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Introducing Willo Hayden – ‘I’m very aggressive, I can bang, and I love a good scrap’

There will always be a degree of senior sadness for Willo Hayden now that he has turned pro.

Forget not winning a major International medal on the senior stage, or even becoming an adult international, a host of talent is now turning over without ever winning a National Elite Championships.

Indeed among the influx of new young blood to the pro game, there are a host of young punchers who have never even entered a National Elites.

Hayden is the latest that is the case for – and is aware not placing a senior National Elite Championship medal to the 11 underage ones he has on his mantlepiece will niggle away at him for some time.

However, with the lack of amateur action at present, the Crumlin welter felt it was time to ditch the vest and he takes on a new challenge full of excitement.

“I’ve always looked forward to turning pro,” he told Irish-Boxing.com

“I was originally hoping to get a few senior titles before making the move. But with the Seniors being canceled due to COVID my plans were changed. When I was away [sparring] Conor [McGregor] I had a few offers from different promoters put on the table, and I thought why not just go for it now because the time felt right.”

“I think I’ll always have it in the back of my head about never fighting as Senior but what can you do,” he adds before revealing he can take solace in the fact he knows he would have been crowned National Elite Champion if he’d have stayed amateur.

“I’ve won almost everything possible from Boy 1 all the way up. It’s going to be annoying now because people are going to be saying ‘yea but he never won a senior title’ and the likes but I know myself that I was more than capable of doing it. Sure I’m having close spars with Elite Champions since I was in my mid-teens, so what makes people think I wouldn’t have it in me now that I’m a man myself.”

Stories of a strong, aggressive teen standing out in sparring against pros and senior-amateurs seemed to have captured the attention of more than those in the Irish boxing circle.

Promoters obviously got wind and did their homework. Irish-boxing.com understands a number of big promotional outfits from both sides of the Atlantic were interested.

Frank Warren eventually won the race for the Dubliner’s signature and gives Hayden a debut platform on the undercard of Anthony Cacace’s British title defence tomorrow night.

The fighter himself is delighted with the plans the veteran fight maker has for him.

“I had a few offers from some fairly big promoters but I won’t be giving any names,” he continued.

“I couldn’t be happier about signing with Frank and that’s all that matters. He plans to have me very busy with fights in the near future, building a solid foundation as a pro. I don’t want to be jumping ahead of myself thinking about titles and stuff yet, I’m going to take one step at a time.

“I think every newly-turned pros’ long-term goal is to be a world champ and retire with enough money to live your life in comfort, and I wouldn’t be any different. In the short term, I would be looking to put on entertaining performances that please the crowd and anyone watching. I’ll worry about titles once I have a few fights under my belt.”

The teen prospect has possibly been the most ‘suited to the pros’ amateurs since mythical power puncher Philip Sutcliffe of the same Crumlin parish.

He certainly is aggressive and likes to force the action, two things that he believes will make him an exciting watch.

“Anyone who has watched me knows I’m very aggressive, that I can bang and that I love a good scrap but I’ll box whatever way I have to, to beat my opponents. If he’s sloppy and loves to grab I’ll box him at range if I have to. So all depends on my opponent but no matter what way I’m boxing I’ll be looking to put on an entertaining performance.”

The Queensbury fighter debut’s across the water tonight and will most likely go to work in England for the most part. However, he will remain training out of his Crumlin base and did reveal a ‘homecoming’ was discussed.

“Frank actually mentioned something about homecoming to me but that won’t be for a while,” he said before confirming he will stay under the watchful eye of Phil Sutcliffe Sr.

“Why move to a different club when the one I’m with now got where I want to be. Phil is as experienced as any coach in the world. Of course I’ll be going abroad for sparring and stuff but my base will always be in Crumlin.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com