4 November 2010 by Steve Wellings
When Spain’s reigning European super-bantamweight champion Kiko Martinez withdrew from his maiden defence against Limerick’s Willie Casey last week, a potentially barnstorming main event went by the wayside. When Casey’s domestic rival Paul Hyland stepped up to headlining status as Kiko’s replacement, suddenly the excitement and intrigue was increased as fans now look forward to an all-Irish civil war on November 6.
Casey’s fledgling career has really taken off and the Southill stylist is looking to cap off a remarkable run that has seen him fly into European title contention seemingly from nowhere: It’s all happened very quickly for me really,” Willie agreed. “This time last year I was only just getting ready for my third professional fight so it’s been a crazy year and I want to cap it all by wining the European title.”
There are two points that could decide how this one plays out. Firstly, whether Hyland possesses enough power in his punches to keep Willie at bay for the full 12 rounds and give the marauding southpaw something to think about when he steams in for the kill. Rather than being a chilling one-punch knockout artist, Casey tends to wear opponents down and overwhelm them with his volume and work rate. His style inevitably leaves gaps in the defence and much of Hyland’s success could lie on whether he can exploit these. Paulie may not hit with massive authority but it was his speed and accuracy that stunned Eugene Heagney to defeat inside three rounds last December and a well placed body shot dropped durable Rob Nelson in Tallaght when the two met in 2009, so he is not averse to seeing his opposition hit the deck.
“I didn’t have to think twice about taking the fight and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be European Champion, said Hyland, who was preparing for Russia’s Andrey Bogdanov when the call came.
I know it wont be easy and it will probably go the distance but I’ve no doubt my hand will be raised at the end. It’s been a whirlwind few days, after Kiko pulled out injured I hardly slept on Friday or Saturday night with the excitement. It’s sinking in now though and I just can’t wait.”
A second point of interest is whether Casey can box to instructions and resist getting drawn in by the vociferous Limerick crowd. Part of Casey’s plan in his last fight -an eight-round win over Italian Emiliano Salvini- was to box on the back foot and work for openings, rather than move in straight lines and attempt to bludgeon his opponent – a tactic that to be fair has garnered massive success for him thus far.
Expert coach Phil Sutcliffe and his team are astute enough to realise that raw power and boundless energy can only take a fighter so far and when the levels in class increase it is necessary for a boxing brain to take over. Casey wore down the likes of Mark Moran and Josh Wale in the Prizefighter tournament earlier this year, stopping both men in their tracks with his superior punch output. Prior to this he had travelled over to Canada to halt unbeaten Tyson Cave with a relentless body attack.
I foresee this being an excellent fight. The fact that national pride is at stake will only raise the temperature when, inevitably, the contest moves into the trenches and neither man will want to give an inch. If Hyland can stay disciplined, resisting the temptation to engage with Willie and use his quality movement, as the fight enters into the final rounds it could be extremely close on the cards.
Indeed, I think this will be a distance fight and both men will have their moments in a cracking encounter. Given his home advantage, high workrate (always a clincher with the judges in tight rounds) and added pop, I tentatively tip Casey to prevail on points. For a fighter with only ten fights on his ledger and relatively unknown a year ago it would be a remarkable achievement.
Dublin’s Anthony Fitzgerald is hoping it will be third time lucky when he finally meets Lee Murtagh in defence of his Irish super-middleweight title. Two fights ago, with Fitz showing impressive improvements to his game, I would have picked him to beat Murtagh without much question. In his last fight -a rubber match win over Robbie Long- Anthony’s performance was choppy and Long was allowed into the fight for extended periods. Taking this into account, there is a case for veteran southpaw Murtagh to use his experience and skills to confuse and bemuse Anthony. A lack of power (no stoppages from 27 wins for Lee) could be the difference however and Fitzgerald’s freshness should see him through over the distance.
Reinvented as the “Iron Man”, 39-year-old Martin Rogan returns to the ring following a one-year absence to contest a 10-rounder. The Belfast heavyweight has received treatment and operations in his time away and reckons he has found a new resilience whilst out of the ring. Given that he is down for an appearance in Castlebar on November 20 it is unlikely that his opponent on this occasion will too taxing.
Cuban talent Luis Garcia steps up in class to face former world title holder, and the first man to drop Joe Calzaghe as a professional, Byron Mitchell. The Alabama resident is now 37 years old and showing form far removed from his peak years but can still offer a stiff test to the enigmatic Garcia who has a tendency to blow hot and cold. Mitchell has bags of experience but was never overly strong in the chin department even in his heyday. If Luis turns up focused he can start hurting the former WBA king around the midway point of this scheduled 10-rounder.
Brendan Fitzpatrick, Gavin Prunty and Alan Donnellan make up the rest of the card, while cruiserweight Jon Fogg makes his professional debut and Mike Perez gets an eight-round assignment. Alexei Collado (Acosta) is off the bill with a back problem.