22 January 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
Stephen Haughian begins the most important 12 months of his career with an intriguing Irish welterweight title clash with defending champion Billy Walsh on February 7.
Haughian is viewing the bout, which takes place in his hometown of Craigavon, as the first step on a road which he hopes will lead to Celtic, British and Commonwealth tilts.
However, speaking to irish-boxing.com, the 24-year-old Armagh native (16-1 6KO) insists that he has no intention of looking beyond unbeaten Walsh (5-0 3KO), who claimed the national title with a points victory over Belfasts James Gorman a year ago.
I fought on a card he topped in Cork so I have a fair idea what hell bring, Haughian said.
Hell come forward, throwing right hands and left hooks. He will be right in front of me. I think the first two or three rounds will be very dangerous.
Despite such healthy respect, Haughian, who recently completed his studies at the University of Ulster, believes that youth will be among the deciding factors in the contest.
He is 36 and going ten rounds at that pace he could struggle in the later rounds,” he argued.
Preparation, particularly the quality of sparring available in John Breens Belfast City centre sweatshop, is something else that Haughian believes will work in his favour.
The sparring is great in here at the moment, and so many of us training for fights around the same time so the gym is buzzing,” he enthused.
“There is someone to spar for every style. Every type of fighter is here, which is great. Speed, strength, southpaw and orthodox.
Dealing with pressure, including reports that a Celtic title shot against Scotsman Craig Dixon will go to purse bids in the coming weeks, and the pressure of topping a bill on home soil is something Haughian has had to do a crash course in of late.
Its a good start to the year headlining a show in my hometown in a title fight. You cant get carried away with things like that. You just have to stay grounded and focus on what is in front of you because if you dont trouble won’t be far away,” he reasoned.
Im not even thinking about Craig Dixon. I know it was in the papers but there is no point in thinking about it now my mind is elsewhere.