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Unfinished Business – Opponent Analysis

Tomorrow night we will be treated to the first professional show in Dublin of the year and, looking at the opponents that are being brought in, we can tentatively say that it will be an exciting and competitive night of boxing

Red Corner Promotions made a strong start back in November with ‘Inception,’ however they have taken it to the next level with the eleven-fight ‘Unfinished Business‘ card at the National Stadium.

Building on the plaudits bestowed upon Sergio Abad for his game performance against Gerard Whitehouse last time out, Red Corner have went back to Spain this time and will bring a number of Spanish opponents that look like they will pose problems for the Irish prospect on the bill.

First things first though, we start with the headliner – Luke Keeler [11(5)-2(1)] v Lewis Taylor [19(3)-2(0)-1]. It will be a massive test for the Dublin favourite against Taylor in what is the most evenly matched headline fight in the capital in recent years. The match-up evokes memories of James Fryers v Maxi Hughes in Belfast last February, with an under-rated English opponent coming in and looking to use the bout as a springboard to jump up their own domestic ladder. The eight-round fight against the Derbyshire workhorse promises to be a real acid-test of Keeler’s top level ambitions and the two styles suggest that the fight itself will be a cracker.

Chief support sees Stevie Collins Jr [9(4)-0-1] make a massive jump up in class. In what will be his first eight rounder, The Wolfhound will face Spanish-based dangerman Pablo Sosa [7(3)-6(1)-3]. The strong Argentine has scalped prospects in the past and held former world title challenger Eduard Gutknecht to a credible draw. An immensely risky fight for the Dublin light heavyweight, the bout will give us a real indication of his skill, fitness, heart and, hopefully, his apparently huge power.

Cork welterweight Noely Murphy [8(2)-0] makes his long-awaited return to Ireland for a BUI Celtic title fight. The New York-based pro has been impressing on big Lou Di Bella undercards these past two years but he will take a more prominent position here. His opponent for the eight-rounder will be Galician Avelino Vazquez [4(0)-2(0)] Murphy has stepped up his level of opposition in his past two contests, so a fit fighter who comes to win should not posed him too many problems. That said, it is still a very solid undercard bout and a good opponent for Murphy to step up to eight rounds against.

Dubliner Craig O’Brien [3(0)-0] makes his return to the ring after 17 months of inactivity, but there will be no soft touches for ‘The Iron.’ The stylish light middleweight is being thrown straight into his first six rounder against what will be his strongest opponent to date – and one who holds a win over Murphy opponent Vazquez. Jorge ‘TiburĂłn’ Vallejo [2(1)-2(0)] comes to the ring off the back of a knockout win last weekend, and the confident Basque boxer is determined to make it two in two weeks. ‘The Shark’ is an accurate name for the Spaniard who just keeps moving forward, and the MGZ fighter will provide a real test of O’Brien’s fitness and skill – much like Sergio Abad did for Gerard Whitehouse.

And that brings us to our friend Sergio, and ‘The Surgeon’ will look to again test another Irish prospect – Dublin’s Jay Byrne [3(1)-0]. The ambitious Loughlinstown welter is being progressed very well, and quite quickly, since turning pro last Summer and in Abad [2(1)-7(1)] he is presented with a career-best test. It’s the sort of exam that ‘The Negotiator’ seeks out however, and an impressive win here would see him leap right into the mix in the Irish 147lbs division.

Thomas Finnegan makes his debut on the bill but the Dublin super middleweight wont be facing a knockover. While it’s generally accepted that the opponent for a professional debut is either a foe ripe for a first round knockout or an experienced journeyman that almost guides the prospect through the four rounds, Finnegan will instead face Spanish fighting man Alejandro Mostazo [1(0)-1(0)]. An experienced mixed martial artist and K1 kickboxer, the Andalusian is a regular on the huge Spanish semi-pro scene. Aggressive and wild, Finnegan will have his hands full right from the off.

As with most shows, ‘Unfinished Business’ has not been without its problems in the build-up, and there have been a total of four late replacements due to medicals, visa, and weight.

Allan Phelan [6(4)-2(1)-1] has his first fight in 27 months and was due to face the notably-durable Nicaraguan Edwin Tellez. A former opponent of Stuart Hall, Josh Warrington, and Derry’s Tyrone McCullagh among others, it looked to be an exceedingly tough return for the Newbridge boxer. The opponent was however replaced by his older brother Johnson Tellez [9(6)-31(10)-5] – who went the full eight rounds with Declan Geraghty back in October. The Central American has also fought current WBA super flyweight champion Kal Yafai, being stopped in the third round. While the challenge posed by slightly more wild Johnson would be less than Edwin, it is still a more than acceptable comeback fight for Phelan and one which will still test him and has the potential to be an entertaining scrap.

Chris Blaney [4(2)-0] had been due to face but now Oladimeji Akinde, after two changes, will take on Adrian Parlogea [11(1)-43(24)]. The 46 year old out-of-shape Romanian, stopped in the second round of both his bouts last year, should not last long against Blaney. It is frustrating for the Navan man who, in Akinde and initial replacement Zoltan Sera, had been set to face the toughest opponent of his short career thus far.

Derry light middle Connor Coyle [2(1)-0] was set for a career-toughest rest against Michael Mora. While he will still face the strongest opponent of his career thus far, he will be up against the slightly less ambitious Miguel Aguilar [11(5)-30(7)-1]. A relatively diminutive opponent, indeed he formerly fought at featherweight (and even once at super fly!). The Nicaraguan survivor went the four-round distance with Belfast welterweight Paddy Gallagher in 2015 and was stopped last year in the third by world title challenger Sergey Rabchenko.

On her return to the scene of her loss to Mary Romero, Lynn Harvey [2(2)-1(1)] had been scheduled to face another tough Spaniard – Maribel De Sousa . However the former Spanish title challenger was ditched earlier in the week due to her inability to make light flyweight. In what must be frustrating to all involved, replacement opponent Sara Regina Coca [0-1(0)] weighed in yesterday heavier than what De Sousa intended to tip the scales at. De Sousa looked to be a solid and orthodox test, while Coca is an unknown quantity. It could be another one round blow out, although size alone suggests that Harvey will be brought some rounds at least.

While these unfortunate changes have reduced the quality of the card as a whole, the show has enough strength in depth to absorb these switches and still remain one of the best-matched cards in recent memory.

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