Haughian itching for McIntyre return

JUNE 28 Steve Wellings

Lurgan welterweight Stephen Haughian is desperate for a chance to avenge last summer’s Celtic title defeat. On June 25 Haughian won his third fight in succession since conceding a ten round decision to the former British title holder Kevin McIntyre, in a fight that doubled as an eliminator for that very title. Perhaps the strangest thing about that loss was the way Haughian struggled with McIntyre’s elusive southpaw stance. It was surprising given the fact that Stephen has sparred many rounds with Paul McCloskey, the very embodiment of an obscure right-hander.

“I would love a rematch with McIntyre to put the record straight. It would also look good on my record,” said Haughian, who insists he has learned the lessons from their first meeting.

“That is three wins since the McIntyre defeat, so I am back up there in the rankings. I would love another title shot and if I could get it on the next McCloskey bill in Belfast that would be great.”

Haughian’s 60-54 main event win over Arek Malek in Craigavon was a routine affair, with the 26-year-old using his trademark jab and sound technical skills to keep the away man at distance. Malek was by no means an ideal co-headliner but when more esteemed opposition withdrew, Stephen would have just been glad of the run out.

“Malek was tough and he has hardly been stopped, so my trainer John Breen told me just to box him and if the opportunity came along to take it,” he said. My shots were coming together and I won the fight easily enough.”

When the reigning Irish welterweight champion lost his first fight, in December 2007 to Italian mover Gianmario Grassellini, Haughian appeared unlucky to be on the wrong end of the decision for the IBF Intercontinental strap. In front of an impressive following, on the undercard of John Duddy’s fight with Howard Eastman in the King’s Hall, Belfast, Haughian suffered a split decision defeat. However, he learned from the defeat and regrouped. Four fights later in Castlebar, the former quality amateur showed his improvements and out boxed Grassellini over eight rounds.

There was no controversy in the first McIntyre fight, as the man himself admits, but Haughian and trainer John Breen believe they can once again right the wrongs and assemble the correct game plan needed to master McIntyre. Whether that fight moves on to the radar or not, impressive wins over Dee Mitchell, Dave Ryan and Arek Malek have helped steady the ship and push him back into title reckoning.

“I am pleased with my performance and we will just try to stay busy and keep on winning fights. I know I have to keep pushing forward and get myself back into contention for a title shot.”

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