Boxing

Tiernan Bradley calls on Paulie Malignaggi for advice as he plots possible pro move

Tiernan Bradley was one of Conor McGregor's main sparring partners ahead of his showdown with Floyd Mayweather jr last August

THEY may have found themselves in the eye of one of the biggest sporting storms of last summer, but Paulie Malignaggi has been on hand to offer advice to one-time house-mate Tiernan Bradley as the young Omagh fighter plots his next move.

Both were sparring partners for Irish MMA star Conor McGregor as he prepared for his $100m showdown with Floyd Mayweather jr back in August, although Malignaggi’s stint in the Las Vegas camp was ultimately short-lived.

The two-weight world champion turned fight analyst left in acrimonious circumstances after a picture apparently showing him being dropped by McGregor – a claim Malignaggi still strongly disputes.

Bradley found himself in the middle of a war of words between the camps after speaking out in support of McGregor but, eight months on, that whole episode is now water under the bridge.

And, as he prepares to head to New York for three months this summer, the 21-year-old was quick to seek the advice of ‘The Magic Man’.

“I’ve been chatting to Paulie back and forth on WhatsApp the last while,” said Bradley.

“Even when we fell out, he told me he didn’t hold any grudges. It was one of those things, but Paulie’s a good guy to talk to and to listen to about the east coast boxing scene; he’s done it all and he knows everybody.

“So he’s given me a heads up, telling me what to do and what not to do. He’s been through the rough and the smooth.”

Bradley makes his long-awaited return to the ring in a Sacred Heart Omagh show at the Silverbirch Hotel on Saturday night, a year since his last competitive outing against a Detroit select at the Devenish Complex.

The experience of being involved in one of the biggest sporting events of 2017 aside, Bradley admits it has been a frustrating 12 months, with the disappointment of missing the Ulster Elite Championships – thereby ruling him out of the Commonwealth Games running – still raw.

“I got a cut above my eye two weeks before the weigh-in,” said the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist.

“It didn’t even happen in sparring. I do personal training classes, I was taking a client and, complete freak accident, hit my head off the squat rack – something I’ve done hundreds of times, me being clumsy. But this time it just opened me up… I was absolutely ripping.

“It was a massive blow and it definitely disheartened me… I never really got over it for two or three months. I’m still not over it, not really. It was something I wanted to do; to go to the Commonwealth Youth Games and then the Commonwealths themselves.

“But sometimes the longest paths lead into the sunlight, so hopefully that’s the case for me.”

And whether that is as an amateur, or in the pro ranks, remains to be seen.

His planned summer stay in Yonkers will, he hopes, deliver a few competitive fights and hopefully help establish some meaningful contacts as he weighs up his options.

The Olympic Games in 2020 remain the top priority at this stage but, as a man who was in Omagh one day, Las Vegas the next after being drafted into the McGregor camp, Bradley knows better than most how quickly things can change.

“I’ve got high hopes for the future,” he said.

“I don’t really see what happened last summer as a once-in-a-lifetime thing – I know myself that I’ll be part of big things again.

“I’m going to New York to do a bit of training and maybe get a few fights over there. It can be hard to get fights over here… I mean, I’ve had one fight in the last year, and that was in April 2017 against Detroit in the Devenish.

“There were years before that where I hadn’t fought in Ireland for a whole year, so it can be hard to progress on.

“The pro game does tickle my fancy, but there’s no rush. I know what’s best for myself, and I’ve got the opinions of experienced people around me. I’m the kind of guy who asks questions and wants to learn.

“I’ve still got the Irish Elite Championships, and maybe the World Series of Boxing could be an option next year with a view to the Olympics. But if I feel like the right move for me is to turn pro, then I’ll do that.

“For now though, I’m just been buzzing to get back in the ring this weekend... it’s been too long. Too much sparring, not enough fighting.

“I’ve been at my lowest point so I can only go up from now.”

* Tiernan Bradley and brother Callum will top the bill at Saturday’s fight night in Omagh. Tickets £10, £5 for under 12s – first bout at 7.30pm

The recently unveiled mural of Brendan Irvine, who won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia

HOMECOMING FOR HERO IRVINE AS ST PAUL'S CELEBRATE MONTH TO REMEMBER

IT has been a month to remember for the St Paul’s club in west Belfast, and on Friday night they will mark the homecoming of their Commonwealth Games hero Brendan Irvine with a special fight night.

Irvine returned from Australia with a silver medal, adding to the European bronze and European Games silver already accrued during a hugely impressive career between the ropes for a man not yet turned 22.

Indeed, just last month a new mural of the Rio Olympian was unveiled in the Glencolin estate, and Ralph McKay says Irvine is a constant source of inspiration to the next generation of St Paul’s boxers.

“Brendan’s done it all now in terms of international championships – the Commonwealths was the last one and he went and won a silver, on another day it could’ve been a gold,” said McKay, head coach at the club recently named ‘Best in the West’.

“He’s always been a role model for the kids in the club, they love training with him and they love watching him spar because they always pick up things.”

Friday’s fight night against an Ulster Select team will feature young boxers aged from eight to 12 as the club attempts to unearth the next Brendan Irvine.

And the signs are good, with Oisin McCann, Dylan McShane and Joe Lewis-Reilly all landing Irish titles in recent weeks, while a host of others have shown their class during the past 12 months.

“We’ve some really good kids coming through,” added McKay, “so hopefully there’s plenty more good times ahead.”

As well as Friday’s fight night, St Paul’s will host their annual awards bash in the Beechlawn Hotel on May 27.

COUNTY ANTRIM TEAM OUT FOR REVENGE AGAINST USA

FOLLOWING a successful trip to America last month, a County Antrim team will be out for revenge against their USA counterparts in the return leg at the Europa Hotel on Friday night.

The American team edged a close contest 5-4 last time out, and punters can be sure of another action-packed encounter from the show, which is in association with the Belfast Beltway Boxing project.

Commonwealth Youth Games bronze medallist Colm Murphy is one of those in action on a stacked card. Tickets are £40 and include a four-course meal – 7pm start.

52kg: P McKernan (Emerald) v D Bailey; 50kg: J McConnell (Holy Trinity) v C Oliver; 52kg: B Nelson (Townland) v D Lewis; 59kg: D McKeavney (St Paul’s) v B Phillips; 70kg: A Ahmed (Ormeau) v E Ramirez-Angel; 63.5kg F: S O’Leary (Corpus Christi, Limerick) v L Dominque-Lewis; 70kg: C Campbell (Holy Trinity) v A Briscoe; 61kg: C Patterson (Phoenix) v M Johnson; 70kg: L Weston (North Down) v J Demmery; 56kg: C Murphy (St George’s) v S Shamarr-Daly; 69kg: S Chambers (Castlebar) v D Washington

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