Pody McCrory training for WBO rumble with Edgar Berlanga in Florida on February 24

Pody McCrory will fight WBA super-middleweight champion Edgar Berlanga in February
Pody McCrory will fight WBA super-middleweight champion Edgar Berlanga in February

PODY McCrory is in training to fight Edgar Berlanga for the WBO super-middleweight championship of the world in Orlando, Florida on February 24.

While not yet announced by promoter Matchroom, it is understood that contracts have been signed and the West Belfast ‘Hammer’ will have his long-awaited opportunity at 12 stone against the 21-0 New Yorker at the Caribe Royale Orlando resort.

Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn said during the build-up to Michael Conlan’s ill-fated duel with Jordan Gill in Belfast that McCrory was “one of four” in line to fight Berlanga but the 18-0 35-year-old has jumped to the front of the queue. Victory would propel him into the boxing stratosphere but Berlanga, who beat Donegal’s Jason Quigley comprehensively in June, has 16 early wins in 21 fights and will be a very tough nut to crack.

“I think I’m a very live underdog,” said McCrory.

“It’s been six years of grind. When I first started as a pro I was dipping my toe in the water but fight by fight things have progressed. People started talking about me in a better light and I’ve taken every opportunity that has come my way and I’ve agreed to fights that haven’t come off.

“I’ve shown that I’m willing to take chances and I’ve got here by starting on small shows and building my way up so I think I’ve work hard and I deserve a big opportunity like this.”

McCrory would admit that he fell in and out of love with boxing before deciding to make the most of his talent when he joined the punch-for-pay ranks as a 29-year-old. He combined boxing with working on the door of nightclubs and being a personal trainer as he worked his way up from the Devenish undercard to headlining at the Feile an Phobail fight night at Falls Park in August.

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Hand injuries had hampered his progress since he spectacularly stopped German IBO light-heavyweight champion Leon Bunn in Frankfurt late last year. That was arguably a career-best for family man McCrory but, with his hand issues sorted, he’ll hope to raise the bar against ‘The Chosen One’ in The Sunshine State.

“I had plans with the family for Christmas, a lot of things were going to happen, but everything has to be dropped because this is a big opportunity,” said the Conlan Boxing fighter.

“If I beat Berlanga my life will change forever. I’ll be home for Christmas and I’ll enjoy it with my wife and kids but I plan to do a bit of my camp in London and a bit in Tenerife so it’s all systems go. The original date was the 13th of January which we also said ‘yes’ to.

“The way it has worked out is great for me. I would have been confident going into the fight with a six/seven-week camp but I’m even more confident now with a 12/13-week camp. My career has all been building towards a big opportunity like this – I’ve been ranked in the top five with the WBA for about 18 months so it was all about winning, biding my time and now taking the opportunity when it has come.

“I’ve been in camp for three weeks already and now it’s all about ramping it up, getting in the hard runs and then, early in the New Year, I’ll start doing the serious sparring. For me it’s a dream, I’ll be going into the fight with zero pressure, the pressure is on him to show up and perform because he’s the main guy. It’s a win-win for me and I’ll be going over quietly confident looking to do the job.”

McCrory’s record camouflages his punching power.

He has nine stoppage wins in 18 fights and beating Bunn in Germany completed a five in-a-row of early wins for him. However, since then he’s been taken the distance three times and against Woodall in August it was obvious that his hand injuries were preventing him from capitalising when he hurt the Englishman – which he did several times.

“On the domestic scene people know I carry power but if you look at my record, I’ve only got nine knockouts so that might be part of the reason why they (Berlanga’s camp) have accepted me as a challenger.”

Also expected to appear on the February bill is Derry born Florida-based middleweight Connor Coyle. ‘The Kid’ won the North American middleweight title in Orlando in 2022 and, at 20-0, must also be close to a major title opportunity.

Busy Belfast referee David Irving has officiated on over 50 fights this year
Busy Belfast referee David Irving has officiated on over 50 fights this year

BELFAST referee David Irving will finish another busy year as one of the judges at ringside for the EBU silver featherweight title fight between Khafil El Hadri and Anthony Rivière in Les Mureaux, France on December 16.

Former prizefighter Irving has refereed 29 fights so far this year and been a judge for a further 25. His most recent assignment was in Dublin where he took charge of Skye Nicolson’s WBC interim featherweight title win against Sweden’s Lucy Wildheart. Irving has also been in action in Letterkenny, Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Belfast, Cork, Dubai, Galway, Waterford and Saudi Arabia.

Irving got to 7-4 as a professional (all seven wins by stoppage) and was a staple on Barry McGuigan undercards throughout the 1980s. The former Ireland international and Irish senior champion called it a day after appearing on McGuigan’s legendary world title win against Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road, London on June 8, 1986.