Irish boxing's 'worst-kept secret' fights again this weekend

Hailed by many as the hardest pound-for-pound hitter in the country, Philip Sutcliffe Jr returns to action in Blackpool

Sutcliffe, pictured here against Radoslave Mitev, is looking to improve his 8-0 pro record.
Sutcliffe, pictured here against Radoslave Mitev, is looking to improve his 8-0 pro record.

THE BIG SKY Box Office show in London headlined by Anthony Joshua, and featuring Cork’s Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, will attract the attention of most boxing fans this weekend, but one of Ireland’s brightest prospects will be in action some 250 miles away in more modest surroundings.

Former Irish senior amateur champion Philip Sutcliffe Jr is due to make his return to the ring on Saturday night after a seven-month ring absence in at the seaside location of Blackpool’s Hilton Hotel.

Praised by numerous high-profile fight figures – from world champion Carl Frampton to UFC star Conor McGregor – as a real talent, Dublin light-welterweight Sutcliffe has been touted as a superstar in waiting for some time, going an undefeated 8-0 since turning professional back in March 2013.

However, the hand injuries that scuppered his amateur career have continued to be problematic and the 26-year-old is hoping that some recent surgery has finally rectified the problem.

Hailed by many as the heaviest pound-for-pound puncher in Irish boxing, Sutcliffe Jr – trained by his father, the former Olympian and European medallist Philip Sr – is hoping his quiet comeback will lay the foundations to make a noise in 2016.

“It’s all about getting the opportunity and I’ll grab it with both hands,” says Sutcliffe, without a hint of irony considering his past problems with his tools of trade.

“I’ll fight on any stage that I can get at the minute because I haven’t fought in a few months but I’m well capable of being on any big show and fighting anyone. Just give me a date and the time to train and I’ll fight anyone,” he added.

Phillip Sutcliffe celebrates Sutcliffe Jr claimed the Irish senior 64kg amateur title in 2009, stopping Olympian John Joe Joyce in one round Source: Paul Railton/INPHO

Having stopped six of his eight opponents and carrying a fearsome reputation as a heavy hitter, Sutcliffe has suffered from the reluctance of potential opponents to get into the ring against him – a problem that that may soon be exacerbated after holding his own in sparring during a training camp against world-title challenger Kevin Mitchell.

‘The Who Needs Him? Club’ may be a cliche in boxing, but the Crumlin native is an established member with Irish and British 164lb-ers reluctant to take on a high-risk opponent.

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For his ring return, the Dubliner will take on Polish journeyman Lukasz Janik (14-15-1), but Sutcliffe wants a big-name fight in the new year.

“We’ve asked English fighters to fight on this show in Blackpool and they want too much money. Some of them are already calling me a ‘television fighter’ and they want TV money, which is stupid,” said Sutcliffe, whose only TV appearance so far came on the undercard of Frampton’s win over Jeremy Parodi two years ago.

“It’s hard for me to get opponents at the minute, but I’m ready and next year I’ll hopefully take a big step up,” he continued.

People are trying to dodge opponents – Englishmen are trying to dodge Englishmen, Irishmen are trying to dodge everyone. I wouldn’t dodge anyone and if someone asks me to fight, I’ll fight them. Give me the notice and I’ll fight for any sort of title.

The Dubliner is not the only Irish fighter on the Blackpool card as his stablemate, Belfast cruiserweight Tommy McCarthy, is also set to fight on the bill.

Both fighters are managed by Pat Magee – former manager of WBA interim title holder Brian Magee (no relation) – and McCarthy, another decorated amateur, will be looking to record his second win inside a week after extending his record to 8-0 last weekend in Surrey.

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Ciarán Gallagher

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