16 February 2009 – By Kevin Byrne
Ross Hickey is primed for his first defence of his Irish lightweight title when he takes on Eric Donovan this Friday night in Dublin.
Grancegon clubman Hickey is the current belt holder but Athys three-time national champion will be eager to reach the top again.
The pair met in a 57Kg decider back in 2007 with Donovan cruising to a 20-6 win, however Hickey had his revenge in the 60Kg semi-final last year. The 22-year-old – who won a European bronze medal in Liverpool in November – edged a countback decision 15-13. And coming up to their latest battle, Hickey says: Bring it on.
Enjoying a 10-5 win over Ciaran Bates in the last four on Friday, Hickeys class was on full show as he danced away from his opponent who obviously fancied a brawl. Not for Hickey, though, whose counter-punching from the ropes and vicious hooks were too much.
Its been a great year and hopefully itll last. Its good to get rid of the cobwebs because I felt a bit rusty in there, he said. My fight was alright at times. I felt a bit stiff and couldnt get my range. He was getting in tight with his head and trying to rough me up a bit. Hopefully all goes well and Im champion again next Friday night. It came from the blue last year because I was only back training but this year Im flying in there, sparring is going great too. Its bringing me on a lot.
Bruiser, battler, stylist – Hickey doesnt care how Donovan approaches the fight as long as he wins.
Ill take any style, he added. Im not worried. Ill box any way to do the job.
Donovans passage to the showdown was equally impressive, bypassing World Youth gold medallist Ray Moylette to book his ticket. It was a close contest, the Athy man prevailing 8-7 after the Mayo youngster launched a final-round comeback.
The final is set to be a cracker with both Donovan and Hickey seemingly on form. Hickey, picking shots from nowhere, could have beaten Bates by a larger margin had some of his unscored uppercuts – which nearly dropped his opponent – been added to his scoresheet.
Hickeys clubmate Denis Hogan faced the challenge of his life against Kenny Egan in his light-heavyweight semi-final.
It was Egans first competitive outing since he took silver for Ireland in Beijing when many felt he had a right to the gold.
Hogan made a valiant stab at it and at least troubled the scoreboard – Egan had confidently stated his hope to go through the Championships with an unblemished record.
But unfortunately for the national 81Kg intermediate champ, he could not follow best friend Hickeys lead as the Neilstown man earned a 16-3 win on Friday.
The following evening, Arklow star Fergal Redmond could not deny an all-Donegal welterweight final as he fell to Cathal McCauley of Dungloe.
He goes through to meet Willie McLoughlin of Illies GG – who caused the biggest upset of the weekend, beating Roy Sheahan of Athy on Friday night 7-5.
Hickey told of the pride he took from Hogans performance against Egan, who could become the first man every to win nine senior titles in a row in the IABAs history if he wins on Friday.
It was the first time weve had two lads in the seniors, its great for the club, said Hickey.
He did brilliant against Kenny Egan tonight, really well – he put it up to him. Were best friends and always training together so Im delighted for him. He won the Intermediates this year and he did so well against Egan – and you cant get any better than him.