Top coach Ray Ginley believes that new signing Steven Donnelly can become a 'world level' professional

Steven Ward will take on Steve Collins jnr at Windsor Park on August 18
Andy Watters

HIGHLY-rated coach Ray Ginley believes that new signing Steven Donnelly can become a “world level” professional.

Ballymena native Donnelly – a stand-out amateur, Ulster and Irish champion and Commonwealth Games medallist – recently signed with MTK and will base his training at Ginley’s Immanuel Gym.

Ginley, an unbeaten pro before he turned to coaching, says Donnelly will complement his growing stable of fighters.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said.

“It’s good for Paudie (McCrory) and Lewis (Crocker) because obviously there’s good, tough sparring for them now. Everyone knows how good Steven is and you can’t expect him to be taking his time – he’s 30 years of age and he doesn’t want to be fighting guys that he’s going to beat easily.

“He wants to move fast, he wants to be tested and he wants to make a statement. I’m buzzing to have him because he’s one of the hardest trainers I’ve ever worked with – his work ethic is non-stop in the gym.

“He does everything you ask him and he’ll push that we bit further every single time.”

Fast-handed with quick feet, Donnelly stepped up to win the middleweight title at the Ulster Elite championships last year and competed in the Commonwealth Games in Australia, winning three contests before he lost at the semi-final stage.

“He’s been a world level amateur and I believe he’ll be a world level pro,” said Ginley.

“It’s more a matter of: How quickly will he get there? Than will he get there? It would be great for him to make his debut at Windsor Park but we want it as soon as possible.

“We want to get him busy and start moving up the rankings.

“It’s great for the gym. We have a stack of talent there with the Upton brothers, Paudie McCrory, Lewis Crocker and now Steven so we have a wealth of talent and I’m just excited about the future for our gym.”

UNBEATEN cruiserweight Steven Ward will take a step up in clash against Steve Collins jnr on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s Windsor Park spectacular on August 18.

‘The Quiet Man’ takes on Collins – son of Ireland’s first two-weight world champion Steve – on a stacked undercard that will also feature Paddy Barnes’ challenge for the WBC World Flyweight Title against Chrisofer Rosales, lineal World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury, who continues his journey towards reclaiming the World Title belts that he never lost in the ring as well as Luke Keeler, Lewis Crocker and Marco McCullough.

Dublin’s WBO European middleweight champion Luke Keeler (14-2-1-KO5) will intend to build on his highly impressive points victory over Conrad Cummings at Belfast’s SSE Arena in April and will make the first defence of his crown against a top rated opponent.

Further down the card, welterweight KO king Crocker (6-0) is looking to continue his astonishing start to life as a professional.

The rapidly improving youngster has halted all six of his opponents to date inside three rounds – the latest feat a savage first-round stoppage of Adam Grabiec on the undercard of Michael Conlan’s homecoming.

Another local star added to the action is super-featherweight Marco McCullough (19-4-KO11), who is out for the second time this year after outclassing Arnoldo Solano on the undercard of Carl Frampton v Nonito Donaire in April.

McCullough has previously challenged for Irish, British, European and Commonwealth belts and is looking to continue his journey back into title reckoning.

Promoter Frank Warren said: “I’m delighted that further Irish talent has been added to this already bumper card. The Ward v Collins Jr showdown is set to be a great fight for the fans on a card that already boasts Frampton v Jackson, Tyson Fury and Paddy Barnes.

“I’ve been very impressed so far with Lewis Crocker who looks to have a great future and in my experience of promoting cards where Marco McCullough and Luke Keeler have featured, they are always in entertaining fights.

“This is set to be the biggest night of boxing to ever take place in Belfast and we can’t wait to watch it all unfold amongst what I’m sure will be a fantastic atmosphere and a full house at Windsor Park.”

Limited remaining tickets are available from priced at £80, £100, £120, £150, £250, £400 (includes hospitality).

TYRONE McKenna gained a lot of new admirers for the skill and heart he showed in his loss to Jack Catterall recently, but he never wants to taste defeat again.

‘The Mighty Celt’ was down three times in the first five rounds against WBO-ranked Catterall but came on strong in the latter stages of a brutal contest in Belfast – eventually losing out on a close but unanimous decision.

The home fighter’s defiance in the face of an impressive Catterall brought deafening roars from all four corners of a packed SSE Arena and with millions watching on BT Sport, the public reaction to McKenna’s first professional defeat has been purely positive.

McKenna (16-1-1) said: “Everyone is showing a lot of love. I’ve never had so many messages. Everyone is telling me I’m a warrior, that I proved my level and that they can’t wait to see me fight again.

“The feedback has been great and I’m really grateful for it all. The fact remains that getting beaten isn’t ideal and hopefully it’ll be the last time it ever happens.

“I’ll give Jack great credit – nobody has hit me as hard as he did in those first two rounds. After that, either I adjusted to it or he got a little weaker, but he’s very good and hard to hit clean in return. He has a weird stance.

“I’ve always known I was tough. In sparring I get battered early and then come on strong. I knew I’d start slowly against Jack and then come in to the fight in the latter stages.

“I have more courage than I thought. I took some heavy, heavy shots in there and laughed them off and came back. My corner was considering pulling me out at one stage but there was no way I was going to let that happen.

“I’m left with nine stitches and six staples but fights like that just make me want to fight every week.”

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