19 September 2008 – by Conor Ward
The Cork public are well known for supporting and lauding their own when it comes to sporting endeavours.
The north side of the city in particular is a place where every self-respecting barstool has reverberated over the years with tales of how the great Christy Ring brushed aside the hardest of hard opponents, and of how Mayfields famed boy in green set the tone for World Cup qualification by giving Dutchman Marc Overmars a chilling early welcome to Lansdowne Road. Its hardly pushing the boundaries of reasonable observation to surmise that they take pride in their sporting heroes on Leeside.
But it is a place where standards are high and you need to earn your stripes by demonstrating either a big heart for battle or ability which goes far above and beyond the mediocre, preferably both. So what happens when three unknown Cuban guys land themselves into that very environment looking to embark on their professional boxing careers?
Well for one thing, Cork people are not slow to recognise sporting pedigree when they see it, and when all three boasting world junior championships, that box is well and truly ticked. And so last Saturday night at Neptune Stadium, Cork succumbed to a three-pronged Cuban invasion, welcomed these boys as their own, and maybe even dreamt a little of bigger things to come.
Young featherweight Alexi Acosta was the first of the Cuban trio to step into the ring on the show which local promoter Gary Hyde billed as Celtic Crossing. Making his professional debut on territory foreign to him, having only recently arrived on these shores, Acosta may have been a touch apprehensive about the reception which awaited him. But sure enough, cries of Go on Lexi Kid echoed around the arena as the silky-smooth youngster locked horns with his Bugarian opponent Krastan Krastanov. Two sweet Acosta left hooks ended the bout in the second round and his pro career was up and running with the minimum of fuss.
Super middleweight Luis Garcia showed he was the real deal by overcoming a spirited challenge from Latvian Martins Kukuls. Garcia, a supremely conditioned athlete and an astute ring operator, drew oohs and ahs from his new legion of followers before unloading a sustained attack and compelling referee David Irving to call a halt to the action in the third round.
And finally it was the turn of the star attraction, 22-year-old heavyweight Mike The Rebel Perez, whose power and quality were already known to the expectant crowd, having made light work of four previous opponents since his pro debut at the same venue in January. Unfortunately, his bulky Brazilian opponent Claudemir Diaz offered about as much resistance as an umbrella from Pound City in the face of Hurricane Katrinas mighty onslaught, and promptly fell to a vicious Perez left uppercut after all of 22 seconds and was counted out.
All the Cubans were good tonight, said Gary Hyde afterwards. They have everything.
“We have three exciting young fighters on our hands, on our own patch in Cork and it is just beautiful to watch them.
Beautiful indeed, to witness three serious boxing prospects show off their immaculate skills right here in Cork. Having been welcomed with open arms, these boys have long-term world title ambitions, and are bound to cause quite a stir along the way. Watch this space.