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The 13th Round: Inquisition at the Europa

Boxing in Ireland is up and running for 2017 following Saturday’s show in Belfast.

MHD Promotions got the year started with ‘Inquisition at the Europa,’ the first card of a notably busy period for the sport on the island.

Six fights featuring five Irish fighters took place on the dinner show at the swanky hotel in Belfast city centre, and it was brilliant to have boxing back following the winter break.

While it was by no means Mark Dunlop’s strongest ever show, it was a nice way to start what promises to be a massive year for the MHD stable and Irish boxing as a whole. In addition, the atmosphere generated by the 700 in attendance at the Europa, especially for the final two fights, was the most impressive it has ever been.

Starting the show off was Dublin’s Lynn Harvey [2(1)-0] who was making her return following a loss to Mary Romero back in November. In what was always going to be a straightforward fight, ‘The Hunter’ obliterated the massively outsized Agnes Draxler inside a round. While the fight may have only lasted 37 seconds, the changes Harvey has made under new trainer Tommy McCormack were wholly apparent – with the Kilbarrack 35 year old swarming her opponent with flurries from all angles from the outset.

Tougher tests are a guaranteed for Harvey following the confidence-boosting win, but the move down to light flyweight and this new bullying style bodes well for the future.

Following on what is most likely to be the shortest fight of the year was probably the gutsiest performance we will see in an Irish ring this year as Jay Byrne [3(1)-0] would have to dig enormously deep to overcome Sandor Jozsa.

Jozsa came to the ring as an absolute unknown quantity, but he is a Hungarian we would like to see brought back. It was great to see a come forward opponent who landed his fair share of slaps on the home fighter.

However, the story of the fight was the Dubliner’s left shoulder which seemed to be injured in the second round. We later learnt that a warm-up mishap lead to the niggle which was then compounded in the fight. The Loughlinstown welter, despite fighting with just one arm (and indeed no arms towards the end of the four rounder), managed to battle through the discomfort and adjust to outpoint his game foe in what was a thrilling fight given the extenuating circumstances.

Thankfully, what seemed to be a severe injury during the fight should not leave Byrne on the sidelines, and the 30 year old is still committed to fighting again later this month.

Joe Fitzpatrick [7(4)-0] made the step up to six rounds on the bill, and the Divis lightweight dominated Tamas Laska from bell to bell in what was his first hometown fight in a year. While the Hungarian should be commended for being as tough as nails, his sole objective was to survive, and the fight provided elite prospect Fitzpatrick with what was more a fitness test and target practice than an in any way competitive contest.

Nevertheless, ‘The Dragon’ still proved able for the step up and claimed the win – and his disguised uppercuts to the body were an absolute joy to watch. The 22 year old’s desire to be pushed on is obvious, and it has the potential to be a big year for the Commonwealth Games silver medalist who is promoted by Frank Warren.

Fight of the night, by a mile, goes to the super featherweight scrap between Ronnie Clark and Rafael Castillo. The Scotsman took a hugely entertaining six-round points (60:57) win over the Central American. When there is no Irishman in the ring it takes something special to grab the attention of the crowd, and that’s exactly what this war was. Clark is always good value, and Castillo further proved why he was named on Irish-Boxing.com’s ‘10 best journeymen opponents‘ list, landing plenty of shots throughout and giving the Dundee fighter a very nice test in his first fight back since losing to Martin J Ward.

The penultimate fight saw Feargal McCrory [4(1)-0] box in his final four rounder. His opponent, Gyula Tallosi, had come to fight, and began the opening round throwing plenty. However, some sharp counters from Fearless Feargal soon saw the Hungarian revert to some ugly tactics to stay in a fight that saw him hit the deck twice.

While the Coalisland fighter was frustrated at times by the persistent holding – Tallosi was eventually disqualified in the final round – it was still a career-best performance from McCrory and he was somewhat more considered than in his previous bouts

Next up for McCrory and his merry band of supporters is a jump up to eight rounds and a step down to super featherweight. This will take place in Belfast on April 22nd where he will headline the inaugural Kieran Farrell Promotions card at the Devenish Venue.

Finally there was the headline fight, a blink-and-you’d-miss-it affair, with Lagmore lightweight Paul Hyland Jr [14(5)-0] clinically putting away late choice of opponent Giovanni Gallovich inside a minute in a bout that was scheduled for ten rounds.

This writer sympathises with Dunlop and his difficulty in finding a suitable opponent for Hylo – indeed the fight on Saturday should have been with Gearoid Clancy for the Irish 135lbs title. It is also acknowledge that Hyland is now in a position to have big fights ordered for him by the BBBoC. However, judging the headline bout on Saturday purely in isolation, it was a poor fight to top a bill. Gallovich came in as an unknown, and while Jay Byrne’s unknown opponent turned out to be a great find, Hylo’s foe turned out to be levels below what had been hoped for by all .

Thankfully, Dunlop is committed to getting Hyland out again in the next few weeks to get some further use out of what was an intensive camp for the crowd-favourite. A spot on the Red Corner Promotions Dublin show on the 25th has been mooted, and with Jake Hanney no longer appearing on that bill, Hyland slotting in to face strong Morrocan Abdessamad Nechchad seems to make so much sense.

As mentioned above, Hyland’s move to the BBBoC means that he is now in line to have big fights ordered on his behalf, somewhat eliminating his recent opponent woes. Fingers crossed that by the time the next MHD Promotions card rolls around, the immensely likeable Hylo will have a British title eliminator to stick his teeth into, perhaps for the BBBoC Celtic title.

All in all it was an enjoyable, well-run night with a great atmosphere.

Roll on the next one.

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

Eric Donovan joins Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill on Episode 2 of the Irish Boxing Show:

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie