The Irish pro boxing scene received a welcome newcomer on Saturday night with Kieran Farrell running his first show.
The Devenish Complex in West Belfast was the venue and the hall was packed out, with £20 standing tickets filling up the space and creating a raucous crowd for the biggest ‘small hall’ show in recent memory.
With the venue full and the noise levels high, all that was left were for the fights to deliver and, beforehand, this was no guarantee.
With the majority of fighters on the bill either returning from long periods of inactivity or making their pro debuts, there was a real risk that the actual action in the ring could have been, understandably, tentative and rusty.
However, for the most part, we were served up with an exciting night of action, with the headline and chief support being especially entertaining.
Scottish super featherweight Ronnie Clark [19(10)-4(1)-2] got the action underway with his third fight in Belfast in just over six months. The Shark, with his wonderful walk-ons and exciting fighting style, is really starting to find a home in the Titanic City. and received his best reception yet on Saturday. Taking on game Hungarian Imre Nagy, the southpaw scored a points win in a solidly entertaining four rounder. Next up for Clark could be a British title eliminator with Zelfa Barrett and, considering his ability to raise his game for big fights, he could cause the hot prospect some problems.
Mark Morris [3(1)-1(1)] got the Irish up-and-running next and reminded fans just why he was so highly-rated before his long hiatus. The 29 year old super feather has obvious power and a triple jab which could win a fight by itself. His comeback foe was solid Croatian Antonio Horvatic, and the Balkan was left badly bloodied after four rounds with The Reaper.
While Morris purposely boxed within himself as he tested the waters after over two years out, he was still surprisingly sharp and, if his fitness is okay, he could be moved along rather briskly.
Sean Higginson [1(0)-0] would then debut. throwing approximately seven million punches in his four rounder against Jamie Quinn. The rangey Belfast featherweight has a brilliant engine and pays plenty of attention to the body. The experienced Quinn, like many British journeymen making the trip across the Irish Sea, was up for the fight and made for an exciting contest with John Breen-trained prospect.
While he was slightly wild in the opening stages, which can be put down to debut nerves, Higginson’s engine bodes well going forward and, if he can keep this pace up in the future going into the sixth, seventh, eighth rounds etc, it will be hard for most to keep up with him
The man who enticed Kieran Farrell to Belfast in the first place, Mathew Fitzsimons [3(2)-0], was back in action against durable Ghanaian Michael Barnor. The 6’2″ featherweight, aptly nicknamed ‘The Freak,’ got through the admittedly very quiet bout in first gear. Barnor, as he was against Tyrone McCullagh last month, was not willing to engage, allowing Fitzsimons to comfortably do the rounds on the outside. While we didn’t get to see much of the Belfast youngster’s power, his African opponent certainly didn’t seem to enjoy the long-range shots he took to the midriff.
Only 20 years old, and in no rush, Fitzsimons will look to bank fights in the coming months against a range of styles, allowing him to perfect a unique style which his physical gifts allow for.
The biggest Belfast fighter of the night was Gerard Healy [6(0)-4(1)-1] who delighted his sizeable support with some comeback revenge. Healy took on dangerous English journeyman Willie Warburton, who had beaten him in 2012, and scored a one-sided four-round win, even hurting the skilful Manchester boxer at one stage.
Whether it was from Healy’s dominance or otherwise, it has to be said that Warburton did not bring much to the fight, throwing little as ‘Boom Boom’ Healy steamrolled to revenge. Regardless, the 33 year old had a real swagger to his work and looked confident under new trainers Ray Ginley and Dee Walsh.
Healy badly wants an Irish title fight, but perhaps an eight-round BUI Celtic title fight with Dublin slickster Craig O’Brien could be made.
Chief support on the night was Sean McGlinchey [1(0)-0] and boy oh boy are we in for some exciting fights from the Derry man in the next few years. The Creggan 24 year old has slimmed down considerably and still has more to go. This, combined with an opponent who boxes at light heavyweight and cruiserweight, meant that ‘Mummy’s Bhoy’ was given a real test in his pro bow which was one of the most entertaining Irish debuts in recent years.
McGlinchey showed no fear, tearing into the chunky Josef Obeslo from the start and hurting him numerous times. The Czechian offered plenty back, and tested the Irishman’s chin, but was no match for the ferocity of the home fighter who claimed a four-round points win. A switch-hitter with no reverse gear, McGlinchey will be a force to be reckoned with, especially when he makes it down to the middleweight division where his power will become a factor.
The Commonwealth Games bronze medalist wants to move quickly under trainer Glenn McCrory and already has domestic title ambitions. A reputation as a crowd-pleaser who brings a massive travelling support already secured, we can’t wait to see McGlinchey in action again.
Feargal McCrory [5(2)-0] headlined the card, jumping several levels and putting his name right in the mix at super featherweight with a destructive win over Liverpudlian Jay Carney.
Dominating from the first bell to the last, ‘Fearless Feargal’ scored a fourth round stoppage. Comparatively much stronger at 130lbs, the Tyrone boxer bullied his big-hitting opponent from the opening bell, completely overwhelming him for a statement win.
It was a just reward for the highly-committed 24 year old and could be something of a breakthrough win.
With big ambitions, a fan-friendly style, and seemingly the entire town of Coalisland behind him, it is surely only a matter of time before the John Breen-trained boxer is snapped up for an even bigger fight or by a big promoter.
All in all, it was a solid start from Farrell, and with the debuts and comebacks out of the way for a lot of his 11 Irish fighters, expect an even more competitive card next time round.
Hopefully this next time will come relatively soon, although the promotional youngster has noted that he will need financial backing for his return. With a bit of luck, this will be secured because, going by Saturday night, Farrell and his stable are a great addition to the scene.