The Irish Eye
Kane Clarke rounds up September's action from the Emerald Isle …
September saw a return to action for the hard-hitting Belfast super-featherweight Anthony Cacace, following an eleven-month ring hiatus.
'The Apache' was looking to get his career back on track having not entered the ring since knocking out Scotland's Ronnie Clark in the final ten seconds of the final round, of their BBBofC Celtic title clash last October, handing 'The Shark' (15-3-2) the first stoppage defeat of his career in the process.
After turning professional in 2012, the powerful Cacace picked up the Irish title after a sensational first round stoppage of Mickey Coveney in just his fifth pro fight, and raced to a 7-0 record in just over a year. But unfortunately due to the collapse of his promotional company, Emerald Promotions, 'Anto' would only fight once more over the next 18 months.
Following a chance meeting with Barry McGuigan in the summer of 2014, Cacace signed with Cyclone Promotions, joining countrymen Carl Frampton and Conrad Cummings on the banks of the River Thames at McGuigan's Gym. They would soon be joined by two highly rated amateurs in Portsmouth's Josh Pritchard, and Scotland's 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Josh Taylor.
With Cacace now being trained full-time by Shane McGuigan in South London, many thought the deal with Cyclone would see the former Irish champion's career take its much needed 'next step' in what had been a somewhat stop-start career thus far.
Things were finally looking up for Cacace; immediately after signing he bagged himself a spot on the undercard of Carl Frampton's world title challenge against Kiko Martinez, in which he finished his opponent Dawid Knade in the second stanza with a crisp right hand.
"As far as punching-power and ability is concerned, he’s the best kid in the gym bar none, including Carl Frampton. Ability wise, he’s better than every one of them,” Barry McGuigan once told Paul Gibson of The Irish News.
The slick southpaw continued his upward trajectory, winning his first five bouts in a little over a year under the guidance of the McGuigans, pushing his record to 13-0 with six knockouts in the process. 2016 was meant to be the 'break out' year for the undefeated 27-year-old, and all roads seemingly pointed to a spot on the huge Frampton vs Quigg undercard in February, at the Manchester Arena.
But in the weeks following Cacace's victory over Clark in Edinburgh, former heavyweight titlist David Haye announced his comeback to boxing under the tutelage of Shane McGuigan, and George Groves also announced that McGuigan was to be the man to guide his career back towards world title contention. Having two world class fighters knocking on the door of McGuigan's gym was obviously a massive compliment to Shane and how far he had came in his young coaching career, but Cacace's career began to suffer.
By the turn of 2016, Shane now trained three world-level fighters in Frampton, Haye and Groves, and four prospects in Cacace, Cummings, Taylor and Pritchard. Camp was in full swing. Haye and Groves had fights pencilled in for January, while Cummings and Taylor had spots on the Frampton-Quigg undercard in February, but unfortunately for Anthony a spot on the same card never materialised.
Amid rumours and counter-rumours, a loyal fan of Cacace's took to social media to start a campaign for Anthony to be freed from his contract, and in May 'the Apache' and the McGuigans went their separate ways.
Following his release, Cacace teamed up with Pat Magee (manager) and former super-middleweight world title holder Brian Magee (head coach), signalling that a sanctioned British title shot against the winner of Martin J Ward vs Andy Townend was at the forefront of their immediate ambitions.
The first test for the trio would come at the Robin Park Centre in Wigan on 23 September, in the shape of ultra-durable journeyman Jamie Quinn, who had yet to be stopped in 32 bouts since turning pro in 2014. But just like he did against Clark, Cacace made another statement, this time breaking the jaw of Quinn (2-29-2) forcing him to retire at the end of the very first round.
In a post-fight interview with VIP Boxing TV, Cacace said: “I think I should no doubt be boxing for the British title next. I’ve been in the top ten since my third fight, it seems like no one wants to fight me, that’s the way I feel. I’ll fight anyone in the division, it doesn’t matter who. I’m ready, I don’t want no more fights, straight British title from here.”
Ward (16-0-2) stopped Townend (16-4) for the British title on the Brook vs GGG undercard, but has decided to take up a voluntary defence against Yorkshire rival Maxi Hughes (16-2-2). Unfortunately for Cacace that means he won't be granted his wish of an immediate title shot, but the BBBofC have guaranteed him his shot at the winner before the end of March next year.
Eighty miles south of Wigan at the Banks Arena in Walsall, the Ricky Hatton trained super-middleweight Christopher Blaney took to the ring for his second professional bout in the paid ranks, against experienced journeyman Kiril Psonko (15-39-2) on 2 September.
Lithuanian Psonko has previously shared the ring with George Groves, Chris Eubank Jr and Callum Smith to name but a few, but Co. Meath's 'Ginga Ninja' had no hesitation in accepting the fight despite having only been offered the contest seven days previously. Right from the off it was clear that it was the right decision. as Blaney took to the centre of the ring and bossed his opponent from start to finish.
Boxing predominantly behind a solid jab, Blaney opened up with hurtful combinations to the body and head of his retreating foe anytime he could pin him to the ropes. The Navan secured a convincing 40-37 points victory, and then advanced his career record to 3-0 after he picked up a further points win when he travelled to Mark Till's (3-22-2) backyard in Stoke on 1 October.
Kildare's light-middleweight Dennis Hogan (24-1-1) recently re-entered the WBO world rankings at number 11 having comprehensively outpointed Cameroon's Samuel Colomban (24-8) on 10 September in Queensland, Australia.
'The 'Hurricane' added the WBO Oriental title to the previous five professional belts he has now won 'Down Under', and stressed to irish-boxing.com after the fight, that he now only wants fights with those ranked above him:
"I want to increase my WBO ranking and the only way to do that is to defend my title against someone ranked ahead of me on Boxrec from this region. I can’t make it any clearer, 12 November, Brisbane, you want my WBO World ranking, I want your Boxrec ranking, let’s do it.”
In New Hampshire, USA, Celtic Warriors team-mates Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan and Steve Collins Jr picked up wins on the Dropkick Murphys Boxing promoted 'Irish festival.' O'Sullivan - now 23-2 - was returning to action for the first time since his loss to Chris Eubank Jr last November, and was made to work in a hard-fought points decision victory over Costa Rican number one Jaime Barboza (19-9), who climbed off the canvas in round seven to see the final bell of their eight-rounder at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford.
Meanwhile, light-heavyweight Collins Jnr continued his run of knockouts, stopping Cristiano Pedro (1-1) in the second round of their match-up, to make it four stoppages from his last four outings, whilst stretching his unbeaten record to 9-0-1.
MGM have been taking advantage of the supremely talented crop of fighters we have on our shores recently, tying down no more than nine fighters from the Emerald Isle to management deals in recent weeks, most notably highly sought after Belfast duo, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes.
Two-time Olympic medallist Barnes will reportedly debut on the televised Boxnation card at the Titanic Centre, Belfast on 5 November, topped by Michael's brother Jamie Conlan, while Michael will have the mother of all debuts on St. Patricks Day next year, at Madison Square Garden, New York, after signing a promotional contract with Top Tank reportedly worth a mouth-watering $1,000,000 in signing on fee alone.
The 2015 World Amateur champion plans to relocate to America ahead of his pro career, and will join former Irish team-mate Jason Quigley (11-0) in Manny Robles' Californian stable.
Stephen Ormond (20-2), Ian Tims (11-3), Marco McCullough (15-3), Phil Sutcliffe Jr (10-1), Jono Carroll (11-0), Con Sheehan (2-0) and Steven Ward (0-0) also signed management deals with the ever expanding MGM franchise, and rumour has it Ballymena Olympian Steven Donnelly will put pen to paper with the Puerto Banus based outfit very soon.
Some of the new signings have been in action during the month already with McCullough, Carroll and Sheehan all cruising to points victories on their MGM debuts, without dropping a round between them.
Tyrone McKenna and Sean Turner also continued their unbeaten runs under the MGM banner on 24 September. Welterweight McKenna was in total control throughout his six-round contest, raising the Belfast man's record to 11-0-1 with an excellent points victory over Danny Little (4-19-2) in Solihull, England. Dublin Heavyweight 'Big Sexy' Sean Turner made short work of his opponent Valeri Samiskur (18-31-1), stopping the Russian in the second round of their scheduled six-rounder to improve his record to 8-0 with six stoppages.
The Irish Eye would like to offer a massive congratulations to Carl Frampton (fighter of the year), Shane McGuigan (coach of the year) and Jamie Conlan (fight of the year vs Anthony Nelson) as Irish boxing stole the show and cleaned up at the BBBofC awards in London on 23 September.
September also brought about the retirement of three popular Irish pugilists. Mayo cruiserweight Michael 'The Storm' Sweeney (12-4-1), Dublin welterweight Dean 'Irish Lightning' Byrne (18-6-2), and former world title challenger Patrick 'The Punisher' Hyland (31-3).
I would like to thank all three for their services to Irish boxing, and many wonderful memories, and wish the lads all the best with their respective post-fight careers.