Boxing

Paddy Gallagher to headline at York Hall in WBO European welterweight title clash

Belfast's Paddy Gallagher defeats Fernando Valencia during their Welterweight bout at The Titanic exhibition centre. Picture Mark Marlow.
Andy Watters

PADDY Gallagher signed off on a frustrating 2018 with a back-me-or-sack-me appeal to handlers MTK and it looks like it has paid off after the Belfast welterweight landed a shot at the WBO European title on February 22.

‘Pad Man' takes on London-based German Freddy Kiwitt in the headline act at London's York Hall (live on iFL TV) and he is determined to grab his chance to impress and move “further up the ladder” in a competitive division.

He certainly won't have to go looking for Liberia-born Kiwitt (13-2) on the night. Kiwitt has seven stoppage wins on his record and he has made the famous Bethnall Green venue his home with six out of six there since September 2016.

“I was saying it was going to happen and now here we are,” said Gallagher, who stopped Jay Byrne to win the Celtic title last year.

“I was very proud to win the Celtic title but this is another massive step up. This is a massive, massive moment for me at this stage in my career. I've been to York Hall and fought there before but let's not go there (he was beaten twice on the same night in a Prizefighter tournament back in 2014).

“I've watched a few clips here and there of Kiwitt but I'll leave all the analysis and the tactical decisions to my coach Gerard McManus. He'll come up with the right game plan and I'll go and execute it. I can't wait to kick off the year with a win and put myself further up the ladder.”

Derry's Tyrone McCullough is the current WBO super-bantamweight champion and Conrad Cummings holds the organization's European middleweight belt.

Coalisland native Cummings defends it in an eagerly-awaited, potentially career-defining rematch against Dubliner Luke Keeler at The Ulster Hall on March 29.

An out-of-sorts Cummings was clearly out-pointed by Keeler when they first fought in April last year. Injury gave Cummings an unexpected opportunity to win it back and he won the vacant crown by beating Ferenc Berki in December. He has no intention of allowing Peter Taylor-trained Dub Keeler to get it back.

“It'll be different this time around,” said Cummings.

“I lost fair and square against him before and I don't need to go into why. On March 29, I'll show what I'm really about.

“I've changed lots and made major improvements since that defeat. I'm now settled in with my trainer Jamie Moore and I'm looking forward to putting what we've been working on into practice.

“The atmosphere on the night will be electric. It was loud last time but it'll be double this time. My supporters have stood by me and this win will be for them as much as it will be for me.”

Keeler countered: “As far as I'm concerned, it's still my belt and I'll put to bed these claims that my first win was simply down to Conrad having a bad night.

“To be honest, it's been a bit annoying listening to Conrad dismiss my victory. This time, I hope he has a good night so there are no excuses afterwards because either way, I'm going to be going home with the win and the title.

“This is an easy fight to get up for as I know Conrad is a top fighter who'll have made improvements since that fight but it'll also be the best ever version of me because I've had my first full year training as an athlete under the brilliant Peter Taylor.

“I brought with me a good crowd last time we fought and I'm hopeful this will be another special atmosphere.”

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