01 December 2008 – By Mark Doyle
Three brothers. Three Irish titles. The Hylands make for a pretty remarkable story. They also make for fine company.
When we meet on a cold November night at their training base in Tallaght, the Golden Cobra gym which their father/promoter/manager, Pat, has run for the past 18 years, all three are currently in training for upcoming fights.
Eddie, 27, and Patrick, 25, are both in action in New York on December 4, while the youngest Hyland, Paulie, 24, will fight on the stellar Frank Maloney card at Dublin City University on November 18.
They are slowly but surely moving themselves into contention at European level and they can barely contain their excitement. So, a simple question to start with…..
“Whos the best fighter out of the three of you”
Paulie: I am!
Eddie: I am!
Patrick: How can ‘yis’ say that, lads, when Im undefeated?! So, statistically, Im the best! Im too pretty for them, too. So even if they are better boxers, Im better looking!
“So, I take it there is a healthy brotherly rivalry between the three of you, in terms of your respective careers?” I enquire.
Patrick: Well, the sparring does be hard! Every now and then we try to prove ourselves to one another. As the eldest, Eddie tries to keep myself and Paulie in check. Paulie tries to put it up to his two older brothers. So were all trying to just get one up on each other. But thats just in sparring and we laugh it all off afterwards and slag each other about it.
Eddie: “But me and Patrick were sparring one time and we nearly knocked each other out in the first round! I hit him with a right hand and he hit me with a left hook and we both wobbled. And we both said, right, we better ease up!
Paulie: “And da was just shouting at them, LIGHT sparring, LIGHT sparring!
Patrick: But it’s always quality sparring. We know each others weaknesses. They know my flaws and faults but I know how to exploit their weaknesses, too. Though, a lot of the time they just punch the head off me!
“So even though theres a rivalry youre also all there to support one another? Does it make easier that you have not just one brother but two brothers there to spur you on all the time, keep you motivated, keep your spirits up?”
Eddie: Yeah, weve always done everything together. We were thrown into as kids and its all weve ever known. We just get up every morning, run and then hit the gym later and train.
Patrick: Its become a routine for us, one that you just become used to. Its not all we do because we also do a bit of work to pay the bills. But the lifestyle just comes naturally to us. It is a hard life, though. Lately weve gotten some backing from John Noonan and Tommy Kelly. Theyve been helping us to get bigger fights. Like, they got us the Irish title fights but you still have to do work outside of that to keep putting food on the table. You still need that weekly wage.
“So, given how much youve already put into it, and how much youre still having to, is it hard to stay motivated, to keep going when things are still so tough?”
Eddie: You always get those days when you just couldnt be arsed to go training anymore and you want to throw your hat at it because youve been doing it so long.
Patrick: Particularly when we came back from England. We were over there for two years and we werent getting our fights and were living on scraps, on hand-outs. And when we came back here and a lot of our friends were living the good life and youre saying to yourself, why am I killing myself and Im not getting anything out of it? I should just be like the average person and work nine to five.
Eddie: But theres always something that brings you back to it. Out of the three of us, I took a break for a while a couple of years ago. But I just went crazy. I just had to get back to the gym.”
Patrick: After a small break you find that youre out of breath running for the bus and youre like, thats it: Im heading back to the gym!
“But it must be difficult having to make so many sacrifices in your personal life to continue leading the life of a professional fighter?”
Patrick: Yeah, you just dont get to go out when youre in training. You might go out for a meal with the girlfriend but thats about it because you have to be at up a six the following morning.
Eddie: And then when the fights over the two nights after it youd swear that the alcohol was going to run out the way throw it down you! Youre always out to make up for lost time. But in saying that, you can never handle too much; after two drinks you want to just go to bed!
Patrick: But yeah, weve gone through some hard times to get where we are now.
Paulie: And were still going through hard times because its still not easy.
Patrick: Thats true but now that weve all got Irish titles we feel like it was all worth it, giving up so much, though we’re still hungry for more now.
“So, the pressure is on your dad and the rest of the team to deliver you even bigger fights now?!”
Eddie: Yeah, were promoted, managed and trained by my da, Pat Ryan, John Noonan, Tommy Kelly and John Farrell so they take care of everything like that. Well fight whoever they tell us to. Wed trust them with our lives.
“But do any of you still find it difficult or strange that your dad still has such a say in how your lives, still has such control of you? Does the father-son relationship ever become strained?”
Paulie: Well, he still talks to you like your two sometimes!
Patrick: Yeah, it can be tough listening to him all the time! Youre like Oh here we go again; hes off another one!”
Eddie: Yeah, Im sometimes like, Im 27, Ill do what I want. But hats off to him: we wouldnt be where we are now if it wasnt for him. And hes brilliant at what he does. I dont want to bad-mouth anyone but theres a lot of coaches out there who are basically crap. So we feel quite lucky. I think he is the best coach in Ireland, both as a professional and amateur. Hes just a boxing brain.
“The relationship between all of you is clearly very strong but has anyone ever been tempted to split with the rest of the family and link up with another trainer, manager or promoter.”
Paulie: Well, I was in America with Brian Burke but I just wasnt getting the fights. The commission in New York was very hard on me and said after seeing one fight that I wasnt ready for the pro game. I was there for about seven months and I only got one fight so my dad brought me home. And since Ive come home last December Ive had four fights and have another one now on the 18th, the Frank Maloney bill in DCU. And that’s a great card for me to be on.
“Happy as all three of you clearly are to be working together in Dublin, do you ever feel that you need to move abroad again to really progress to the next level?”
Patrick: Wed all love to stay here anyway. But obviously theres not that much of a professional scene here in Ireland. If you want to go and train in a professional gym you have to go to Belfast. Theres not one down ‘The South’. There are a lot of pros from down here but they are all based abroad. I mean, America is really the place you have to go. Thats where you have to be if you want to make it big and end up in Vegas one day. America is where the moneys to be made.
Paulie: But itd be great to do it the way Ricky Hatton did. He built up his support base in Manchester and then across Britain and then he went to The States for the really big fights.
Patrick: But its still hard to build up a fan base in Dublin when theres one big name in the city: Bernard Dunne. And hes even moving about now for fights. Still, if you put us on the same cards as him, wed get more exposure, so thats what wed like. But we think one or two of us will surpass him soon enough. Plus, I hear hes thinking of moving up to featherweight for a world title shot so Id love to fight him before he goes for that if he wants. Id give him a good test. Ive nothing to lose so Id be more than willing to take it.
“Is it tough to get on a Bernard Dunne show?”
Paulie: I think that we’ve been on a total of five of the past however many hes done. We try to get on his shows but it seems that theyd rather put other guys on. So thats why we go elsewhere. We go to England, New York, Philadelphia and Boston to get our name known across the world rather than just in Dublin.
Eddie: It is frustrating sometimes. Weve often fought for free just to get a fight. I fought Robin Deakin in Belfast and I sold tickets so he could get his purse and took nothing. But thats the way we are. Wed fight anyone just to climb further up that ladder.
Paulie: Yeah, were hungry now. We just want fights. If we can go as far as we think we can, then the money will come further down the line. We have to make sacrifices now for the long-term goals.
“So, whats next for the three of you?”
Eddie: The talk for me is maybe in February or March to fight for the WBC world youth title. An Australian guy has it at the moment and hes 14-0. They’re in talks about getting him over here, possibly up in Castlebar. But nothings final at the moment. But if I won that fight itd push me up to top five in Europe and then Id hopefully go for that belt in the middle of next year.
Paulie: I dont really know what’s next for me. Ill just see what happens in the New Year. If Rendall Munroe [European super-bantamweight champion] wins on the 18th, I think he has to defend it against Kiko Martinez in January or February because hes his mandatory. So whatever happens after that Ill be hoping to get a crack at one of them because theyll be looking for someone to defend the title against.
Eddie: Ill just soldier on and take each fight as it comes. I hope to be fighting for a European title by 2010 so until then Ill take whatever comes along. We never get put in the ring with bums. My Irish title shot was ten solid rounds with Kevin OHara. Patrick had to beat Paul Griffin.
Patrick: That only went three rounds, though!
Eddie: But they dont give us handy numbers. They just throw us in there and see how we get on and were happy enough with that.
Patrick: Yeah, exactly. Paulie had a hard fight there in Philadelphia but thats what you want. You want to take a good wallop to the head and see how you react.
Paulie: And I definitely got a good wallop that night!
Patrick: Yeah, Paulie took one but he came back from it. I watched my brother take a hard dig which put him down but he got back up and showed the real heart and soul that you need in this game. He gritted his teeth, came through it and had your man gone by the end of the fourth. Unfortunately that was the last round and he didnt get the decision but you need tests like that. Before a European title fight or whatever you have to have been in tough fights, you need to have been tested so that you know youre ready for that level. You dont want to be thinking, I never got hit like that before! You have to serve your apprenticeship.
Patrick: I think you learn more from a defeat…..not that Id know, lads!
Paulie: He had to get that in, didnt he?
Eddie: If you never get beaten or are never come close to get beaten, you have to question the quality of your opponents.
“And obviously you guys must take inspiration from looking at someone like Oisin Fagan, whos been given his big chance against Amir Khan. Hes paid his dues and now hes getting some time in the spotlight.”
Paulie: Definitely. You have to hang in there. Boxings a funny game. You could get a phone call tomorrow saying youre fighting for a European or world title, you really dont know. Thats why you always have to be ready. And I reckon he can knock Amir Khan out in the later rounds. Hes hungry, like were hungry.
Eddie: I sparred with him. Hes so strong. His work-rate is incredible. Plus, you can hit him all night. Its like hitting a wall. He just keeps coming.
“So is it a close-knit community, the Irish boxing scene; you all know each other well and help each other out when possible?”
Patrick: Yeah, we all spar each other around Ireland. The amateurs and the professionals. My sparring for my fight with Paul Griffin was Ross Hickey. That was down in Portlaoise. He was wrecked after the three-minute rounds but he was very good and I was really grateful to him for sparring with me.
Eddie: Most guys wouldnt be afraid to ask you to come up to help them prepare for a fight. But Bernard Dunne has never asked us to go sparring with him. Its very strange. Bernard probably gets people over for it but wed spar him, no problem, so we dont understand it.
Patrick: Wed love to help him. Itd be good for him and itd be good for us, too.”
“But, Patrick, you’d obviously rather secure a fight with Dunne, rather than just a sparring session?”
Patrick: “Hes the best in Ireland at the moment. If the fight came along I wouldnt be thinking, ‘hes a good guy, I admire him.’ Ive known him all my life, watched him closely when I was growing up and itd be a privilege to share the ring with him. But at the end of the day, Id be top dog in Ireland if I beat him. Thatd be my motivation for the fight. Id have nothing to lose. Id be the young kid coming up trying to take his crown.
Eddie: The thing is, though, the three of us are still the number one in our weight divisions in Ireland. And if we could just get a fight for a European title, wed be sorted then. Just like Bernard Dunne. It took him five years to get there and the minute he won the belt, he was big time.”
“So, where would you guys like to see yourself in a years time – with another title around your waists?”
Patrick: Id like to have a European title or an inter-continental title by the end of next year.
Paulie: If things go right, Id love to get a shot at the European belt and go from there.
Eddie:“The same as the boys really. Id love to move up the European rankings. Well just see what my dad and the rest of the team come up with. But weve made history already by winning three Irish titles so we may as well win the European titles now. And then world titles!