Yesterday saw the announcement that Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing will make their long-awaited return to Belfast after almost four years away.
The Sky cameras will be back in the Titanic City on Saturday June 10th, as North Belfast bantamweight Ryan Burnett takes on IBF champion Lee Haskins at the SSE Odyssey Arena.
It promises to be a massive event, especially with the BoxNation card occurring in the city just one week later at the Waterfront Hall and the associated competition which comes with this.
An undercard filled with local fighters is hoped for, and indeed expected judging by the comments of Hearn who has revealed that he has already had talks with managers Mark Dunlop, Kieran Farrell, Paschal Collins, and Matthew Macklin.
Between Hearn’s own fighters, the fighters of the four mentioned above, and a few others, Irish-Boxing.com take a speculative and suggestive look at what the card in just over six weeks time.
– Obviously, Ryan Burnett [16(9)-0] will headline the card in what is his first fight in Belfast since November 2014.
– In terms of Hearn’s other Irish fighters, there is just one – Katie Taylor [4(2)-0]. However, with a Summer date in America previously mentioned, and perhaps a want for her mooted world title fight in Dublin this November to be a ‘Homecoming’-type affair, it seems far from certain that Taylor would feature here.
– Going into fighters of Irish descent, high-profile heavyweight Dillian Whyte [20(15)-1(1)], whose grandfather hailed from Cork, headlines his own bill in London the weekend before and definitely will not feature here. However, Matchroom’s newest signing, destructive super middleweight Jamie Cox [21(12)-0] is a good shout for an appearance. The Swindon fighter is of Donegal stock, and has fought in Ireland before, winning the WBO European title in Dublin in November 2015 with a stunning knockout of Ferenc Albert.
– Then there are sure to be a number of Matchroom fighters featuring, perhaps some of the Rio Olympians. On the last Dublin show, Kal Yafai, Anthony Crolla, and Sam Eggington all boxed, to an admittedly completely uninterested crowd, while on the last Belfast show, Callum Smith and Lee Selby featured, albeit against Belfast opposition in Tommy Tolan and Martin Lindsay.
– Lagmore lightweight Paul Hyland Jr [15(5)-0] last night became the first, and so far only, fighter announced for the undercard. It is hoped that the crowd-pleaser will be presented with a big fight on the bill, perhaps a BBBoC Celtic title fight and/or British title eliminator.
– Dubliner Jay Byrne [4(1)-2(0)] has twice fought top Matchroom prospects in the past six weeks, putting on competitive showings against both Felix Cash and Josh Kelly. The super fit welter gets back into action as the home fighter in Dublin on May 27th, but a two week turnaround would surely pose little issue for Byrne if it meant another Sky date. Should this be the case, it would be encouraging to see Byrne rewarded for his recent efforts with a fight where he is not a massive underdog, potentially a BUI Celtic light middleweight title clash with the Kieran Farrell-managed Gerard Healy.
– Looking at the rest of Dunlop’s stable, Joe Fitzpatrick [7(4)-0] and James Tennyson [18(14)-2(2)] are both promoted by Frank Warren, Ronnie Clark [18(10)-4(1)-2] looks set to box Zelfa Barrett in Dundee, while James Fryers [12(5)-1(0)] is currently on a break from boxing.
– As mentioned above, a fight for the title-hungry Gerard Healy [6(0)-4(1)-1] against Jay Byrne could work. The popular Belfast light middle is a big ticket-seller and the eight-round title fight could set the winner up for an Irish title shot.
– The stand out Farrell-managed fighter is perhaps Derry middleweight Sean McGlinchey [1(0)-0]. The Commonwealth Games bronze medalist brought a massive crowd to his debut in Belfast last weekend and is trained by former Sky pundit Glenn McCrory, who left the channel on amicable terms. An addition which would seem to make sense for all parties.
– Going through Farrell’s stable, Sean Magee, Padraig McCrory, and Tom Kearney are all awaiting debuts, while Mathew Fitzsimons [3(2)-0], Sean Higginson [1(0)-0], and Mark Morris [3(1)-1(1)] will all be hoping to build on their wins last weekend. While it is difficult to deduce which fighters Farrell will put forward and which fighters Hearn will want to feature, expect one or two of these names to get a run-out on June 10th
– It’s well-known that Sky Sports absolutely love Spike O’Sullivan [24(16)-2(1)]. Big knockouts, weigh-in kisses, and Twitter fame have seen the Cork middleweight become one of the highest-profile Irish boxers and it seems likely that he will be called upon here. While Spike never did secure his fight with Anthony Ogogo, perhaps a bout with the Olympian’s conqueror, Craig Cunningham, could happen.
– The rest of the Celtic Warriors seem somewhat less likely. Luke Keeler [11(5)-2(1)] fights for the Irish title on June 24th in Dublin v Darren Cruise on a card which also features big fights for Steve Collins [10(4)-0-1], Craig O’Brien [4(0)-0], and the phenomenally well-supported Ray Moylette [2(0)-0]. Then there is Steve Ormond [23(12)-3(2)] who fights Craig Evans the following week (June 17th) in the BoxNation Belfast card leaving perhaps Bernard Roe [4(0)-0]. The Dublin light middleweight returns to the ring in what will be an American debut in Boston on May 20th and could be an outside shout to feature here.
– There is also Niall Kennedy [7(4)-0] and Allan Phelan [7(4)-2(1)-1], although both seem more likely for the June 24th Red Corner show.
– While the majority of the Irish contingent of Mack The Knife Global have no promotional link to Queensberry Promotions and BoxNation, it had seemed an almost unspoken acceptance that they would fight exclusively on Warren shows. This commonly-held assumption may well be proved wrong on June 10th. Nevertheless, it can be safely said that, with fights scheduled, Phil Sutcliffe Jr [13(8)-1(0)], Paddy Barnes [2(0)-0], Marco McCullough [16(9)-3(2)], Steven Ward [3(0)-0], Davey Oliver Joyce, and Steve Ormond, wont feature. Ian Tims is also said to be fighting for the Irish cruiserweight title against Luke Watkins on the BoxNation show, while Tyrone McKenna will surely continue his run of big fights alongside his gym-mates Barnes and Jamie Conlan.
– Looking at relatively local MTK fighters, the Upton Brothers Anto [14(5)-1(0)], Sonny [12(5)-3(1)], and Irish champion Pauly [13(3)-0] could be in with a shout, as could Derry super bantam Tyrone McCullagh [6(4)-0], while popular Belfast welter and current BBBoC Celtic champion Paddy Gallagher [10(6)-3(0)] is a somewhat familiar face for Sky and may make his MTK debut a week earlier than anticipated.
– The main one here seems obvious – a British super featherweight title fight between Matchroom’s reigning champ Martin J Ward and Belfast southpaw Anto Cacace [15(7)-0]. The fight, for which Cacace’s promoter Pat Magee won purse bids, must take place before the end of June and where better than in Belfast? Surely Hearn and Magee could come to some sort of agreement to allow Cacace his long-awaited chance.
– Magee’s other fighter, cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy [9(5)-1(0)], also looks to be in line to make his comeback on the bill. Now trained by Ensley Bingham, the Belfast big man wants to move straight back into big fights, and a clash with Canada’s Commonwealth champ Denton Daley had been previously mooted.
– Tyrone super featherweight Feargal McCrory [5(2)-0] scored a hugely impressive win at the weekend over Jay Carney. A crowd-pleasing fighter who brings buckets of fans, ‘Fearless Feargal’ would certainly add to an event which needs a high turn-out. The Coalisland 24 year old recently spoke of “big news” coming soon – could this be it?
– One high-profile fighter with huge name-value is former Prizefighter winner Mike Perez [21(13)-3(1)]. The Cork-Cuban heavyweight is back, in the shape of his career and it would make sense for Hearn to offer him a run-out here, refreshing fans memories and legitimising any potential fights with any of the big men in the Matchroom stable.