Feargal McCrory credits Karl Kelly after overcoming “a totally different challenge”


Boxing is a special sport, the Ulster Hall is a special venue, and the Irish title is a special belt.

All of this came together on Saturday night and, almost inevitably, it led to memorable scrap and a fighting friendship bonded by blood.

Following eight red-stained rounds, Feargal McCrory [10(4)-0] eventually got on top in the ‘A Night To Remember’ co-main event and forced his title fight with Karl Kelly [2(0)-3(1)] to be stopped in the ninth.

A violent fight would give way to numerous moments of sportsmanship and class, with the pair sharing an embrace and McCrory coming to Kelly’s corner to wish the game Dubliner well.

A fight that existed somewhat in an echochamber, Tyrone’s new Irish champion was keen to praise his brave opponent afterwards.

Back in his dressing room, McCrory told Irish-Boxing.com that “Karl Kelly is a tough lad, I knew he was tough. I respected him before the fight but I told him there that I’ve more respect for him than any man having shared the ring with him.”

“He’s a really, really good lad, he’s very tough, and it was a pleasure to share the ring with him. I hope he comes again, I’m a fan of his now and I wish him all the best.”

The fight on Saturday saw McCrory tee off on Kelly early to an extent where the match-up almost looked like a mismatch.

However, heads would clash, blood would flow, and ‘Little Sexy’ would grind his way into the contest, at one stage almost looking set to take over, before McCrory roared back.

“It was a great fight for the Ulster Hall. We just went to war for a wee while and it was good craic,” said the understated McCrory before giving deeper reflection.

“I knew going into the fight that I had to be very fit. I did believe I was naturally better them.”

“I say this with the most respect to Karl, he’s not the best fighter I’ve faced but he’s the toughest and hungriest – and that’s a totally different challenge.”

“I say this with respect to Karl as well because it was very, very tough for every minute of every round but I still felt in control of it. I thought I could box him at range and be better and be in close and be better – not every exchange in close, but I still felt I could take him best points away from him.”

Legendary coach John Breen agreed, and noticed that fitness was key for ‘Fearless Feargal’ who previously had not gone beyond the sixth round and was only scheduled for eight once.

The Belfast trainer noted how that “if Feargal hadn’t put it in in the gym he could have been beat but we knew all along that Feargal was fitter than he’s ever been.”

“He sparred last week and I couldn’t believe how well he was sparring, he did ten rounds of sparring.”

The fight was cinematic, almost, in terms of the blood which spurted freely from the second round and McCrory admits that it was an issue.

The 26-year-old described how “it was only the second round and Andy [O’Neill] did an amazing job on the cut – but when he was putting the Vaseline on, it was blurring my vision because of how close it was to my eye.”

“It took me a wee while to adjust but after the fourth it was gone.”

As mentioned above, the fight existed somewhat out by itself, with McCrory being a natural super featherweight and a return here looks most likely in what he aims to be a break-out year.

“You wouldn’t believe the food I have eaten this week!” stated McCrory.

“Don’t get me wrong, super featherweight, you have a couple of days that are hard but you make the weight and it’s grand. Holy God, lightweight, I was eating everything, I was drinking everything, two weeks ago I was 138lbs and was thinking that I needed to go up a wee bit!”

There was not much looking forward, however, post-fight, with McCrory just content to drink in the achievement on his biggest night as a boxer so far.

The father-of-one stated that “I can’t wait to bring this belt home to Coalisland.”

“I’ll take a bit of time off and we’ll see..” he added before Breen jokingly interjected.

“He’ll be back in the gym on Monday!”

“I’m not sure which Monday you’re talking about!” responded McCrory with a rare smile following a momentous night.

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie