Someone's '0' has got to go as Cummings and Meli get it on

Conrad Cummings, left, on his face-off with Alfredo Meli: "I was very calm and relaxed but he keeps talking about this 10 rounds. I was saying: ‘I know it’s 10 rounds Alfredo, I can count to 10, I don’t know if you can but we’ll take it one at a time and see how it goes"
Andy Watters

Boxing: Alfredo Meli (11-0) v Conrad Cummings (7-0) (tonight, Waterfront Hall, for Celtic middleweight title)

SOMEONE’S ‘0’ has got to go tonight in a domestic dust-up that has all the makings of a cracker.

Conrad Cummings and Alfredo Meli are both affable individuals, but there is no love lost here and words were exchanged when they faced-off at yesterday’s weigh-in.

It’s doubtful they’d meet on a Friday night for any reason other than to trade blows because, while they’ll share a ring there’s very little other common ground between them. Their personalities, career paths to the Waterfront Hall and the skills they bring tonight are all contrasting.

Cummings (7-0) is a full-time professional. Based in London, he trains in Shane McGuigan’s Gym and in the build-up to this fight he has sparred world champion Andy Lee and his challenger Billy Joe Saunders.

In his own words he “lives the life”, is totally dedicated to boxing and his dream of becoming a world champion.

Meanwhile, Meli (11-0) does things his own way.

The Fall’s Road man is a car mechanic by profession and worked his day job until yesterday. In the evenings he swaps oil-stained overalls for his boxing gear and trains at the Immaculata ABC.

His attitude is legendary; he pushes himself with such feverish intensity that his parents sometimes have to take him home because he’s too tired to drive.

Both fighters are unbeaten up to this point and the winner tonight will take home the Celtic middleweight title, the bragging rights and, perhaps most importantly, push on to a British title shot.

Cummings can punch, but his defence is suspect and there are question marks over how well can he take a punch.

Meanwhile, Meli can take a shot, but he is not a big hitter.

He is regarded as “a machine”, a teak tough fighting man who can walk through the other guy’s best punches and do enough to win. Can he do so tonight? There is no shortage of Belfast fight fans who believe he will, but Coalisland native Cummings begs to differ.

“It’s been a quality camp,” said Cummings after yesterday’s weigh-in.

“I had a lot of one-on-one with Shane because a lot of the other lads weren’t in the camp. It’s been hard, but I’m in the shape of my life.”

Cummings gave as good as he got as the boxers traded words when they engaged in an animated war of words yesterday.

“I don’t like all that talking, that bravado stuff but he started saying a few things there and I just wanted to let him know that he’s in for it tomorrow night,” said former Clonoe and Holy Trinity ABC star Cummings..

“I was very calm and relaxed but he keeps talking about this 10 rounds.

I was saying: ‘I know it’s 10 rounds Alfredo, I can count to 10, I don’t know if you can but we’ll take it one at a time and see how it goes.

“He’s making up all these equations about what’s going to happen because he knows what’s going to happen.”

He added: It’s great to headlining a show and I’m trying my best to stay relaxed and enjoy it. It has been a lifetime to get to this point in my career and it’s up to me to stay relaxed, take it in and do a job and I’m sure I will.”

Cummings had predicted that he’ll “chop Meli down like a tree” but Meli countered by saying that the fight will go the distance – he expects to make Cummings miss and punish him.

“From the very start I’ve been 100 per cent confident I can do it and nothing’s going to stop me now,” he said.

“All the homework and everything’s done, all the training is done, it’s just time to do the fight and that’s it.

“There’s no bad feeling, just a bit of messing and it’s entertaining. I’m looking forward to the fight, I’m 100 per cent confident and I’m going for it.”

The early rounds tonight could be explosive if Cummings – who will want to showcase his credentials– looks to land bombs.

However, it’s more likely that he’ll work his way into the fight and he’ll find Meli a durable, awkward opponent who’ll cause him problems, particularly in the first half.

If Cummings is complacent in any way he could find himself in trouble in this fight but a look at him at yesterday’s weigh-in showed that he has trained hard. So has Meli of course, but Cummings’ extra conditioning and power should see him force a stoppage win in the second half of what should be a terrific old-fashioned scrap.

Tonight's undercard

Featherweight: Marco McCullough (13-2) v Sergio Prado (11-5-1).

CHIEF support is provided by popular Shankill Road featherweight McCullough who takes on useful Spaniard Prado.

“All’s good,” said McCullough after yesterday’s weigh-in.

“I made the weight dead on, I did everything right.”

McCullough was originally scheduled to fight Jon Slowey, but Prado stepped in two weeks’ ago after the Scot pulled out.

“We brought an English guy over for sparring because he (Prado) is a completely different style of fighter – one of them’s a boxer on the back foot, the other is a come-forward, aggressive sort of fighter. But I’m fit and ready and it’s always great to be fighting at home,” McCullough explained.

“There’ll be some noise, the Waterfront is a great venue so it’ll be a great night.”

A good test for McCullough looks in store. He was caught in the summer but has prepared well for this fight and should get the win he wants tonight.

Lightweight: Paul Hyland Jnr (8-0) v Virgile Degonzaga (11-10-2)

A FIFTH fight this year for unbeaten ‘Hylo’ and another against a credible opponent. The Belfast lightweight deservedly got the decision last time out against Bence Molnar at the Europa Hotel and will be full of confidence for tonight’s rumble with the experienced Degonzaga who has only fought outside his native France once before.

“It’s good to be on the undercard of this show,” Hyland said.

“I want to put on a good show. A lot of people have bought tickets after the last fight so I should get a good crowd.

“The last few opponents I fought have all been good so I’ve up the rankings. I’ve adapted quickly and because a load of my fights have been tough I’m getting the rounds in and I’m learning more. I do feel I’m progressing and learning after every fight.” Degonzaga has a winning record and is the fourth quality opponents Hyland has faced this year. But Hyland’s slick movement and workrate should be too much for him and he should move to 9-0 with another win on points.

Lightweight: Fergal McCrory (debut) v Zoltan Schmidt (2-5-0)

McCRORY makes his pro debut against unpredictable Hungarian Schmidt. The Brackaville southpaw can certainly bang and has impressed coach John Breen with his application and commitment.

Schmidt only has two wins on his card and lost his last two, but he did stop debutant Mark Kaiser in the first round when he met him in May. McCrory needs to be cautious early on here and box his way to a win.

Welterweight: Matthew Wilton (12-0) v Mohamed Larabi (4-6)

WILTON is an entertaining undercard fighter who is keen to move up the running order. Another win tonight should help the unbeaten welterweight on his way and he should get it against well-travelled France native Mohamed Larabi.

Larabi has fought in Australia, Thailand and Morocco in the past and did show a bit of form midway through his 10-fight career. However, he has lost his last three and 'Speedy' – who mixes all-out aggression with a canny boxing brain – should have too much for him.

Welterweight: Paddy Gallagher (8-2) v Tomas Bartunek (3-3)

THIS is Gallagher’s third fight of the year and he’s taking on a slippery customer in Czech Bartunek.

The fight was confirmed on Wednesday giving Gallagher very little opportunity to size his opponent up, but he has been impressed with the footage of him on the internet.

“I had a look at him yesterday and he’s good,” said Gallagher.

“He looks like a good boxer; the way he moves, good footwork, good headwork and he throws a few punches. I’ve seen him moving back and coming forward as well so he seems to know how to do a bit of everything.

“Hopefully he’ll be a good test for me, he’ll be coming to win and he’ll push me and I’ll show what I can do.”

Bartunek’s three losses all came in England – he lost to Joe Hughes in Swindon last month and Antonio Counihan in Liverpool in September. Gallagher intends to inflict his fourth and has prepared well for the fight alongside Breen’s Gym stablemates McCullough and McCrory.

“When we’re all fighting together it’s good because we’re all on the exact same page,” he said.

“I’ve done a bit of sparring with Fergal and he can clip. Marco is looking well too, he has been training hard for it and everything is coming together for him too.

“Hopefully the bill will be sold out because it deserves to be. The headline is a cracker and I can’t wait to see it.”

Super-lightweight: Josh Taylor (2-0) v Daniel Minescu (1-4)

CYCLONE prospect Taylor made his debut on Carl Frampton’s world title defence in Texas during the summer. He built on that with a first round stoppage win against Adam Mate in his native Edinburgh last month.

The Scot is a well-schooled box-fighter and another early stoppage win looks likely against Romanian Minescu.




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