Boxing

Paul McCullagh hoping to top off birthday celebrations with Irish elite victory

Paul McCullagh, who won the Ulster elite light-heavyweight title at the start of 2019, hopes to make his make on the national stage - starting tonight against Sean Crowley. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

Amateur boxing: Liffey Crane 2020 Irish Elite Championships

BIG-HITTING Paul McCullagh turns 20 today – and hopes to celebrate by claiming victory over Arklow’s Sean Crowley at the Irish Elite Championships tonight.

With Joe Ward off the amateur scene, McCullagh is one of several contenders in a stacked light-heavyweight division that also contains defending champion Thomas O’Toole, Tommy Hyde, Tony Browne, Kane Tucker and former Irish middleweight champ Emmett Brennan.

And the St John Bosco man will have to put any celebrations on ice as he focuses on the job at hand in his preliminary round clash with Crowley.

“That’s class, isn’t it?” he said of the fight falling on his birthday.

“Already I’ve missed my cousin’s birthday, my friend’s birthday, I’ve been invited to other birthdays and haven’t been able to go, but you have to make that sacrifice. Hopefully it’s all worth it in the end.

“I don’t know a whole lot about Sean Crowley other than that he won the Irish seniors there last week, which is a good achievement so fair play to him.

“There’s a lot of good talent in my division but in this game you have to believe you can beat anyone. There’s no second place in boxing, and that’s the mindset you need. I believe I’m ready to fight anybody.”

The current Ulster 81 kilo kingpin spent much of the summer nursing a hand injury picked up in training, but insists he feels “100 per cent” heading into these championships.

“It took a while for it to recover, but then everything has just started to come together.

“I got a good 10-week training camp done - it was very hard to get spars in Belfast, I ended up going down to Portlaoise where I got some amazing rounds in with the four-time Dutch elite champion at light-heavyweight.

“I also got some good rounds in from Fearghus Quinn too, so I was very grateful for that. He’s a real gentleman and a good operator, a good strong middleweight so he pushed me hard.

“I’d look out for him at these championships.”

Should he safely negotiate the test posed by Crowley tonight, McCullagh would move into a quarter-final showdown with Hyde tomorrow – a repeat of the Irish Elite semi-final earlier this year which the Cork man, who boxes of the famous St Michael's club in Athy, edged on a split.

“No disrespect to him, but I’ve been wanting to fight Tommy Hyde for a long time after the last fight in February. I want to get in there and show them what I can do,” said McCullagh.

“It was a funny fight last time… it was a crap fight, to be honest. But I had hit rock bottom around then and nobody really knew about it, inside and outside the ring. I lost my best friend and my granda all in one; I wasn’t even going to box at the Ulsters or the All-Irelands.

“My heart wasn’t in it, I was lost, but from then to now I’m like a different man.”

Newry’s Tucker is also in light-heavy action tonight, taking on David Biscevis (St Saviour’s OBA). Victory would set up a tough last eight meeting with the experienced Emmett Brennan tomorrow.

Belfast welterweight Aidan Walsh could set up a mouth-watering clash with defending champion Kieran Molloy at the National Stadium tomorrow, but first he must get past Terry McEntee.

At 57kg, St George’s ace Colm Murphy takes on Portlaoise’s Christian Cekiso in the preliminary round while, at welterweight, Michael Bustard (Dockers) and Fergal Redmond (Arklow) fight for the right to face Mullaghbawn powerhouse Eugene McKeever in the last eight.

Flyweight Jude Gallagher (Two Castles) makes his elites bow against Sean Kavanagh, with Holy Trinity lightweight Barry McReynolds facing Crumlin’s Killian Geraghty.

In the absence of defending champion James McGivern, Gerard Matthews (St Paul’s) will be among those eyeing a charge in the 63kg division. He faces Crumlin’s Craig Kavanagh in tonight’s quarter-final.

Tonight’s schedule

Preliminaries (7pm)

57kg: C Cekiso (Portlaoise) v C Murphy (St George’s)

69kg: T McEntee (DCU) v A Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim)

69kg: F Redmond (Arklow) v M Bustard (Dockers)

81kg: B Kennedy (St Mary’s, Daingean) v M Frane (Clonard, Wexford)

81kg: S Crowley (Arklow) v P McCullagh (St John Bosco)

81kg: K Tucker (Emerald) v D Biscevis (St Saviour’s)

91+kg: G Lisinskas (Celtic Eagles) v J McDonnell (Crumlin)

Quarter-finals

52kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles) v S Kavanagh (Monkstown, Dublin)

60kg: K Geraghty (Crumlin) v B McReynolds (Holy Trinity)

63kg: K Doyle (Monkstown Dublin) v M Avetisian (Mulhuddart)

63kg: C Kavanagh (Crumlin) v G Matthews (St Paul’s)

63kg: Y Meseke (Olympic) v G Bates (St Mary’s, Tallaght)

75kg: G Carlos Lmuala (Maynooth) v J Brady (Crumlin)

75kg: K Cassidy (Saviours Crystal) v JJ Nevin (Crumlin)

91kg: J Clarke (Crumlin) v P Corcoran (Olympic)

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