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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Barry McGuigan is leading a professional revolution in Irish boxing

Carl Frampton fights for a world title tonight, but the Titanic Showdown undercard features plenty of men who could be king.

Frampton, centre, with Shane and Barry McGuigan after his KO win against Hugo Cazares earlier this year.
Frampton, centre, with Shane and Barry McGuigan after his KO win against Hugo Cazares earlier this year.
Image: William Cherry

FOR AS LONG as anyone would listen, Barry McGuigan has been touting Carl Frampton as a world champion in the making.

Tonight that prophecy can become a reality on what is set to be the biggest night of boxing in the history of Northern Ireland.

The unbeaten Frampton is just one more win away from making his childhood dream come true – not just to be a world champion but to do it at home in Belfast.

From his childhood home in the staunchly loyalist Tiger’s Bay he could see the old cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard. It is fitting that he fights Kiko Martinez in their shadow tonight in a purpose-built 16,000-seat arena surrounded by history.

McGuigan’s mission was to bring big-time boxing back to Belfast and he has already made good on that pledge. Frampton’s most recent fights — against Martinez, Jeremy Parodi and Hugo Cazares — have been blockbusters as both sides of a boxing-mad city too often riven by political and religious differences have united behind their superstar.

“[Barry] has backed me from the start,” Frampton recalls of his mentor’s bullish confidence. “He was telling anyone who would listen that I was going to be a world champion

He was laughed at at the start because he was saying it early doors and after four-round fights, he was making big predictions. It looks like it’s going to come true.

For McGuigan, Frampton is leading a revolution that will take Ireland back to the top of world boxing. His Cyclone Promotions stable has expanded this year to include top prospects Jamie Conlan, older brother of London 2012 Olympian Michael, and Marc McCullough as well as former Irish amateur champion Conrad Cummings.

Marc McCullough after winning Marc McCullough was made to work for his European title and he has the bruises to prove it. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

Cyclone is very much a family affair. Sons Blain and Jake are involved in the management and promotional side of the business while Shane, a highly-rated amateur himself, trains Frampton and others from his gym in Battersea.

“Ireland is just full of talent, world class talent, and Frampton is the flagbearer,” McGuigan said earlier this year.

We’ll develop Irish talent. We want to bring them through and provide a conveyor belt of champions and we will.

That conveyor belt is already rolling, and the supporting cast will have another chance to show that they too are the real deal on the undercard in the Titanic Quarter tonight.

Belfast featherweight McCullough (10-1) impressed when given the chance on the last two big bills in the Odyssey, and then showed that he has headline potential when he topped a smaller showcase in the Waterfront Hall alongside Conlan in June.

Jamie Conlan with his belt after the fight Jamie Conlan, 27, is ranked 11th by the WBO and the current European Super-Flyweight champ. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

It’s no surprise then that the 24-year-old fights in one of tonight’s main supporting bouts in the first defence of his WBO European Featherweight title. His opponent, the Russian Dmitry Kirillov (31-4-1), is a former world champion who once trained under the legendary Freddy Roach.

Conlan’s disrupted preparations took another turn yesterday when his opponent Jose Estrella failed to make weight ahead of their clash for the vacant WBO Intercontinental Super-Flyweight title.

The Mexican was a late addition to the bill after Conlan’s original opponent, Daryl Basadre, was forced to pull out through injury.

And while Estrella is ineligble for the title, a win for unbeaten Conlan (12-0) would add to the European belt he won back in March and surely see him move up the WBO rankings where he is currently rated 11th.

Conrad Cummings knocks down Lajos Munkacsi Cummings hopes to make it four from four in his first year as a pro. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

For Cummings (3-0), his fast start to life in the pro ranks steps up a gear when he looks to make it four wins in his first seven months against Polish middleweight Robert Talarek.

“He’s beaten prospects in the past and given all the others nightmares,” the Tyrone native said ahead of tonight’s six-rounder.

“I need to be beating guys like this and beating them in style to keep progressing.”

Elsewhere on the card another Belfast native, Anthony Cacace, makes his Cyclone debut after returning home following a stint with GreenBlood Boxing in Philadelphia.

Dungiven’s Eamon O’Kane faces Lithuania’s Virgilijus Stapulionis in the IBF Intercontinental Middleweight title fight while Limerick’s Willie “Big Bang” Casey and Belfast welterweight Matthew Wilton are also in action.

It’s shaping up to be another big night for Irish boxing — and you can bet that McGuigan already has the next move mapped out.

Frampton v Martinez (10.30pm start approx) and the Titanic Showdown is live on BoxNation from 7pm this evening.

Frampton: Kiko is predictable – but this is no walk in the park

Take a look at the 16,000-seat arena built on the Titanic slipways for Frampton v Martinez

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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