Last weekend I found myself flying across the Irish Sea to Belfast for the first Malta Boxing Commission (MBC) sanctioned pro event in the province, Chuck Tolan’s Fianna Promotions ‘RuailleBuaille’ event and boy oh boy and was it worth it.
But before getting onto the boxing, I have to say what a great city and great people, I was made incredibly welcome and the fans on the night, at the incredible Devenish Complex, were just plain awesome and really made it special, I’m sure the amazing atmosphere and energy they generated must have really lifted the home fighters.
Headlining the event see Belfast’s very own Tommy ‘The Tiger’ Tolan challenge fellow Belfast lad Phil Townley for the inaugural Irish International Middleweight title.
Tommy’s career has undertaken a bit of a resurgence the past twelve months or so, after a run of losses going back to 2011 the Irish bruiser has been putting in some great performances.
I felt he was unlucky not to get at least a draw against George Hillyard back in August last year, but perhaps that spurred him on when he came up against Matt Scriven just three months later and again against Rastislav Frano in February.
Those wins against Scriven and Frano set Tommy on course for his first headline fight, as well as the title shot, and Tommy wasn’t leaving anything to chance.
Right from the off both protagonists set about their business at a high pace, Townley being particularly forceful coming forward, which initially put Tolan on the back foot.
About midway through the round Townley backed Tolan onto the ropes and started to work the body of his opponent, however during one particularly frenetic exchange there was a sickening thud as their heads clashed.
Townley came out the worse, with a nasty cut on the top of his forehead, which oozed blood into both eyes. Referee Lee Murtagh stopped the proceedings and got the ringside doctor to check the cut immediately.
After cleaning the blood from his face it was clear the cut wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed and the fight continued.
Townley was a little hesitant on the restart, which opened the door for Tolan to entertain the crowd with some superb combinations behind a seriously forceful jab.
Round two much more of the same, with Tolan taking control of the proceedings in style.
On about the minute mark a nasty gash burst open on Townley’s cheek, have to say I’m not sure if it was from a punch or accidental head-clash again, as this happened during yet another very close quarters slugfest.
Either way, Townley was heavily bloodied and beginning to look just a little battle worn.
At the end of the round ringside doctor, Dr Robert McConnell and Chief Trauma Medic Chris Robinson inspected Townley’s gashes and then spoke with the referee.
With the knowledge that if the cuts open up again the fight will be stopped Townley came out in a more defensive mode, however this kids a fighter and after about ten seconds or so threw caution to the wind and went on the attack big time, what followed next was an all action toe-to-toe war.
With about thirty seconds of the round remaining the inevitable happened, not only had the gash on Townley’s cheek opened up again, but another cut opened up over his right eye.
Townley wiped the blood away from his eyes with his glove and went straight on the attack again, but Tolan was having none of it and let rip with a big right followed up with a double handed flurry of shots, in doing so backed the now covering up Townley onto the ropes and went in for the kill with another barrage of shots.
With just five seconds of the round to go referee Lee Murtagh stepped in to save the troubled and bloodied Townley from the inevitable knockout.
Have to say the fight may have only lasted three rounds, but there was probably more action in that nine minutes than you normally see in a ten rounder that went the distance.
Following the result being announced by legendary Irish MC Harry McGayock MBC’s Jennifer Burton and Irish International Championship Supervisor David Walshe presented Tolan with the Championship belt, much to the joy of the highly vocal local crowd.
Prior to the excellent Tolan-Townley title fight, Belfast’s sensational Eamonn Magee Jnr was in action against Latvian Dinars Skripkins.
What a fight, two seriously classy and talented young fighters in action against each other, this had the makings of being a true classic.
Initially it was a highly technical boxing display, more like a pugilistic chess match, yet played out at a frenetic pace, both Skripkins and Magee put on a fantastic display of boxing for the packed house, however it proved to be a short lived affair.
On about the one minute mark, Magee slowed his attacks and began picking off Skripkins with pin point accurate shots to the head and body, which in turn caused the Lithuanian to change his tactics in an attempt to regain some level of control.
After about thirty seconds or so of sublime boxing from both men, Magee stepped in with a big right to the body of Skripkins, which sent the Latvian down to the canvas.
Skripkins tried desperately to make it back to his feet as referee Lee Murtagh made the count, however his efforts were in vain, instead the young Latvian faced a TKO defeat on the one minute and fifty three second mark of the first round.
Magee Jnr is clearly the real deal, this kid has it all and what’s more he was in against a seriously good opponent in Skripkins, and came through with flying colours, great win that’s for sure.
My final words on this fight, it may not have lasted long, but if these two ever have a rematch I want to be there, it was that good.
Making his pro debut was former amateur star Matthew Fitzsimmons, against fellow debutant Latvia’s Aleksndrs Birkenbergs.
Just as with Magee Jnr-Skripkins this was another well matched bout.
From the opening bell Birkenbergs positioned himself centre ring and looked to control the proceedings, however Fitzsimmons was having none of that, especially as they were fighting in front of his home crowd.
Keeping his cool young Fitzsimmons was content to pick off his opponent with targeted shots to the head and body every time Birkenbergs would step in with an attack.
About a third of the way through the first round Fitzsimmons stepped up the pace, yet still retained his accuracy, leaving Birkenbergs no option but to cover up for periods of time until an opening for a counter attack presented itself.
Fitzsimmons changed tactics slightly in the second, going onto the front foot and taking the fight to Birkenbergs right from the off.
Birkenbergs is as brave as they come, he just kept coming forward at every opportunity, unfortunately for the youngster this played right into Fitzsimmons very capable hands, the Irishman dancing in and letting rip with either a pin point accurate shot to the head or body or a double handed flurry before stepping out before Birkenbergs could get a decent counter in.
Around the two minute mark, Fitzsimmons landed a rib cracking body shot, literally, but the brave Latvian youngster just shook it off and tried to get back to his boxing.
During the break both the doctor and referee Lee Murtagh went to check on Birkenbergs, who was clearly in a lot of pain. After a quick discussion with his corner it was decided that it would be foolhardy for Birkenbergs to continue.
Have to say Fitzsimmons is another classy youngster and boy oh boy did he showcase his skills on Saturday night, definitely one to watch for the future.
Prior to the three pro bouts there were five Exhibition bouts, organized by the IBA, to showcase just what the fans can expect when the MBC introduce the ‘Novice’ Pro format later this year.
The ‘Novice’ Pro concept is designed as an introduction to the pro ranks for talented amateurs more suited to the pros style wise but with only limited amateur experience, or on the other hand experienced fighters from the unlicensed scene looking to make a tentative move to the professional ranks.
Whilst the licensing and medical standards are virtually the same as with the regular pros, the Novice Pros bouts will be of two minute duration and can only be matched with others licensed as ‘Novice’ Pros.
The first of these bouts see Barry McCafferty beat Ben Robinson by a 40-36 points decision.
The next up see Mark McMahon beat Steve Keown for the IBA Gaelic Middleweight title by a 40-35 points margin.
Third bout see Michael Collins beat Stevie Martin in a four round Cruiserweight contest by a 40-37 points margin.
Johnny Lawson stopped Darren Butler with a cracking bodyshot on the one minute and fifty six second mark of the first round.
In the headline exhibition bout, Marty Kayes secured the IBA Irish Title with a 60-54 points victory over Karl Savage.
As I said at the beginning of the report this was my first time in Belfast and I enjoyed every single second of it, great City, great people and as for the show well what can I say, it was first class, at a great venue and it was packed with the most appreciative and friendly fans I have ever had the pleasure to meet.