The Navan middleweight had said last year that he was unlikely to enter, with him having other plans in the pipeline.
However, Blaney was announced as one of the eight at the press conference in Dublin last Wednesday, and ‘The Ginger Ninja’ explained that the Prizefighter-style tournament on March 3rd will help him achieve a major goal.
The minimum €25,000 prize for the winner is obviously an incentive, but Blaney is more interested in getting a shot at the Irish title, with the tournament’s victor becoming mandatory for the Irish title currently held by Luke Keeler [13(5)-2(1)].
Indeed, Blaney seems somewhat frustrated.
Having defeated Basque fighter Matiouze Royer last October to claim the BUI Celtic super middleweight belt, Blaney had hoped to follow the path of Luke Keeler – who won the same belt versus Bradley Pryce before taking on Darren Cruise for the vacant Irish belt.
However, this path was not available for the Navan fighter, and he has instead entered Ireland’s Last Man Standing to try force the issue.
“It was kind of a last minute decision, really,” he told Irish-Boxing.com.
“Me and Ricky [Hatton, trainer] were talking about it and, to be honest with you, I thought that after winning the BUI Celtic I would have done what Luke Keeler had done – fighting for the BUI Celtic and then the Irish title. I thought had done enough.”
“I was hoping for an Irish title fight, but obviously Luke has it and Luke has to make his mind up on what he’s doing. I’m here to win titles. Luke has it, and if Luke wants to fight me for it, or vacate it, or whatever, I’d jump at the chance.”
“Luke has the Irish title, I’m not sure what his plans are – and I don’t think he’s too sure either after having just come back from injury and changing management.
With no Irish title fight forthcoming, the eight-man single-elimination tournament quickly became an attractive option for Blaney.
The 25-year-old recalled how “I said I’d jump into this and see what happens. It’s good prize money, there’s good fighters in it, win it and you’ve another three wins on the record – it would be silly not to do it.”
“It’s no-risk, really. It’s only the start of my career and a loss this early is not going to mean too much to be honest with you. I’m not one of them who want to be 20-0 and still fighting bums.”
“Winning this makes you mandatory for the Irish title – so it’s another step forward anyway. Whatever happens, happens.”
Blaney has adjusted well to the pro ranks, adapting to the longer format. Now though he jumps back down to three-round fights.
It’s not ideal, but the Royal reassures that he will be ready.
Blaney admits that “I’m not the faster starter in the world, I know that, everybody knows that. But I’ll be alternating training so I can come out all guns blazing and I’ll be ready on March 3rd.”
“Ricky’s never trained anyone for it, but I was talking to him last week and he’s already got the training set out for it. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to that! It will be an experience in itself, sparring will be a lot more intense.”
“To win this you’re going to have to be in the best shape of your life, and I think I will be,” he added before pointing to the intangibles he possesses and which may drag him over the line.
“I prefer to box, but when it comes to it, I think I do have a bit of heart and I showed that in the fight before Royer, Anthony Fox. He was one tough cookie that just kept coming forward. As I had said, I was drained after two rounds, but I still did four rounds of pure war, that’s what it was. I dug deep and won on my worst performance.”
“Anthony Fox just came forward, Royer didn’t do much, these guys have talent, and I think these lads will make me look better
Such is the small pool of fighters in Ireland, a lot of the eight entrants have boxed each other before in the amateurs.
Blaney is no different, having been beaten by Roy Sheahan – who, at 33, has turned pro for this competition – in the semi-finals of the 2015 Irish Elite Senior Championships.
The pair are good friends and, for Blaney, it is a dream final.
Looking back at their previous meeting, he notes how “it could have gone either way. I know it, Roy knows it, we said it to each other. We were sparring beforehand, getting each other ready for the Seniors!”
“I’m good friends with Roy, I’ve great respect for him and I hope he does well in his camp and it takes off for him in the professionals.”
“Me and Roy, it would be a great final. I would love to see Roy and I in the final to be quite honest. No hard feelings, obviously, but I want to avenge that loss.”
“Roy’s a character, we’re great friends, and we’d remain great friends after it.”
Photo Credit: Laszlo Geczo Photography