15 February 2010 – By Steve Wellings
Anthony Fitzgerald cut a delighted figure on February 13 after staving off the admirable challenge of Ciaran Healy to claim the vacant Irish super-middleweight crown.
A sizeable pocket of support had followed the Dubliner to the National Stadium and they were not disappointed as Fitzgerald made up for the frustration of seeing original co-challenger Lee Murtagh withdraw twice through injury.
Some observers had it a lot closer than referee Mickey Vanns 98-94 score total but I had it a point wider at 98-93 for Anto which may not have fairly represented the levels of effort displayed by Healy. I felt that even when the rounds were close, the edge in quality just favoured the hometown fighter.
It feels great, this is the best thing to happen to me so far since I turned pro, enthused Fitzgerald.
I wasnt really frustrated (at the Murtagh pullout) but Healy is such a tough fellow and he kept on coming forward. I had to deal with it and Im the one holding the belt at the end of the night.
He certainly is and deservedly so. Fitzgerald showed that he had done plenty of homework by working the Healy body, something the Belfastman has never enjoyed. Yet the meaty left hooks to the midriff did not sufficiently slow the away man and despite a promising start from Fitzgerald he never fully put the victory beyond dispute. Heads clashed at times and the action became messy before Fitzgerald found himself sporting an unusual injury a cut to the back. He put it out of his mind and got mixed-up in a good old fashioned brawl.
The jab that worked so well had gone missing by the sixth round as Healy upped the pace and Fitzgerald showed signs that he was feeling it. In the corner, between rounds seven and eight, trainer Phil Sutcliffe implored Fitzgerald to up his work rate; go to the body Anto, he screamed when the action resumed. Both were missing by this point and Anthony was warned for holding.
Healy let it all hang out in the final session, motoring forward aiming for a knockout which, given his paltry KO stats, was unlikely to arrive. His training team of Paul McCullagh Snr and Gerard McCafferty were frantically waving Ciaran in to work, believing it was possibly closer than Vann had it. His final round aggression proved academic as Fitzgerald took the spoils.
I said to the other reporters that if Healy comes to box me then Ill outbox him and if he comes to fight me then Ill hurt him, Fitzgerald explained.
Luckily he came to box and Im glad that I got the same Ciaran Healy that showed up against Spike [Gary OSullivan] in December. He was tough and came to give it a real go. Phil, Jimmy, Joe and Paddy have all put so much work into me, I cannot begin to thank them all because they have worked so hard with me and I feel great after the fight tonight.