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Dublin: 12 °C Saturday 24 August, 2019
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Murphy wins, Treacy wows as pro boxing returns to Cork for first time in 9 years

Home-county hero Noely Murphy headlined a memorable night’s action at Neptune Stadium.

Macroom’s Noely Murphy (file pic).
Macroom’s Noely Murphy (file pic).

NOT SINCE BRIAN Peters landed on Leeside in June of 2010 — with a card featuring among others Spike O’Sullivan, Willie Casey and the Cork Cubans — had the Rebel County enjoyed a night of blood and bandages in the squared circle.

Cork remains a hotbed of pugilistic talent but for various reasons — including the lack of a suitable hometown headliner — its market had remained untapped for the bones of a decade.

The latent thirst for prizefighting was laid plain in the city on Saturday night, when Neptune Stadium played host to Martin Horgan’s debut pro boxing event and was lucky to hold onto its roof.

Leeside Revolution consisted largely of four-round tune-ups for some of Ireland’s up-and-coming talent — doubtless a few future hometown headliners among them — but it was sprinkled with sufficient magic, and astute match-making, that it will be remembered for far more than simply a homecoming for local hero Noely Murphy.

The New York-based light-middleweight, whose famously huge support for once didn’t have to head across the Atlantic — or worse still, up the M50 — won well as expected in a headliner which was made worthwhile by the sheer noise from all four sides of the ring.

The fact that Murphy had to face unheralded Hungarian Adam Mate [28-14, 21KOs] and not, say, a Dub in an Irish title fight was neither his fault nor was it promoter Horgan’s: both Jay Byrne and Jake Hanney pulled out of emerald-strap scraps with Murphy for personal reasons, and so in the end all the 25-year-old former Macroom BC man could do was win and look good doing it.

He won on a score of 79-74 but the awkward Mate was no friend of the baying Cork crowd, backpedaling and spoiling at every opportunity, succeeding with seemingly his sole aim of going the distance.

Southpaw Murphy, who clocked up serious mileage in pursuit of his foe, will forever hold a special place in his heart for what was an ear-splitting return despite the lack of compelling action; Mate can go on a list of guys not to call if an Irish 154-pound up-and-comer needs a substitute opponent — and frankly, fair play to him.

The last-minute and non-title nature of the main event meant that for the general Irish boxing observer, there was a heightened sense of anticipation for an undercard contest which wound up taking place well after Murphy-Mate, paddy-last, like a de-facto second main event.

It was another light-middleweight contest but this one was all-Irish and all the more fascinating in that it all but guaranteed carnage.

And in the end, the only disappointing aspect to Eddie Treacy’s sensational stoppage of Owen Duffy was that we got to see less than two rounds of it.

Bray’s ‘Honey Badger’ lived up to the viciousness of his ring moniker, blitzing Cavan’s Duffy from the off and eventually dropping his 4-1 opponent with a thunderous left hook in the second.

Credit to Duffy for beating the count, although he might have wished he hadn’t: Treacy detonated a series of huge blows until his adversary slumped into the ropes, forcing the referee’s intervention.

Treacy had been out of the ring for almost nine months but sealed a victory in only his third pro contest which will see him skyrocket through the domestic ranks.

And with that, the curtain was lowered on pro boxing’s return to the Rebel County — some five hours after the first actors took centre-stage.

Predominantly a basketball arena, Neptune has almost a uniquely negative connotation in the minds of Cork youngsters unless they shoot hoops at a decent level; it’s used by UCC as an exam hall in the summer, the trek to which from College Road is in itself an absolute pain in the hoop when you frankly have enough on your plate as it is.

Depending on his future plans, Ireland’s youngest professional boxer, the recently-turned 18-year-old James Power [4-0, 4KOs], could find out all about that pilgrimage next year. Though already surely the biggest ticket-seller on Leeside not named ‘Noely’ or ‘Spike’, the Coachford College alumnus opted against fighting on this milestone event in his home county with much reluctance; Power felt it too close to his recently completed Leaving Cert to be able to prepare to the best of his ability, and he didn’t wish to half-arse it in front of his home crowd.

Another of Irish pro boxing’s most junior gunslingers kicked the show off, however: Kildare’s Katelynn Phelan, Ireland’s youngest-ever female prizefighter (and second-youngest current pro behind Power) at 19, doubled her CV to 2-0 with a four-round shutout win over tough Bulgarian journeywoman Galina Gyumlyiska.

The Sofia native, 45, turned professional three years before Phelan was born and has fought some of the leading lights in women’s pro boxing — including Delfine Persoon in 2013 and feared French super-feather Maïva Hamadouche two years later.

Former World Youth and European Junior bronze medalist Phelan, however, bossed proceedings from behind her thudding jab, and dished out a few lessons to the veteran while learning a couple of her own.

This was a far more refined performance from Phelan than her debut, which was shown live on TG4 as part of Boxing Ireland’s Clash of the Titans bill in March. Her age and pedigree compared to most contemporaries suggest a major future in the sport, and Phelan’s is certainly a talent worth keeping tabs on over the coming years.

After Phelan’s 40-36 success, there was an entertaining points win via the same score by Bray super-bantamweight Sam Carroll, who beat another Bulgarian in Georgi Andonov. Like Phelan, Carroll moves to 2-0.

Then came a scarcity in the form of a fight between two Irish debutants. Cruiserweight bruisers Oisin O’Donovan and Staz Tomasevski, both making their bows in their home county, waged war upon each other from the off. It was the man of Polish heritage, and not that of another faraway land in Dunmanway, who got the nod on a score of 39-38, but both men emerged having nearly taken the lid off Neptune as well as the head of the man opposite, and will surely do it again someday.

Dublin light-middle Craig O’Brien picked up a stay-busy six-round points win over a legitimate legend of Irish boxing in frequent visitor Radoslav Mitev to move to 11-1(1KO), and will now have his eye on landing a big one across the pond.

Navan’s Chris Blaney moved to 12-2-1(3KOs) by outpointing the game Michal Gazdik in a super-middleweight contest, while at the same weight Waterford’s Craig McCarthy scored a third-round stoppage — the first quick win of the evening — over Lajos Szilagyi, dropping him in the first before the Hungarian retired in the third.

McCarthy moved to 7-0(2KOs) with his mean win, and it seemed to spark something, because the next two bouts went fewer than three rounds between them.

Limerick light-middle Graham McCormack became embroiled in an absolutely feral affair shortly afterwards, eventually dispatching of surprise package Reyhan Todorov in a rock-‘em-sock-‘em war. McCormack definitively decked Todorov in the second round to move to 5-0, 1KO, and his first-ever stoppage victory will live long not only in his and his fans’ memories, but those of everyone present.

There were no such hardships for Cavan 154-pounder Dominic Donegan, who flattened Adrian Aleksiev in their opener to score his own first stoppage and move to 2-0.

In the final bout before the main event, ‘Slovak Rebel’ Vladimir Belujsky went the four-round distance with Hungarian ver Norbert Szekeres, the super-middleweight winning every verse to improve to 8-2-1(6KOs).

Next up was Noely Murphy’s long-awaited homecoming, but the action didn’t stop with the Corkonian Canelo’s eight-round success.

Before Eddie Treacy closed the show, it was time for the second female bout of the evening, in which heavy-handed super-featherweight Siobhán O’Leary — fighting out of Limerick via her native Kerry, and in front of her typically boisterous support — thrice grounded Slovakia’s Deniso Cicoova en route to a third-round TKO.

O’Leary, now 3-0(2KOs), is keen on securing a first-ever women’s Irish title fight with Monaghan-born Elaine Greenan [3-2], and will have done her cause no harm with another dominant display.

All in all, it was a memorable night’s action, the culmination of a fine few months’ work by newcomer Horgan, Boxing Ireland Promotions and all involved.

Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait nine years for the next one.

***

 

The event began with a portion of Muay Thai, where in a WBC light-welterweight world-title clash between home-county hero Sean Clancy and Alessando Sara of Italy.

Clancy, a Siam Warriors Cork prodigy who earned his stripes under promoter Horgan, took the fight on a unanimous decision before strapping the green belt around his waist.

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