Steven Donnelly and Caoimhin Hynes set for mouth-watering Ulster semi-final showdown
Boxing: Ulster Elite Championships
THERE are some big scraps happening in Belfast over the next couple of days – Carl Frampton v Horacio Garcia, Jamie Conlan and Jerwin Ancajas among them – but there could be another contender for fight of the weekend at the Dockers Club tonight.
It is a rivalry that has been brewing for a couple of years, and finally Rio Olympian Steven Donnelly and up-and-coming Holy Trinity banger Caoimhin Hynes will share a ring this evening.
Donnelly is a veteran of two Commonwealth Games, returning with a bronze medal from Glasgow last time out, and was one of Ireland’s best performers in a disappointing 2016 Olympic Games.
The All Saints fighter certainly has experience on his side - at 28 he is eight years Hynes’s senior - and would love to make it to a third Commonwealths in-a-row, with places in the Gold Coast next April up for grabs.
Donnelly has campaigned at 69kg for the last five years, and tonight’s fight will be his first competitive outing at the 75kg middleweight limit.
Hynes had to negotiate a quarter-final against Monkstown’s Michael Bustard on Wednesday night, and Donnelly was ringside to run the rule over his next opponent.
Indeed, as he made his exit from the Dockers Club, there was a brief coming together between Hynes’s brother and the Ballymena man – adding a bit more needle to what could be an explosive contest.
Donnelly has opted to keep his powder dry ahead of the fight, but Hynes admits it is a rivalry that is finally ready to come to the boil.
“I didn’t see him tonight, no. My brother saw him… I heard they had a run-in. Look, it is what it is. On Friday night, we’ll settle it in the ring,” said the 20-year-old.
“I’ve nothing against Donnelly, he’s a nice guy, but he’s been calling me out for a couple of years. This one’s been brewing for a while and finally it’s happening, so it’s a good fight for the fans.
“I’d say this place will be packed out on Friday night – he’ll have a lot of people here, I’ll have a lot of people.
“In a way, it’s a shame it’s not a final. It would be a big fight for the Ulster Hall. May the best man win.”
The pair have sparred on several occasions in recent years, with contrasting reports coming out about who came out on top, adding another layer of intrigue.
And Hynes says that, if history is anything to go on, he will go into the fight confident of making it to finals night at the Ulster Hall on November 24.
He added: “We sparred a couple of times up in my club for the Irish seniors last year and then we sparred in a training camp last March there… I don’t want to say much on it but I was very confident in those spars.
“I know it’s only spars, it’s not a fight, but going on that I’m very confident of what I can do on Friday night.
“But I don’t want to take away anything from Donnelly, he’s a very good fighter. I’ve boxed in the World youths and stuff but, in terms of senior level, Donnelly’s the best opponent I’ll have come up against.
“He’s an Olympian, he’s been to two Commonwealth Games, so the pressure’s all on him rather than me. He’s expected to win.”
Hynes is still working his way back to full sharpness following five months out of the ring after he was the victim of a brutal city centre stabbing back in May.
He has bounced back well and looked impressive against Bustard, boxing on the back foot and landing some heavy shots en route to a unanimous victory.
“I’ve sparred Bustard a lot of times, we had a game-plan so we didn’t want to complicate things and take a risk of getting cut or anything, so we just kept it simple.
“I’ve a tough enough fight in the semi-final so I didn’t want to take any chances.”
Defending middleweight champion Fearghus Quinn, the big banger from Camlough, takes on Conor Doherty in the other semi-final, with the winner up against Donnelly or Hynes in the decider.
I'M READY FOR WHATEVER McKENNA HAS INSISTS DUFFY
SEAN Duffy insists he is ready for anything Stephen McKenna throws at him when the pair go toe-to-toe in tonight’s lightweight semi-final at the Dockers Club.
In 2014 Duffy added a Commonwealth Games bronze medal to the silver won at the youth equivalent six years earlier, and is determined to complete the set by winning gold in the Gold Coast next April.
But McKenna has a bit of pedigree on that front too, landing gold at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, although he has since moved through the weights from 49kg to 60kg – and had even considered entering the Ulster Elites at 64kg, such has been his physical development in the past two years.
And while Wednesday night’s tough quarter-final win over the tricky Gerard Matthews was Duffy’s first fight in three years, McKenna has been extremely active in that time.
Earlier this year he reached the final of the Irish Elites at bantamweight - losing a close bout to Kurt Walker – and, like Matthews, he will attempt to make his height tell against the smaller Duffy.
But the Keady man insists he has seen it all before, and is ready for whatever comes his way.
“I don’t know much about him – the boys that I’d be sparring with in the club know a lot about him,” said the 26-year-old personal trainer.
“I’ve nothing to be worried about because I’d be sparring with the likes of Caoimhin Hynes, a come-forward 75 kilo fighter, Sean McComb, a back foot fighter, and I mix it with every style.
“I’m not afraid to get hit and I love dishing out the pressure too. For me it’s a bit of fun in there – I love standing there mixing it, taking punches and giving punches.
“I love it all.”
There are a host of other top class bouts scheduled for tonight as well, with James McGivern (St George’s) and Dylan Duffy (Pegasus) having to park their friendship for nine minutes when they meet in the other 60kg semi.
The 64kg showdown between Gleann’s Caoimhin Ferguson and Bernaldo Marime (Holy Trinity) also promises to be a lively encounter, with the winner meeting Sean McComb in the November 24 final.
Former Commonwealth Youth Games team-mates Brett McGinty (Oakleaf) and Aidan Walsh (Monkstown) find themselves on opposite sides of the welterweight draw.
McGinty takes on Nathan Watson (Saints), while Walsh is up against Clonard’s Gerard French.
Ulster Elite Championships
Tonight (8pm, Dockers Club)
60kg: S McKenna (Old School) v S Duffy (Holy Trinity); J McGivern (St George’s) v Dylan Duffy (Pegasus)
64kg: C Ferguson (Gleann) v B Marime (Holy Trinity)
69kg: B McGinty (Oakleaf) v N Watson (Saints); A Walsh (Monkstown) v G French (Clonard)
75kg: S Donnelly (All Saints) v C Hynes (Holy Trinity); C Doherty (Emerald) v F Quinn (Camlough)
91kg: S Lawrence (Holy Family, Drogheda) v D Sullivan (Emerald); J Barron (Holy Trinity) v C Boyle (Monkstown)
91kg+: J Downey (Immaculata) v D Borskins (Sacred Heart, Newry); J Joyce (Erne) v S McMonagle (Holy Trinity)