After four long years the Sky Sports cameras return to Belfast tomorrow night.
Matchroom are back in town for the ‘Belfast Boy’ card and, hopefully, the coronation of the next Irish boxing star.
Ryan Burnett tops his first card and looks to wrestle the IBF bantamweight title away from Englishman Lee Haskins atop a packed bill.
We here at Irish-Boxing.com exist in bubble. so our view of this card may perhaps be a bit different to most. From the outside the card looks to be one lacking in star names and has come in for some criticism. This is inarguably true, however the matchmaking, we believe, has given it the potential to be one of the most entertaining cards of the year.
Between the headliner, the two chief supports, and a smattering of scraps on the undercard, there are high hopes that this bill will deliver.
In the headline fight Burnett [16(9)-0] has been presented with a real tricky assignment. Haskins [34(14)-3(3)] is an established and experienced champion and a massive jump in level for the Belfast boxer. An extremely awkward fighter who can steal rounds and spoil momentum, it will require a career-best and disciplined performance from Burnett to win the red belt. The fight has been dismissed as being ‘boring’ – and indeed it may not be one for repeat viewing – however it is an evenly matched bout and promises, for Irish boxing fans at the very least, to be an enthralling contest.
Chief support sees Paul Hyland Jr [15(5)-0] also take a massive step up, with the Lagmore lightweight taking on Adam Dingsdale [16(4)-3(0)] off the back of a career-best win over Peter Cope. The English boxer has mixed it with big names, including Dublin’s Steve Ormond and Scouser Derry Mathews, and defeated recently-mooted Hyland opponent Michael Devine. The former Southern Area champ is a hard-working come-forward fighter and in many ways Dingsdale is a perfect foil to Hyland. A 50:50 despite what the bookmakers say, it looks to be an almost guaranteed war.
The same can be said of James Tennyson [18(14)-2(2)] v Ryan Doyle [14(8)-1(1)-1]. At just a few days notice, Tennyson was presented with a late change of opponent as Ben Jones pulled out and Doyle stepped in. The switch was widely applauded, with the popular Doyle being viewed as a tougher fight for Tennyson than Jones and another good match-up following his Irish title win over Declan Geraghty. ‘Ruthless Ryan’ has held Commonwealth featherweight champion Isaac Lowe to a draw and won the English title last Summer and, like Tennyson, he has now stepped up to 130lbs. The Manchester-Dubliner is an aggressive puncher with an exciting style, there will be fireworks and it’s hard to see this fight going the distance.
Dubliner Ian Tims [13(4)-3(2)] looks to reclaim the Irish title in an intriguing crossroads clash with Swindon-Wexford puncher Luke Watkins [10(6)-0]. Very much a case of youth versus experience, the Paddy Fitzpatrick-trained Watkins has big power and an aggressive approach, while the rugged Tims has an underrated boxing skill set and an ability to grind down opponents. A clash of styles that is too close to call, will it be a last hurrah for Tims or a coming out party for ‘The Duke’?
Cork-Cuban cruiserweight Mike Perez [21(13)-2(1)-1] has his first outing at cruiserweight and looks to be focused and in supreme shape. A proposed fight with Tommy McCarthy would fall through and instead Perez will face Slovak champion Viktor Biscak [10(7)-0]. While the Central European holds an impressive record, it’s quality is questionable and expect Perez to score a first round stoppage.
Celtic welterweight champ Paddy Gallagher [10(6)-3(0)] returns after seven months out and has been handed a refreshingly testing comeback bout. ‘The Pat Man’ faces Craig Kelly [9(2)-10(4)-1], a former Scottish champion, over six. While it wont be the toughest fight of Gallagher’s career, the Glaswegian, who recently was defeated in a bid to reclaim the belt, will be coming to win and is definitely a much better choice of opponent than a standard journeyman rust-shaker. In addition, Kelly came in almost half a stone heavier than the Belfast boxer at today’s weigh-in
Early on in the undercard, Coalisland super feather Feargal McCrory [5(2)-0] faces the toughest fight of his career yet when he takes on Paul Holt [6(2)-4(2)] over six. ‘The Incredible Holt’ has campaigned at Area level in recent times, losing over ten to Bobby Jenkinson for the Midlands 126lbs belt in 2015 before winning the super featherweight equivalent against Louis Fielding last September. The Brummie would then lose a fight for the title against Leon Woodstock in April. Holt was also beaten over six by Scottish champion Joe Ham, but had the Glaswegian down in this contest. The battle of the southpaws is another good fight for ‘Fearless Feargal’ who recently took a step up to stop Liverpudlian Jay Carney.
Possessor of one of the longest unbeaten streaks in Irish boxing, Matt Wilton [15(3)-0] is aiming to begin down a road which will see him move quickly toward the British welterweight title. His opponent tomorrow will be familiar English journeyman Willie Warburton [23(4)-115(2)-0]. Immensely talented, the challenge posed by Warburton is usually dependent on which version of the journeyman shows up on the night. Considering the stage, it is hoped that the Warburton that has claimed wins over the likes of Jason Welborn will be on display rather than the somewhat lethargic fighter we saw against Gerard Healy back in April.
Derry super bantam Tyrone McCullagh [6(4)-0] was unfortunate to see a number of strong opponents fall through, but he will still face a decent enough operator. The Foylesider is in against Nicaraguan Jose Aguilar [16(6)-34(9)-4] in a four rounder. Since entering the European scene, the Central American has gone the distance with the likes of Charlie Edwards and Raza Hamza, while he was stopped in the fourth by Olympian Joe Cordina. While it wont set the world alight, Aguilar is not an excessive spoiler.
Finally there are the professional deuts of Kieran Farrell-managed Belfast duo Padraig McCrory and Sean Magee. The St James super middle and Ardoyne super bantam make their paid bows over four rounds. Both box against English journeymen, with McCrory taking on Jacob Lucas [0-8(2)-2] and Magee facing Jules Phillips [1(0)-7(1)]. While the records may not be easy on the eye, both will provide durable introductions into the pro game and a stoppage for either would be a big statement.
Also featuring on the card, in a live TV float bout, is Welsh bantam Sean McGoldrick. The Commonwealth Games gold medalist fights Liverpudlian Ricky Starkey [2 (0)-1(1)-1] over four.
Tickets for ‘Belfast Boy’ on June 10th at the SSE Odyssey Arena cost £30, £40, £60, £100, and £150 (VIP), and can be bought HERE.
LISTEN: Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill speak to Luke Keeler and Paddy Barnes on Episode 6 of The Irish Boxing Show: