Steve’s Shamrock Shorts: Issue 2

Paul McCloskey will face Julio Diaz on May 5 and to be honest I have no problem at all with this fight. Even though at 32 years old Diaz’s best days are slipping behind him, Julio was once a serious player on the world scene at light-welterweight and won versions of ‘world’ titles. Better to have a has-been than a never-was. Currently boasting a 37-7 with 27 knockouts ‘The Kidd’ has twice held IBF belts, winning the latter against Jesus Chavez when, if I remember correctly, Chavez damaged his knee and was unable to continue. Diaz has mixed with the likes of Javier Jauregui, Angel Manfredy, Jose Luis Castillo, Juan Diaz and Kendall Holt and enters the Belfast ring with a huge wealth of experience behind him. Even though he has lost many of the big assignments over a 13-year career he did upset the odds just three fights ago and pull of a wide 10 round points win over Herman Ngoudjo in mid-2010.

So McCloskey will have to be on his guard against this wily old campaigner. Not that I would’ve complained if the likes of Curtis Woodhouse had been in the opposite corner, as was being mooted just a couple of weeks ago. McCloskey needs to earn a wage like everybody else and long spells out of the ring will be of no benefit to him, so if the elusive world title shot is still no closer to materialising it makes sense to at least keep him active. The first (and hopefully not last) Belfast Prizefighter will make up the undercard and not only that but it will be an all-Irish affair with hungry domestic fighters making up the eight slots. Usually a Prizefighter tournament is the main even in itself so to have McCloskey headlining on top of this is a great bonus.

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Speaking of that Prizefighter middleweight tournament, several names have already been confirmed. It has the potential to be a fascinating format with the right mix of quality prospects, men with something to prove and a little bit of needle throw in for good measure. It’s too early to pick a winner but I would initially lean towards Eamon O’Kane, although with some slots still remaining unfilled we shall wait and see who else is drafted in. O’Kane has a strong amateur pedigree, which included a Commonwealth Games gold medal and experience in the World Series of Boxing. The Dungiven man fights at a ferocious pace, with a strong engine and blasts in each hook (minus a jab) with serious intent.

Mark Heffron meanwhile has introduced himself to the Irish fans through brief glimpses of ability on a couple for undercards since signing with Gary Hyde. Anthony Fitzgerald is never shy to offer his opinions, especially on Ballymena’s Joe Rea (who has previous Prizefighter experience) and fans will be hoping that the draw pulls out the pair so that they can settle their differences once and for all. Roscommon’s Darren Cruise will bring strong support to the Northern capital and look to reassert his reputation after a slightly tainting loss to Lee Murtagh in Castlebar last August, which Cruise will no doubt put down to experience.

So who else will likely get the final spaces? It would be nice to see a Belfast boxer get the shout. Perhaps someone like Joe Hillerby fits the bill in that respect. Australian-based Dennis Hogan seems a popular choice on other articles here at Irish-boxing.com. I must confess that I have not seen Hogan fight but he seems to have plenty of vocal backing. Lee Murtagh has been mentioned but I’m not sure that the format suits his style. If Brendan Fitzpatrick can get down middleweight (and I have no reason to suppose that he can’t) then I would definitely put him in. New York-based Arklow man James Moore has apparently thrown his name in to the mix and would be a very strong inclusion if that were to come off. If not then perhaps Galway’s unbeaten Alan Donnellan could force his way in, with one of the McDonagh brothers or even Belfast’s Ciaran Healy is worthy of consideration.

Either way it’s good to see all eight spaces filled with Irish fighters. Even though many will not mean anything to the Sky viewers or producers did we really want to see the likes of Danny Butler, Max Maxwell, Paul Samuels or a selection of better-known UK fighters thrown in just because their names are slightly more recognisable? I certainly didn’t. I think this makes for a much more exciting evening’s boxing and you can expect all eight combatants to raise their games to that extra notch given the fact that they will be facing fighters they already know, have probably sparred with and hail from different parts of the same island. All will be vying for local bragging rights and domestic pride. So let’s get it on!

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Chris Graham ran his first professional boxing event on Saturday, February 25 and it moved smoothly enough (from what I saw anyway) and I really don’t envy anybody who takes on the running of a small hall show. Notable winners on the evening were Anthony Cacace, Joe Hillerby and Raymond Ginley who all scored first round knockouts, as did Willie Casey but there wasn’t too much to learn that we didn’t already know before the Limerick man’s brief performance. Stiffer tests will come for the ‘Big Bang’ who reckons that a Dublin title fight could be on the agenda in the coming months. Mark Ginley was involved in fight of the night after a back-and-forth tussle with Johnny Greaves, who rarely fails to entertain with his unique approach to showboating. Gerard Healy also pleased his fan base with a shutout win over Oleksiy Chukov.

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