THE only way to the Irish welterweight Title is through Stephen Haughian, warns the Lurgan man himself.
A number of domestic welter names have expressed their Irish title intent. Boston based Michael McLaughlin has stated he feels he is the best at the weight and wants the green strap, while Dean Byrne and Peter McDonagh have talked about trading leather for the title in Dublin in October.
Paddy Gallagher and Tyrone McKenna’s ears have pricked up too and both have said they are ready, willing and able.
However, Haughian claims he is the rightful custodian of the green strap and warns all title hopefuls they have to go through him if they want to buckle the strap around their waist.
To go any other route would be cowardly he suggests.
“At this stage I’m letting it be known that I still hold the title and am not prepared to let go,” the 30 year old told Irish-boxing.com.
“I need an opportunity to get busy before I defend the title in a ten rounder. Maybe a six rounder first, if any promoters are interested? But I don’t think anyone could call themselves champion without taking it from the champion, who has held the belt for six years. I’ve been looking for opportunities to defend the belt the whole time. I don’t think it would be very brave for a fighter to want to challenge for a vacant title.”
The reason the John Breen trained puncher hasn’t been name dropped by his fellow Irish 147lbs foes is inactivity. It is a case of out of sight out of mind for the fighter, who boasts a 21-3-1 record. Haughian hasn’t fought since 2012 and claimed his Irish title with a win over Billy Walsh in 2009.
He claims his sabbatical wasn’t by choice and told Irish-boxing.com he is keen to get back out there and fulfill his potential and establish himself as a name again.
“I would relish an opportunity to fight on and fulfill my potential. The sabbatical was through no choice of my own. I was presented with little opportunities. I turned down one fight when I had just moved house and my wife was due our baby the same week.
“I always keep myself in shape. My plan is to get busy soon. It’s a matter of shaking the ring rust at this stage. The fitness is always there. I need opportunities before another 6 years pass by.
There are suggestions we are approaching a golden age of Irish boxing with a host of talented pro’s and World level opportunities presenting themselves to a growing number of home punchers. Haughian, however claims things were good in the first stage of his career when the likes of Bernard Dunne, Paul McCloskey and more were selling out big venues.
“I the likes of Carl Frampton has done a great job in reviving Irish boxing again, but Irish boxing was always very strong and gained a lot of support. I had some great opportunities early on in my career when I fought on world title shows in the Kings Hall and Point Depot.”