Historically, west Belfast is an area synonymous with explosions and native son Joe Fitzpatrick is intent on detonating one when he debuts on the mainland at the York Hall on Thursday evening.
Dubbed ‘The Dragon’, the 5ft 11in southpaw has burnt out all four pro opponents to date in swift fashion and will be hoping for a similar incineration when he squares off with Seaham’s very decent Jordan Ellison – a man yet to be stopped – over four rounds in east London.
Last month, fight writer Glynn Evans called up the 21 year old to reminisce and prophesise.
How did you first become interested in boxing?
Dad’s been a boxing coach for about 40 years and, when I was as young as four or five, he took me to the Immaculata gym in west Belfast where (1956 Olympic medallist and world bantamweight champion) John Caldwell and (ex British featherweight champion) Martin Lindsay had boxed as amateurs. I still train there today and Martin is one of my coaches.
What can you tell us about your amateur career?
I had 150 odd amateur fights, and I’d estimate that I won about 130. Over 50 would have been internationals. I travelled the world, Washington DC twice, Spain, Russia….everywhere. I first boxed for Ireland when I won a multi-nations over in Finland when I was just 11 years old. Shortly after, I got a points decision over England’s Jack Bateson (a future European Championships medallist). I was the first to beat him.
Across various age groups, I won six All-Ireland titles and three Ulster Senior titles, one at 52kg, the last two at 60kg. I never won the All-Ireland Seniors but beat Sean McComb from the Holy Trinity twice and he went on to win two All-Irelands.
At the European Juniors in Dublin, I got a bronze medal, beaten by one point against the Russian in the semi, and I picked up a bronze at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Isle of Man, losing to an Aussie.
I also got a silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Scot, Charlie Flynn beat me by unanimous decision in the final. I didn’t box well. I’d been up late the night before and also the nerves got to me. There were 10,000 Scottish fans screaming for him. That was probably my amateur highlight but I knew it should’ve been gold.
Why did you opt to turn pro?
Last year, I picked up a hand injury so couldn’t enter the All-Irelands to stake my claim for the Olympic qualifiers so I opted to turn pro instead. No regrets.
How have you acclimatized to the professional code?
I get lots of good sparring with the likes of Jamie Tennyson, Paul Hyland Jr, James Fryers plus Tyrone McKenna who’s a couple of weights heavier. In the amateurs I messed about a lot and didn’t have a very tight guard but you can’t get away with that in the pros.
Thus far as a pro you’ve blitzed all four opponents inside 10 rounds. What’s the secret behind the firepower?
This may surprise people but I really wasn’t much of a puncher in the amateurs. It’s just that I train far harder and, as a result, have become stronger. The smaller (pro) gloves allow you to punch faster as well as harder. I still consider myself more of a boxer than a fighter.
What are your goals for the rest of 2016?
I don’t want to suffer from the inactivity that blighted Martin (Lindsay)’s career.
In addition to Thursday, I’d like at least another two fights this year then hopefully, I’d like to think about fighting for eliminators and titles in 2017. I desperately want to fight (Commonwealth Games conqueror) Charlie Flynn for a pro title sometime in the future because I know I’ve got the potential to beat him. I’m the better boxer. I just wasn’t focussed last time.
Ultimately, what do you hope to achieve out of boxing?
I’m a big Celtic (FC) fan but used to play Gaelic sports and ultimately I’d love to fight for a world title before 40,000 at Casement Park (home ground of Antrim), up the Falls Road. Like all young fighters, it’s my dream to become a world champion and I’m determined to make it happen.
How do you pass your time, away from boxing?
For the past two years, I’ve been a committee member of the Divis Residential Support Team. We do a lot of youth and community work, help the elderly, stuff like that. We address anti-social behaviour, clean up graffiti and paint over it.
Finally, what can punters expect from Joe Fitzpatrick tomorrow night?
Having only fought on small hall shows back home I can’t wait to show what I can do on the mainland and to all the BoxNation viewers.
Essentially, I’m a long, rangy southpaw who loves a scrap. Being so tall, uppercuts are probably my best shots. I think fans will enjoy that I’m hard to hit and like a fight. I guarantee I won’t be boring