Video: Steven Donnelly gets the nod over Caoimhin Hynes in Dockers Club classic
Boxing: Ulster Elite Championships
IT’S been brewing for years, and boy did it deliver as Steven Donnelly and Caoimhin Hynes produced a fight for the ages at a packed Dockers Club last night – the Rio Olympian getting the nod from the judges after three action-packed rounds.
There has been little love lost between the pair in recent years, but they will have earned each other’s respect if nothing else after a fight that had punters on their feet throughout.
The Ballymena man – in his first competitive outing at middleweight – came out of the blocks quickly, spearing a few early right hands into the face of Hynes, but the Holy Trinity banger responded in kind with a big left hand on Donnelly’s jaw.
Donnelly was attempting to control the pace from outside before raiding with short sharp combinations but early in the second the pair stood in front of each other and briefly traded blows, tensions eventually spilling over as Hynes caught the 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist with his head on the ropes.
Referee Malachy Scott issued Hynes with a public warning but the pair soon resumed hostilities, with Scott forced to intervene and ask both fighters to do their talking with their fists rather than their mouths.
There was a sense that Donnelly was edging it heading into the third, landing the cleaner shots, if Hynes’s were perhaps more eye-catching at times, a couple of big lefts catching Donnelly on the way out.
Twenty-year-old Hynes brought plenty of aggression to the third and final round, and landed some good shots, but Donnelly dug deep and used all his experience with clever counters and smart footwork.
Considering he hasn’t fought since the European Elite Championships in June, there was no ring rust on show.
For the first time in nine minutes, a hush descended on the Dockers before the decision was announced.
Indeed, while most others were silent, Donnelly and Hynes continued their conversation, clearly with differing opinions of whose hand should be raised.
The judges opted for Donnelly, 4-0, but Hynes can hold his head high after delivering an impressive performance against such a high level operator – the pair eventually shaking hands before leaving the ring.
Let’s hope we see them back in the squared circle again sooner rather than later.
Elsewhere, it wasn’t only Hynes and Donnelly who delivered last night, with Sean Duffy and Stephen McKenna kicking off proceedings in explosive fashion.
Both brought serious pedigree into their lightweight semi-final, with Holy Trinity’s Duffy a 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist – boxing at 64kg - while he also won silver at the youth equivalent six years previous.
McKenna, meanwhile, won gold at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, and a highly-anticipated opener didn’t disappoint.
After a tentative opening minute, in which the taller McKenna tried to establish his jab, Duffy burst into action, landing a couple of hurtful looking left hooks to the body.
And when the Keady man switched the attack upstairs, he floored McKenna with a heavy left. With over a minute of the round left, another flurry from Duffy saw the referee step in and issue a second count.
It looked like we were in for an early finish but, after making it to the end of the round, McKenna battled back gamely in the second, attempting to make up the ground lost in the first.
But Duffy, six years McKenna’s senior, looked the much physically stronger fighter, and was happy to hold his hands low and pot-shot at times, catching McKenna with some huge lefts which he did well to withstand.
The third followed a similar pattern, with McKenna attempting to go to the body, but Duffy had the answer for anything that was thrown at him.
The 26-year-old will meet James McGivern in the 60kg final next Friday night after he overcame Dylan Duffy in a battle of the southpaws.
There were none of the fireworks of the previous fight between Duffy and McKenna, but it was engrossing nonetheless, with McGivern’s sharp counters and slick movement perhaps doing enough to see him home.
Ulster Elite Championships
60kg: S Duffy (Holy Trinity) bt S McKenna (Old School); J McGivern (St George’s) bt Dylan Duffy (Pegasus)
64kg: C Ferguson (Gleann) bt B Marime (Holy Trinity)
69kg: B McGinty (Oakleaf) bt N Watson (Saints); A Walsh (Monkstown) bt G French (Clonard)
75kg: S Donnelly (All Saints) bt C Hynes (Holy Trinity)