By Steve Wellings
Headlining in his home city, as local singer-songwriter Ryan McMullan plucked and crooned behind him, the stage could not have been set any better for Padraig McCrory. 45 minutes later, roared on by his fans inside a rain-swept Féile Festival opener, McCrory had secured a 10-round points victory.
The verdict was unanimous. McCrory scored a knockdown, suffered facial damage, tired down the stretch, but refused to leave with anything less than a raising of the arm.
‘The Hammer’ was full of praise for his dance partner. Birmingham’s Steed Woodall was smaller in stature but big in heart and desire. He also boasted a solid beard, soaking up the same repetitive bombs that had previously caused damage to good fighters.
“Steed is a guy who’s probably slightly underrated and I think he’ll cause a few upsets,” said McCrory.
“He came and fought. It was a good fight. It was something for me, being the main event. I found a way to get the win and that’s the main thing.”
Getting the win has become a common theme across McCrory’s professional career. His unbeaten record now stands at 18-0 with nine KOs. In late 2022, McCrory travelled to Germany to tackle Leon Bunn. Despite the best efforts of the home crowd and judges to aid their man to victory that night, the St James’s man’s power was simply too much. He smashed Bunn from pillar to post, picking up the IBO light-heavyweight title in the process. Now campaigning down at 168 pounds, even though there was no title on the line in the Falls Park, the mood was befitting of a high-profile encounter.
“Yes, the atmosphere was amazing,” agreed McCrory, who hails a stone’s throw from the outdoor venue. “I soaked it up. I’m 35 and it’s something that I’ll remember forever.”
Wins on the road and close to home are solid markers of his immense progress under the tutelage of coach Dee Walsh. As for what’s next, McCrory is leaving it in the hands of a promotional entity that knows all about big nights and blood-and-guts scraps.
“It’s up to Conlan Boxing. I just want a bigger and better fight,” he said.
That bigger and better fight may be mere months away as promoter Jamie Conlan revealed that he had already booked the next venue and had his sights set on a world level opportunity. However, there was only one sensible thing for McCrory to do next, as he sported a badly swollen right eye and the usual scars of battle. Conlan called for some rest and recovery.
“He had a very bad hand coming into this fight which hampered his training but it added to the element of the win,” Conlan elaborated. “We’re looking at possibly December time for Pody again, so very exciting. We’ve got the SSE Arena booked for the first week in December.”
“It was a different type of fight so I’d say it was my hardest fight to date,” agreed McCrory. “I was very hard on myself and just after the fight they [his team] were like, you’re here, you had a great night and you won your fight, so I’ve got to take the positives away. It’s my first main event in Belfast and it was a great night.”
Photo Credit Mark Mead