Entrance exam

9 February 2009 – By Cormac Campbell

Having lifted the Irish welterweight title with a thrilling victory over Corkman Billy Walsh in Craigavon on February 7, the future looks bright for the Orchard Countys brightest boxing star.

Until a few months ago Stephen Haughian (17-1, 7KO) was mixing professional boxing with his studies at the University of Ulster, but victory in the contest with Walsh has transformed the 24-year-old in to a headline act.

Topping the bill in his hometown, Haughian was not only testing his ability, but also his marketability. Fortunately for the Belfast-based boxer he passed on both measures.

What a reception, crooned promoter Brian Peters after the thrilling three round stoppage victory.

But he has to keep building on this. Hell have a fight in March, hopefully for the Celtic title and then by the end of the year he could challenge for the Commonwealth title. A fight between him and John ODonnell is something we will look at and would be a great fight.

Big steps – and despite the overnight appearance of it all, Haughian is quick to point out that he was worked very hard for his success.

I have been a professional now for five years and training hard every day so Ive seen improvement.

That said, looking good in the gym and performing under the pressure of an expectant home audience in competitive action are two different things. Again Haughian passed the test.

John told me not to play to the crowd, because sometimes I do that and with that crowd tonight I couldnt have taken that sort of risk against the likes of Billy (Walsh).

It would have been easy for Haughian to have got carried away with the occasion, with nearly 1,000 partisan fans backing him both before and during the fight.

The support was incredible. The house never quit in the build up to the fight, with people coming to the house or calling looking for tickets.

A March-time challenge for the Celtic title against Scotsman Craig Dixon appears to be next on Haughians timetable with ambitious plans for British and Commonwealth title tilts before the end of the year.

They are using the Celtic title as almost an eliminator for the British title now so a fight against Dixon is an attractive option, Haughian told irish-boxing.com.

Ive been nominated for that fight so Ill take it and see what happens after that. Its a big year, Im 24, finished my studies and its time to come good.

Haughians University days may be over, but his hardest tests lie ahead.

Haughian v Walsh is now available to view on the BBC NI website.

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