23 March 2011 – Steve Wellings
Sandy Row slugger Joe Hillerby is reckoning on a glorious homecoming when the Belfast middleweight features on Graham Earls April 2 Kings Hall show. Some of the local fighters are making their professional debuts on the fight-heavy card dubbed as Fists of Fury but Hillerby has punched for pay twice already. Joe followed up a first round debut knockout of Lutons Gavin Putney with a four round points success over Lincoln warhorse Ryan Clark. Both wins were registered over in England but next stop will be Belfast for the 23-year-old.
With two wins on the trot already, April 2 will see win number three for me, all being well, Hillerby told Irish-boxing.com. Fighting in Belfast at the Kings Hall in front of my fans will make it an even greater experience.
Joes opponent on the night will be Lancasters Ian Jackson, who has lost his only two professional contests thus far, including his debut in a single round. He did recently go the four round distance in his last bout, against Danny Brown, so knows how to hang in there. However, you would expect a rising prospect like Hillerby to deal with him fairly comfortably.
It is going to be exciting because I have an explosive style, said Joe. I like to work behind my jab, with bursts to the body and head; always on my toes and ready for what comes back at me. I dont think the current point scoring system in the amateurs suited my style and believe the pros are more for me. Most of the time now in the amateur game the fighter doing all the punching gets defeated because the opponent just covers up and steals points.
When Graham Earl handed me the chance to turn professional and told me of his plans, especially that I would get the chance to fight both here [in Northern Ireland] and across the water, I viewed it as a great opportunity. It is good to see boxing in Northern Ireland starting to blossom again and I enjoy my training in the Sandy Row gym as the trainer [Ian McSorley] knows how to get the best out of me. Over the last year I have sparred Neil Sinclair, Willie Thompson, David Rosbotham, Manny Oshunrinde and Ian Boyd.
The latter three are all set to feature on the show. Rosbotham is making his pro debut while Boyd and Oshunrinde have enjoyed mixed fortunes so far as professionals. Manny was a reasonably touted prospect when he turned over, but was stopped in three rounds by another familiar face to Irish boxing fans in Saintfields Brian Cusack.
The aforementioned wins over Putney and Clark helped Hillerby feel his way into the pro ranks. Joe explains each bout from his own perspective.
In the first fight against Putney I went out to stick to my boxing, stay calm and work behind the jab but after a few jabs I let a right hand go which stunned him and I knew I was going to put him away. I picked up the pace and Putney wasnt throwing shots back, so the fight was stopped.
Fighting against Ryan Clark in the York Hall was a great experience for me as the York Hall is the pinnacle of boxing and every great fighter to come out of Britain has fought there. I felt a bit nervous at first but I was in good shape and all the nerves left as soon as I got into the ring. In the first round of the fight I overwhelmed him with a really fast start, working in bursts and winning that round easily. When I went back to the corner my trainer told me to work on my boxing for the next three rounds so I just stayed behind the jab and out boxed him. I was over the moon winning every round. Overall Im happy with my progression in the pro ranks so far and Im just going to keep up the hard work from here.
The man nicknamed The Faith cites Arturo Gatti, Nigel Benn and Joe Calzaghe as three of his boxing idols, as all three showed great deals of heart and determination throughout their respective careers. Joe also tells of how he first caught the boxing bug: The Sandy Row gym opened and my Dad said to me I should go up and try it and from that point I just kept at it. When Im not boxing I like to go for a game of pool, watch the football or chill with my mates. I enjoy getting a break.
He was no slouch in the amateur game either: In the amateurs I won many titles, including the Antrim, Ulster, Boys clubs, Irish, Four nations and a multi-nation tournament. I was a finalist in the UK school boys representing Northern Ireland and also have represented Ireland and my county.
I am enjoying the training that Graham has us involved in, because we go over to Luton for training camps before fights and enjoy intense workouts. Maybe I can fight for an Irish title or Celtic title by the end of the year. I believe that would be a good base to build on and get up the rankings.
The next objective is to impress the fans on April 2 and pave the way for more exciting nights in some of Belfasts famous old boxing venues.
I cant wait to finally box in Belfast. Its a long hard road in boxing and I am just going to keep my head down and keep working as hard as I can – hopefully then I will get my rewards.