The Best of the Irish

01 October 2009 – By Padraig Hoare

Professional boxing returns to its spiritual home in the National Stadium this month amid calls for Irish fans to help create the next Bernard Dunne.

DolPhil Promotions hosts the first professional card in the Stadium since July 2008, entitled Best of the Irish, when homegrown fighters such as Eddie Hyland and Willie Casey attempt to capture the imagination of the Irish public the same way that former WBA super-bantamweight champion Dunne did.

The two men behind DolPhil Promotions, businessman Don O’Leary and legendary Irish Olympian Phil Sutcliffe, are calling on Irish fans to get behind the smaller promoters in the long-term interest of Irish boxing.

Don O’Leary said: “It’s quite simple. We need the stadium to be packed out come fight night. Not to make a profit – it’s all but impossible to do so in this game – but because it is imperative if Irish boxing is to succeed in the future. Irish boxing had a setback with Bernard Dunne losing his title, but there is plenty to still be excited about and there is a whole new generation ready for the limelight.

“We are putting on smaller shows for supporters and boxers alike at great expense. If we were in it for the money, we’d have run a mile by now. People sometimes complain that there are no marquee opponents for our fighters. But we are a fledgling promotional outfit. If we get people behind us who come to our shows and pack the place out, Phil and I will be able to build on that and make stronger cards every time. You have to walk before you can run.

“However, there can be no complaints about this card. Eddie Hyland will be up against someone with real pedigree, while the rematch that everyone wanted to see between Anthony Fitzgerald and Robbie Long has been negotiated and is on. Fans will also get to see Cuban sensation Alexei Acosta in action, and I can guarantee that nobody will be left in any doubt that featherweight Willie Casey is a champion in the making.”

O’Leary insists DolPhil are prepared to put their money where their mouth is by keeping prices down. With tickets as low as 10, he says it is a win-win for all concerned.

“We want to make a deal with the fight public. Come to see what we have to offer and we’ll take keep our prices down. The most expensive ticket is 50, while a family ticket costs 55. That entitles two adults to bring two children under 16 to the National Stadium. The gallery seats are 20 while children under 16 get in for 10. That is great value to see the next generation of Irish stars. It will also help to keep producing better and bigger shows as we move forward.”

A packed card sees Tallaght’s Irish super-featherweight champion Eddie Hyland (13-1, 4KO) co-feature at the top of the bill. The long-awaited rematch between Sheriff Street’s Anthony Fitzgerald (4-2, 2KO) and Tallaght’s Robbie Long (4-0, 1KO) also stands at the top, with the two men hoping to reach the thrilling heights reached in six rounds of frenzied action back in January of this year.

Gary Hyde’s big-hitting Cuban starlet Alexei Acosta (7-0, 7KO), who is now based in Belfast, will be looking to keep up his perfect record before an expected assault on an international title in November on the undercard of Paul McCloskey’s European title challenge against Souleymane M’Baye.

Perennial crowd favourite Oisin Fagan (24-7, 15KO), who once took the heavily touted Julio Cesar Chavez Jr the distance and had a split decision against former world champion Paul Spadafora, is fresh off a victory on the undercard of Dunne-Poonsawat and has still not given up the dream of professional honours. He dropped a decision to Eddie Hyland in the National Basketball Arena in July in one of the best fights in an Irish ring in recent times.

Limerick’s Willie Casey (1-0, 1KO), known as the Big Bang, enters the ring with coach Phil Sutcliffe convinced he has the tools to be a world champion. The West of Ireland will also be represented with Galway’s John Waldron (2-2, 1KO) and Mayo’s Finbarr Eade (1-0), while Dublin’s Gavin Prunty (0-1)attempts to record his first in-ring victory.

O’Leary said he was confident that Saturday, October 24 could be the next launching pad for Irish boxing.

“It is always special to be in the National Stadium and it always brings out the best in Irish fighters. If fans pack the place out like we expect them to, we will make it a night to remember together. World champions emerge from nights like it. It will be a great occasion.”

See for more details on how to get tickets.

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