30 May 2010 – By Steve Wellings
Limericks Willie Casey announced his arrival on the big stage, winning the Prizefighter super-bantamweight tournament in York Hall, Bethnal Green on Saturday night.
Casey never let up from the opening bell of his quarter-final right through to the final, as he outlasted late substitute Paul McElhinney to bring the crown back to Ireland.
Willie had been due to meet Swanseas Ricky Owen in the final but Owen suffered a cut in his semi-final with Jamie Arthur and was forced out by the doctor. In stepped Glaswegian McElhinney, unbeaten in four pro contests and presented with a huge opportunity to try and snatch glory.
Despite a promising opener, the Scotsman sustained a bloody nose in the second and was slowly ground down by the marauding southpaw. Big Bang claimed his victory unanimously on the judges scorecards and capped the biggest win of his boxing career to date, emulating Belfasts Martin Rogan who arrived from nowhere to win the first Prizefighter over two years ago.
A passionate Casey took plenty of vocal support over to England and revelled in the fact that he is now right in the thick of the title mix.
Im proud for my coaches, my family, Brian Peters Promotions and everybody involved with me, Im delighted with my performance, Casey enthused.
He [McElhinney] was a good, tough lad and obviously fresher than me. It was all about winning the trophy and getting up there with the big names.
Willie had already gone toe-to-toe with highly-fancied Josh Wale in the semi-finals, showing non-stop aggression in the face of Wales smarter boxing. Josh was still nursing a cut from his previous fight with Esham Pickering and some well timed left hands from Willie sliced it back open.
The decision was split but the right man got the verdict and deservedly cruised into the final.
Willie had started the night off well with a stoppage win over former amateur star Mark Moran in his quarter-final.
Casey had promised irish-boxing.com beforehand that he would be treating every contest like his last and we were not disappointed as the Limerick man raced out the blocks, smashing Moran with heavy hooks.
After a hectic first two rounds, Moran went down from exhaustion in the third after a combination, with a classy right uppercut, sapped his energy. Mark rose and tried bravely to continue but Willie was too strong and pummelled away mercilessly before Ian John-Lewis jumped in and rescued the Liverpool man.
In what was arguably the best Prizefighter since its inception, tournament favourite Ricky Owen and Redcar battler Gavin Reid served up a cracking quarter-final. Dropped in the second-round Owen roared back and snared a close decision to progress.
Rickys win over Jamie Arthur (who had bettered Robbie Turley in his first bout) seemed to have set up a mouthwatering final with Casey, but the cut ultimately put paid to that enticing prospect.
Belfasts Carl Frampton seated at ringside, beside mentor Barry McGuigan, was no doubt an interested spectator watching some potential future opponents.
The UK fans are now aware of what we already knew that Willie Casey is an aggressive, exciting banger with a style made for the Prizefighter format. The engaging 28-year-old can now look forward to even bigger nights.