Frustrated Fitzpatrick fears Watkins-McCarthy Belfast battle may be “dead in the water”


Paddy Fitzpatrick wants to see his man Luke Watkins [11(7)-0] take on Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy on the next big Sky show in the city, but the Ennis trainer has been left frustrated following fruitless negotiations.

Swindon-based Fitzpatrick trains Watkins, a cruiserweight of Wexford stock, who claimed the Irish title on the last Sky show in Belfast, scoring a highlight reel knockout over former champ Ian Tims.

McCarthy has not fought since his British title final eliminator loss to the now-champion Matty Askin back in November. Since then ‘The Mac Attack’ has seen fight dates fall through, and an ill-fated match-up with Mike Perez fall apart. The prospect of a Watkins fight excites him however, and the Lenadoon big man has been especially vocal about the fight on social media.

With Ryan Burnett returning to the SSE Odyssey Arena on Saturday October 21st for an IBF-WBA unification with Zhanat Zhakiyanov, Fitzpatrick had hoped Watkins would feature on the undercard once again.

A fight with McCarthy [9(5)-1(0)] has been suggested in the past and took on a life of its own over the past week, emerging as the most talked about potential undercard bout for the Matchroom bill.

However, the Clare coach has revealed that the seemingly logical fight is still a long way off.

Speaking to Irish-Boxing.com, Fitzpatrick admitted that “I’m not overly confident it happens, which is a shame.”

Team Watkins have been keen on the fight since the start of the year, but have seen negotiations with McCarthy’s manger Pat Magee fail to get off the ground numerous times, with potential fight dates in March, May, and September all coming to nothing.

With the Burnett-Zhakiyanov date now in place, it would look to be a perfect fit, however negotiations have once again stalled.

Fitzpatrick outlined how “after the Burnett [v Zhakiyanov] fight was announced I contacted Eddie Hearn asking would he be interested in Watkins-Tommy. He said ‘yes, I would be interested, talk to Pat and get back to me with what you need.”

“I texted Pat and he said it was ‘most unethical indeed’ for Eddie to discuss the fight with me behind his back.”

“So right now it looks dead in the water.”

While the new BUI rules would rule out an Irish title defence for Watkins on account of McCarthy’s lack of an Irish licence, Fitzpatrick was hopeful that the fight can be sanctioned as a British title final eliminator.

Noting the pair’s respective rankings on BoxRec, he outlined how “Tom is ranked #4 and Duke #5. I emailed the BBBoC on June 22nd and they told me that it is a great fight that they would give consideration to but that they wont be discussing the cruiserweight division until September.”

Fitzpatrick believes that the fight suits all the parties involved and described how “I think this is a great opportunity for everybody.”

“For Duke it’s a chance to see if he’s ready for British level, it’s a great opportunity for Tom to go straight back in where he lost, it’s a great opportunity for Eddie looking to fill a stadium – imagine the banter, look at it now when it’s not even made.”

“That fight has grown, from when I first called at the start of the year to when I texted Eddie last month that fight has grown. It’s worth something.”

“This is a great fight and a fantastic chief support. Adam Booth, who has Ryan in the main event is even saying so.”

“Tommy wants it, I have no doubt that Tom wants it, Duke wants it, I want it, the public wants it, other boxers want it. The only other person is Pat Magee”

The former trainer of Eamonn O’Kane believes it is a tough, evenly-matched fight and dismissed claims that McCarthy will be out of ‘The Duke’s’ league.

“I’m under no illusions that it’s a tough fight,” he said. “Tommy McCarthy, I rate him very highly.”

“Eamonn always told me that Tommy was great, but he’s sparred Luke too and he knows how good the kid is.”

“What I find funny though is that there’s people who have never seen Duke writing him off. I’ve worked my ass off to keep him off the internet. The only footage, bar 30 seconds on someone’s phone, was the Ian fight and that wasn’t his best performance.”

“He made a good start, it was a great finish, but he wasn’t good in rounds two and three. I gave him a six out of ten, Luke gave himself a three – and that shows you how much more he has to give.”

With the fight looking less likely, Watkins is now pencilled in to fight in Swindon on September 29th. However, Fitzpatrick is still open to a Belfast battle.

The Ennis man described how “we’re focused on September 29th, but if something happens we’ll consider.”

“The flexibility is there, will I pull him off of the September 29th card for them? No problem!”

“If they want to make the best of Tommy v Duke though they need to make it ASAP. Tommy will be starting back camp now with no fight date, and any fighter will tell you that that’s not great.”

“We’ve a date booked in November, four dates in 2018, four dates in 2019. Duke will be kept busy until we get the right opportunities.”

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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