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Back in the day - Dec 13 1998: Damaen Kelly eyes further boxing honours after Commonwealth title win

TITLE TRIUMPH...Belfast flyweight Damaen Kelly (right), pictured here in action against Anthony Hanna, produced a dazzling display to unseat Commonwealth champion Alfonso Zvenyika in Chester at the weekend
The Irish News Archive

IRISH flyweight Damaen Kelly could be fighting to add the vacant British title to his new Commonwealth crown on a February fight night date in his hometown of Belfast.

The brilliant little Turf Lodge fighter scored a runaway victory at the Northgate Arena in Chester on Saturday night to tear the Commonwealth flyweight crown from African champion Alfonso Zvenyika.

Kelly’s manager Frank Maloney yesterday said he intended to deliver on his recent “pledge to the people of Belfast to give them a night to remember” with Kelly and Belfast light welter Eamonn Magee heading the first in a series of a Panix Promotions programmes.

Of Kelly’s performance in Chester Maloney said: “It was the first time I have ever marked a fighter 100 out of 100. He was brilliant, a sensation. I believe he’ll be a superstar of boxing 1999.”

Half a century after the great Belfast fighter Rinty Monaghan battered Scotland’s Jackie Paterson for custody of the Commonwealth flyweight crown Kelly (23) recaptured the award.

And what made the occasion even more remarkable was the fact that this was only Kelly’s eighth fight since embarking on a pro career with manager Frank Maloney just over a year ago.

Up against a much more experienced opponent and in his first scheduled 12 round battle Kelly was master from start to finish. Referee Terry O’Connor scored the fight 118-112 in favour of the 25-year-old Turf Lodge man – but it was difficult to see where Kelly could have conceivably lost a round such was his domination of the champion from Zimbabwe.

Kelly’s fitness level was of the highest order, tapered to perfection by weeks of intensive sparring and gym preparation under trainer Michael Hawkins in the Holy Trinity club and based broadly on a plan that gained World honours for another brave Irish fighter Larne’s Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley.

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GARETH Turnbull showed his competitive pedigree again yesterday by claiming a superb junior men’s bronze in the European Cross-Country Championships in Italy.

The Belfast lad finished only five seconds behind winner Moroccan-born Spaniard Joussef El Nassri with Romania’s Ovidu Tat one second behind the gold medallist.

Turnbull went into the Ferrara championships with high hopes of claiming the gold but he also said he would be content with a competitive performance which he most certainly produced.

The 20-year-old pipped his big British rival Sam Haughian for the bronze in the closing 400m.

Turnbull admitted afterwards the sight of a British vest in front of him with 500m to go had spurred him to one big final effort. “I wasn’t feeling great at the start of the final kilometre and at one stage I thought it was going to end up as a bit of a nightmare.

“But the top two guys got away with about 500m to go with Sam (Haughian) and I think the sight of him in front of me got me going a bit.

“Put it this way, if the Ukrainian who finished sixth had been in bronze medal position at that time, I might not have summoned up such a big effort.”

Turnbull’s immediate reaction afterwards was disappointment but as the afternoon wore on, he came to accept that he had produced another fine performance.

 

Belfast flyweight Damaen Kelly completes his training at the Holy Trinity gym in Turf Lodge, Belfast ahead of his Commonwealth title bout

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