PROFESSIONAL boxing returns to its spiritual home, the National Stadium, this month with a stacked blend of world-ranked international stars and a new generation of Irish talent.
Former WBO and interim WBA middleweight champion of the world and conqueror of Andy Lee at the 2004 Olympics, Hassan N’dam N’Jikam, will headline the Nowhere2Hyde card on Saturday, February 15.
Cork promoter Gary Hyde has made sure that Irish fans have plenty to cheer for, with the likes of Dublin middleweights Anthony Fitzgerald and Luke Keeler and rising Anglo-Irish star Mark Heffron all in action.
The nine-fight card is the first in the National Stadium in almost three years, ending a barren spell for Irish fans south of the border.
French-based Cameroon native Hassan beat Andy Lee on a countback in one of the great Olympic fights of the past decade, following a 27-27 tied contest at the final bell in the last 16 of the Athens Games in 2004.
He said a good performance at the National Stadium would be the perfect start to 2014 as he set his sights on the hottest name in world boxing at the moment, the human wrecking machine Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin.
The Kazakh rocket launcher has obliterated 29 opponents, including 26 knockouts, with his last 16 bouts since 2008 all ending early. ‘GGG’ is the current WBA middleweight champion and the monstrous puncher looks unbeatable, according to industry pundits.
Not so, according to Hassan, who said he would take inspiration from his childhood heroes, the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who shocked the world in 1990 when they defeated reigning world champions Argentina in the opening game of World Cup 90 in Italy.
Francois Oman-Biyik became an African hero when his second-half header beat Nery Pumpido in the Argentinian goal, giving the Lions a 1-0 win over Diego Maradona’s team.
Hassan said: “Argentina was supposed to be the best in the world, with Maradona one of the greatest players the world had ever seen. But my countrymen rose to the occasion and took on the South Americans with fierce aggression, courage and no little skill. That’s is the mindset I will apply to GGG. Nobody is unbeatable, especially human beings.
“Don Curry was unbeatable when Lloyd Honeyghan took him on in 1986. Some bookmakers wouldn’t even give him odds, yet Honeyghan beat him into submission in round six. We all know what happened to Mike Tyson when he fought Buster Douglas. If I’m at the top of my game, I can beat GGG.
“But first things first, I must win in the National Stadium. I must admit, I’ve been surprised yet delighted with the reception I’ve received from the Irish fans while I’ve been training here. They are boxing fanatics and I can see why they have done so well at recent Olympic Games. It’s been humbling around the gyms and clubs of County Cork and I want to pay back their kindness with a big performance in their hallowed boxing venue, the Stadium.”
Manager and promoter Gary Hyde said the fusion of world-class international stars like Hassan and Michel Sora with rising Irish and British stars on the nine-fight card would give punters a quality night’s boxing.
“It’s been too long since the Stadium hosted professional boxing. I’m thrilled to be able to provide that for fans. At just €40 for ringside and €20 elsewhere, I don’t think you’ll get better value at a sporting event this year. We want a packed house to remind us all why the Stadium is the home of Irish boxing.”
He backed his man to beat GGG if they got it on in the ring.
“Not many backed my fighter Guillermo Rigondeaux when he took on the world’s elite, Nonito Donaire, for the WBA super-bantamweight title. Rigo produced a masterclass in boxing and ripped the title away. I’ve seen what Hassan can do – make no mistake, he’d have to perform at his very best, but I’d have no doubts that he can do it when the time comes.”
The cameras of Sky Sports’ Ringside were in Ireland this week to find out more about Hassan and his manager’s stable of fighters.
Hyde added: “Sky don’t showcase those with little talent – they came because they know my men have purpose, steel and class between the ropes. That will be on show come February 15.”
Tickets are €40 for ringside and €20 otherwise, available via Ticketgroup.ie or on 085 1159539.