the doors are open,” Byrne adds emphatically.
“Look, it was only November when her coach asked her to leave the gym because she hasn’t paid him for her fight. That was a fight she didn’t sell enough tickets to cover show and opponent costs and now next fight out she’s going for the EBU title.”
“Now, when she wins, the offer to defend may pop up and you’ll make money in a defence, but realistically will can try go after a world title shot.”
“We’ve been in talks for over a month with Sarah Bormann’s team and she holds a version of some world titles [the lightly-regarded WIBF and GBU belts] so now the carrot we dangle will be higher so pay up or shut up will be my attitude to them.”
Indeed, should Harvey win, it would be Bormann challenging her rather than vice-versa in terms of the prestige of the belts.
There is a real belief that this is a winnable fight for popular puncher, but some will have reservations over whether Harvey can to cut to strawweight.
It has to be noted that 38-year-old Diaz will also have to drop down from light fly, but weight isn’t a problem stresses Byrne, who is adamant Harvey will win.
“She wins this fight, no doubt about it. I think she will break her down and be too strong,” he adds before reflecting on the weight non-issue, explaining that strawweight is probably the Dubliner’s optimum class.
“People may question the weight, she has to come in at 47.6kg. Lynn won the Seniors in devastating fashion at 48kg. She walked around on the weight for two weeks at the time.”
“Granted that was four years ago, but Lynn wasn’t a child that has now grown into a woman. She’s the same Lynn then that she is now.”
“Also will have the support of her strength trainer [John Connor] who also has worked with Conor McGregor and Carl Frampton previously. So the weight will be spot on.”
Harvey secures a potentially career-changing fight just one fight in from returning from retirement.
Her manager admits surprise that the chance to fight for her first title has come so soon, but claims that, once mooted, it was made with ease.
“I’ve got to thank Andy Jennings for making the connection with Diaz’s team,” explains Byrne.
“Negotiations went smoothly if I’m very honest. Once offered the fight before money or anything was mentioned I spoke to Lynn and told her the belt it was and she was over the moon.”
“This is a belt she had as her screen saver for a long time. She told me when she asked me to manage her that was her goal and I told her how hard it was to get a shot at the blue belt but I would do my best.”
“I knew we would have more of a chance of an IBF or WBO European belt or something like that so to actually deliver two of my fighters [Karl Kelly challenges for the vacant Irish lightweight title in Belfast on February 9th] dream opportunities in the same month is very satisfying for me as a young manager.”