Boxing

Joe Fitzpatrick determined to prove he's Ireland's best lightweight in All-Ireland battle with Gary Cully

Joe Fitzpatrick is determined to prove he's Ireland's best lightweight in All-Ireland battle with Gary Cully on February. Picture Mark Marlow.
Andy Watters

FROM the moment it was announced, the all-Ireland battle of Belfast's Joe Fitzpatrick (10-0) and Naas lightweight Gary Cully (9-0) had tongues wagging.

The unbeaten rivals meet at the Ulster Hall on February 1 and opinion remains divided over whether the BUI title will stay in Belfast or travel south over the border with ‘the Diva'.

Standing over six foot tall, southpaw Cully will fancy his chances on the night but Immaculata ABC product Fitzpatrick has total confidence that he will add the Irish title to the Celtic strap he won by beating Iago Barros late last year.

“It's a big fight, it's the biggest of my career so far,” said Gerard ‘Nugget' Nugent trained Fitzpatrick.

“I'm super-fit, training has been brilliant and I'm looking forward to it. It's not going to be an easy fight, it's going to be hard as everybody knows but it's going to be my fight.

“Everything is on the line. He is 9-0, he has a decent amateur background and he's a good boxer. I don't usually watch my opponents but I've seen clippings of him because ‘Nugget' asked me to watch them and he is good but he's not as good as me.

“I'm at the stage now where I don't want easy fights, they're no good to me and I need big fights to get up the rankings. The Irish title will be my second title and we'll go on from there and I'll maybe change over to a British licence and go for the European title. We'll see what happens and take it from there.”

Fitzpatrick burst onto the senior scene with a run of three Ulster titles and boxed his way to a silver medal at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. He turned professional in the summer of 2015 and was 3-0 by the end of the year. However, he admits that he wasn't committed to training and, sadly, it took the unexpected loss last year of his dad Gerry to inspire him to get the best out of his undoubted talent.

“Last year was bad for me and it's beyond me how I am so mentally stable,” he said.

“I suppose it's always in my head about my 'oul lad and that I'm doing it for him. 100 per cent I wasn't the best trainer. Honesty is my policy. Before he died my da was my coach and my family will tell you that I was a nightmare.

“My da would have gone up to open the boxing club and then he was coming back down to pull me out of bed. I wasn't weighing in, I was away off and not coming to training and I wasn't focussed.

“Me not getting up and going to training annoyed my da. I know it annoyed him, it stressed him out, it stressed everybody out and I know what he wanted of me.

“So whenever he died it just made me think: ‘I know what he wants and I know what I'm going to give him'. It has made me mentally fit and Nugget even says: ‘It's sad that it took such a tragedy for you to realise what potential you have'.

“Everybody in the boxing fraternity knows the potential I have and I can't lie, I was off the rails for a long time. I went pro very young but I wanted to run about and live a party life. You can't burn the candle at both ends and I've realised that the last year.

“It's either do or don't and boxing is a very short career so it's get in now and get it done and I'm going to do it. Ever fight I'm in now, I win it for my da.”

Fitzpatrick and his partner are expecting their first child this year. After the trauma of 2019 he is confident that better things are in store for him this year and is determined to get past Cully in this rights-of-passage match-up.

“It's called growing up,” he said.

“I'm settled down with a girl and I have a child coming. A lot of people don't want to grow up but I'm excited, it's going to be a big year in and out of the ring.

“I'm going to win the Irish title, I'm going to go on further than that maybe British title, maybe European title and I'm going to be a daddy this year. Everything is falling into place, life in general is just going smoothly.

“Last year was shit but 2020 is a different year and it's about getting on with it and doing him proud.”

“This is a fight I wanted and my management wanted and I don't care where I fight him – I'd have fought him in his back garden.

“MTK made an offer and we were happy enough so yes, Ulster Hall, let's do it. I know he says he's the home fighter but I am, it's my home town. It doesn't matter anyway who the home fighter is, I know I'm the better boxer in all aspects.

“I don't disrespect the fella, he's a good boxer but he's not on the level I am.

“Listening to people, me and Gary Cully is the fight everybody is talking about. This is the fight Ireland wants and it's the sort of fight Ireland needs.

“These are the type of fights that need to be brought to Belfast. I am the best lightweight in Ireland and there's no-one in Ireland at the minute who can touch me. Let's get it on and then we'll take it from there.”

GARY Cully has fought all nine of his professional bouts in Belfast and the slick Naas southpaw is confident he'll kick on to the next level by beating fellow prospect Joe Fitzpatrick.

The Pete Taylor-trained 23-year-old boxed twice at the Ulster Hall last year and returns to the Bedford Street venue on February 1 to take on Belfast's ‘Dragon'.

“I feel like my career starts with this fight,” he said.

“I've done my apprenticeship and it's time to step into real fights now.

“I want to win this title, defend it in the summer and then fight again so that hopefully by the end of 2020 I can be world-ranked.

“I feel like I'm actually building a fanbase of my own in Belfast. There are plenty of people there coming to see me and I'm bringing a few bus-loads up from Naas too. It'll be loud in there on the night.

“Everyone seems to be absolutely hyped about this show and I'm looking forward to it. The place will be full, it's on prime time in the US and it's a real breakthrough fight for me.”

Joining Cully and Fitzpatrick on a cracking 2020 curtain-raiser is David Oliver Joyce v Lee Haskins for the WBO European super-bantamweight title, Sean McComb v Mauro Maximiliano Godoy, Lewis Crocker v John Thain, Steven Donnelly, Padraig McCrory, Pierce O'Leary, Taylor McGoldrick, Dee Sullivan, Callum Bradley, Ruairi Dalton and Dee Sullivan.

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Boxing