The Irish Eye: February part 2
Part 2 of a jam-packed February edition of Kane Clarke's 'The Irish Eye' takes in the return of professional boxing to Waterford for the first time in 73 years in a bill headlined by local super middle Craig McCarthy...
On 16 February, professional boxing returned to Waterford for the first time in 73 years with Neil Powers Promotions presentng their inaugural 'Ring Kings' event at the WIT Arena, featuring a recent world title challenger as well as a host of undefeated Irish talent.
Athy featherweight Eric 'Lilywhite Lightning' Donovan [6(3)-0] ventured outside The National Stadium, Dublin for the first time in his professional career, and took on Hungarian import Ignac Kassai [22(7)-55(25)-2] in a battle of the southpaws over six rounds.
The BUI Celtic champion started brightly, peppering Kassai with the jab whilst judging the distance perfectly to keep himself out of danger from anything coming back his way. Midway through the opener Donovan scored a knockdown with a nice left hand that wobbled the legs of the Hungarian before pouncing on him until he took a knee.
From the restart, Donovan started throwing the left more frequently, setting it up with the right and keeping Kassai guessing as to whether he was going to target the body or the head. A combination of left and right hooks again stumbled Kassai at the end of the round but this time the bell came to his rescue.
In the second, Donovan came right at Kassai right from the start and opened up with combinations to the body and head. The second knockdown came after relentless pressure from the lilywhite, planting his feet and throwing a multiple punch combination until Kassai went down. Once again the journeyman immediately rose to his feet to beat the count, only for Donovan to stick it on him with lightning fast combinations that were breaking the guard and eventually forced referee Emile Tiedt to jump in and wave off the bout.
Recent WBC cruiserweight world title challenger Mike ' The Rebel' Perez [23(15)-3(1)-1] is looking to get back on the world title trail, and began his latest quest with a stoppage of Argentina's Pablo Matias Magrini [19(15)-4(3)-1] after landing a quick one-two from his southpaw stance after just 30-seconds of the first round to pick up the twelfth first-round stoppage of his career.
Another hard-hitter on the card was Dubai-based Waterford light middleweight Rohan Date [3(2)-0] who faced off against Cork-based South African Jade Karam [9(4)-5(2)-2] in a scheduled six rounder.
Fighting in his hometown for the first time, Date was looking to put on a show, and right from the opening bell he marched forward with intent towards Karam, landing a huge left hook with the first punch he threw, unsteadying the South African and forcing him to retreat. The local lad was clearly on a mission and continued to load up with hurtful shots, landing most, and forcing the referee to call a halt to proceedings after just 26 seconds of the opener.
Lucan welterweight John Joyce [3(2)-0] stepped up to fight in a six-round contest for the first time in his professional career as he took on Hungarian Ferenc Jarko [2(1)-3(1)] at the WIT Arena.
Joyce started on the front foot, picking his shots well, switching them nicely from the body to head, Jarko landed an overhand right which rocked the head back of Joyce, but he was mostly apprehensive to throw as anytime his hand left his chin he was being countered with ease.
It was more of the same throughout the middle rounds as Joyce continued to force the fight, showing no sign of a reverse gear, boxing at a high tempo and unleashing hurtful hooks to the body whilst Jarko couldn't let his shots go. A right hook downstairs from Joyce midway through the fourth brought about a resounding chorus of 'ohhh' from those in attendance, but credit to Jarko he took it well and plenty more to see the final bell. Joyce will have been happy to get six rounds under his belt, and looked like he could of gone a few more.
Waterford super middleweight Craig McCarthy [2(0)-0] also stepped up to six rounds at the WIT Arena, and had the extra pressure of topping the bill in his hometown to take on game Bulgarian Teodor Lozanov [4(1)-7(4)].
McCormick came out fired up, and looked to work the body with straight left hands from the southpaw stance. Constant feints and upper-body movement made him a difficult target for Lozanov to land clean on as the rounds progressed.
The action slowed in the later rounds. Both fighters opted to load up with single punches, a straight-left from McCarthy got through the guard of his Bulgarian opponent in the fifth that threw him back to the ropes, but the bell came to Lozanov's rescue. In the sixth and final round the pick of the punches was a slip-left-hook from McCarthy, and as the fight went to the scorecard it was McCarthy who took the decision 58-57, much to the delight of his large hometown following.
Dublin welterweight Keane McMahon [2(0)-0] returned to action for the first time in nine months with a four-round victory over Filip Rzadek [2(1)-9(2)] of Poland.
Both fighters met in the centre of the ring and looked to land big shots, Rzadek was as game as they come but the classier work was coming from 'The Ice-Man'. McMahon continued to dominate the middle rounds working behind the jab and backing it up with some lovely right hands. In the final round the 23 year-old was oozing with confidence and landed a beautiful right-uppercut-left-hook combination to the head, even pausing for a second to acknowledge it himself. Going to the scorecard McMahon ran out a comfortable 40-37 victor.
Limerick light middleweight Graham McCormick O'Shea [2(0)-0] also made his second pro appearance in a four-round contest and picked up his second points victory with a win over Jozsef Takacs [3(0)-9(4)] of Hungary.
Takacs came forward with the head down swinging for the lights from the off, and was being countered with hurtful shots from McCormick O'Shea, who showed great composure and picked his shots well.
The Limerick southpaw had his opponent down from a cuffing right hook in the third round but the referee ruled it a slip, and as the action continued McCormick O'Shea immediately landed a well-timed left-hook that shook Takacs right down to his boots.
Takacs was virtually sleep-walking throughout the last round and would burst into action with the occasional haymaker, but it was the Limerick man who continued to press and nearly downed the Hungarian on a couple more occasions on his way to a 40-37 points victory.
Finally on this card, there was a pro debut for Waterford light-heavyweight Barry Barnes. Southpaw Barnes flew out of the blocks and started landing shots at will and at a ferocious pace. The action slowed in the second and Binienda was able to pick Barnes off with some solid jabs.
The pair continued to trade leather in the third as Binienda pilled on the pressure on a clearly tiring Barnes, who spat out his gumshield for a moment's respite. In the final round Binienda was deducted a point for repeatedly hitting on the break, and that point proved pivotal as Barnes took the decision on the referee's scorecard 38-37.
Dublin heavyweight 'Big Sexy' Sean Turner [12(8)-2(0)] took a second successive jump up in class on 24 February as he travelled to Nuremberg, Germany, to take on former amateur sensation Filip Hrgovic [3(3)-0] of Croatia, on the Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken World Boxing Super Series undercard.
The Croat is tipped for big things in the heavyweight division, having picked up a European Gold medal in 2015 followed by a Bronze in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and the 25-year-old came into the bout on the back of three successive stoppages in his first three professional bouts, but 'Big Sexy' was coming in off the biggest win of his career and wasn't there just to collect a pay cheque.
Throughout the bout, Turner looked to get on the chest of his much taller foe, and unload from the pocket, obvious tactics against someone of Hrgovic's size and nature, as the Croat looked to keep him at distance to land his shots, targeting the body to try and stop Turner's non-stop pressure.
The Dubliner made life very difficult for Hrgovic and gave a great account of himself off the back of just two weeks training for the bout. The Irishman extended the Croatian the full eight-round distance for the first time in his career, losing out on all three judges' scorecards but gaining the respect and admiration of those in attendance and those watching on Pay-Per-View.
In an interview with IFLTV post-fight, Matchroom supremo Eddie Hearn noted that he would like Turner to fight Dereck Chisora in his next bout. Since this interview, 'Big Sexy' has taken to social media to try and make the fight happen.
Turner wasn't the only Irish heavyweight in action on 24 February, as Wexford's Niall 'Boom Boom' Kennedy [11(7)-0] continued his unbeaten run with a third-round stoppage of Aaron Chavers [8(3)-4(2)-1] at the Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville.
The 33-year-old Kennedy absolutely dominated the from the start, working behind the jab, switching with the right hook downstairs and unloading with combinations when pinning his foe to the ropes, nearly finishing it in the opener. But the end was far as Kennedy pilled on the pressure in the third, eventually forcing the referee to jump in and call a halt to proceedings.