By Jonny Stapleton
‘Built2Last’ and here to stay. Craig McCarthy [3(0)-0] put the icing on a fantastically-produced cake with victory on a card which was so successful you can be sure it won’t take another 70 years for pro boxing to return to Waterford.
The local hero was one of eight home winners at the WIT Arena, but the real kings of the Ring King’s card didn’t step through the ropes.
While there were some brilliant performances and great stoppage wins from the likes of Mike Perez, Rohan Date and Eric Donovan – the production, atmosphere and indeed venue was all that was on most battle-hardened fight fans’ lips following the third Irish pro show of the year.
The WIT Arena was just perfect for boxing, the crowd start to finish and supported every fighter that populated the home corner, not just the one they bought tickets from, and it all came together for a memorable night.
Such was the atmosphere, Eric Donovan, who has fought in a number of National Senior finals and in front of 10,000 people in the World Series of Boxing, labelled it ‘the best atmosphere’ he ever fought in. Imagine if Lilywhite Lightening was a local or even top of the bill!
There seemed a real Déise desire to quench their thirst after such a boxing drought, but while it looked like the local fight fans were going to be served water, Neil Power managed to turn it into wine.
Not many would argue that the line-up, comprised mainly of fighters making their way in the game, was small hall in nature – but that didn’t stop the show’s promoter from putting on an event worthy of TV. There were big screens, concert style lights and ring walks of a pay-per-view main event quality.
Indeed, so successful was the show, it may set a new trend. Don’t be surprised if you see more promoters branching outside of Dublin and Belfast and putting more emphasis on the glitz and glam.
Keane McMahon [2(0)-0] got the show on the road and opened proceedings with a 40-37 points win over Filip Rzadek in front of an unusually sizeable attendance for 7:00pm.
‘The Iceman’ fittingly looked cool and composed and put a frustrating period of inactivity behind him with a routine victory.
McMahon showed good variation in terms of punches throughout and while he shipped the odd shot he was in control for the most part.
He did look a gear change away from a stoppage, but the fighter, who had to sit on a fold out chair between rounds, will benefit from the experience.
Another fighter to get rounds was John Joyce [4(2)-0] as he went the six for the first time in his career.
The Lucan welter outpointed Hungarian Ferenc Jarko 60-55 on his first trip outside of Dublin.
The Irish Army Corporal started with real intent and whilst it was more sniper than finger on the trigger in the first stanza there was venom in every shot.
Jarko certainly played his part and in the second he landed with some shots, but Joyce was content to take them if it meant he got close enough to unload.
He did just that and rocked his opponent on more than one occasion, particularly with a left hook, but the bell prevented him from capitalizing.
Coach Tony Davitt did his best Emanuel Steward Gatti-Ward impression over the next few rounds, passionately urging his fighter to ‘go to the body’ from outside the ring.
Joyce did do more bodywork that the Pimp My Ride team in the third and fourth, but while Jarko winced on occasion he used both will and skill – in terms of holding – to survive.
Accepting the fight might go the full six Joyce elected to enjoy himself in the last two stanzas and the tough man flirted with some showboating. One call for support from the crowd prompted a roar, but after the flurry that followed, Jarko was still there and made the final bell.
‘The G-Train’ steamed into the ring next and with excitement as his cargo once again. After a debut war where he got hurt in the first round most expected a more patient start from Graham McCormack O’Shea [2(0)-0] he came flying out of the blocks.
The Limerick ticket-seller lashed in left hooks from the off and took a right hand within the first 30 seconds. The N7 fighter was looking to do damage early but gave his support a scare when he hit the canvas. McCormack was straight to his feet, unfazed and the referee deemed it a slip, but some blood from the mouth suggested he had taken a punch before or even after he lost his footing.
The light middleweight finished well and when he picked his shots in the second he began to look dangerous.
McCormack O’Shea hurt opponent Hungarian Jozsef Takacs in that second and dropped him with a left hook that came of the jab his corner were screaming for him to use.
The southpaw went for the finish, but smoother his work somewhat and to his credit the away fighter was throwing some big hail mary’s from the back of the arena to try and relieve the pressure.
The fight followed a similar pattern for the next five minutes. Takacs was hurt on three more occasions and a lack of experience against journeymen opposition was all that stopped the entertaining home fighter from recording a first stoppage win. In the end, both he and his sizable support celebrated a 40-37 points win.
Within five seconds of Rohan Date‘s [4(3)-0] fight with Cork-based South African Jade Karam it was clear the card’s fourth fight wasn’t going to see the final bell.
The Dubai-based Waterford man’s ‘Ready or Not’ ring walk ultimately lasted almost 10 times the duration of his fight.
Karam, who was game against Belfast’s Last Man Standing hopeful Alfredo Meli over six rounds, was hurt with a left hand while the chime of the bell to start the fight was fading to silence and he never recovered.
Date pounced and within 26 seconds was confirmed the winner cementing his reputation as a puncher to watch out for and raising the roof in the WIT Arena in the process.
That atmosphere didn’t drop despite a break in proceedings and the fact a Kildare man was next to grace the ring.
The headbanded Eric Donovan [7(4)-0] came to the ring with boxing royalty in the form of Kenneth Egan and Gerry Storey in his corner as he took a break from headlining at the National Stadium.
The European title hopeful wasn’t long about showing his class and pedigree. There was timing, precision and skill that Ignac Kassai couldn’t live with. There were also signs that Lilywhite Lightening was using the fight to try an add some controlled aggression to his game.
A perfectly timed left tot he temple saw his opponent wobble to the canvas in the first and a beautiful uppercut from Donovan led to him applying the finish in the second.
Another fighter with amateur pedigree and another brilliant uppercut registered a quickfire win on the card when Mike Perez [23(15)-3(1)-1] entered the fray.
The World-level cruiserweight returned after exiting the World Boxing Super Series to Mairis Briedis and showed his power and class in the brief time he was in the ring.
Pablo Matias Magrini came to the ring with 15 knockouts from 19 wins on his record, but wasn’t able for the Cork-Cuban and was never getting off the canvas after Perez ended an attack with a big right.
Before Perez graced the Ring Kings ring light heavyweight Barry Barnes [1(0)-0] was registering a debut win.
The local fighter was handed a tough start with the game Przemyslaw Binienda manning the away corner. It was quite a baptism of fire for a fighter who hadn’t fought competitively for over a year, and was certainly a learning four rounder.
Barnes looked impressive in the first round, the left hook his preferred weapon of choice. However, after going for an early finish the local puncher allowed the tough away fighter to work his way back into the fight and was in contention going into the fourth.
Barnes continued to walk his foe onto left hands in the last and after two warnings a point deduction for his foe helped him secure a 38-37 win in front of an atmosphere usually reserved for debuting Olympians rather than Intermediate champions.
The noise was cranked up further when Craig McCarthy got in the ring. The local hero was patient throughout, but the excitement levels didn’t dip once.
Every well-timed shot in a technical battle was roared on with vigour as Built 2 Last ended proceedings on a high.
McCarthy stalked Bulgarian Teodor Lozanov over the first two rounds, but was patient and landed some timely left hands en route to winning the rounds.
A nice reactionary right hook showed what the super middleweight can do against more adventurous foes in the third.
Steve Collins Jr, who was manning the corner as Steven O’Rourke was down at the National Elite semi-finals with Tony Browne, was happy enough with B2L’s approach, but asked for the fighter to not just to rely on single shots going into the fourth.
Lozanov and a tendency to switch stance made that difficult, but McCarthy still took the round.
The fifth was the away fighters best round, he countered well and managed to land the straight right on more than once occasion.
The sixth saw the chess match resume and despite a scare when the 57-58 score was read out McCarthy was deservedly confirmed the winner.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)