Been there, Dunne that. Harry Hawkins enjoying return to transformed Irish professional boxing scene

Harry Hawkins (centre) celebrates Bernard Dunne's world title triumph in Dublin in 2009
Harry Hawkins (centre) celebrates Bernard Dunne's world title triumph in Dublin in 2009 Harry Hawkins (centre) celebrates Bernard Dunne's world title triumph in Dublin in 2009

A DECADE after guiding Bernard Dunne to the WBA super-bantamweight title, Harry Hawkins is back on the professional boxing beat coaching Sean Duffy and Anthony Cacace.

Highly-rated former Holy Trinity ABC fight guru Hawkins had been on the sidelines between Dunne’s retirement and Keady native Duffy’s decision to turn pro earlier year.

His return did not gone unnoticed and last week he was approached to train Cacace for his British super-featherweight title fight against Sam Bowen. The Belfast man had a chat with ‘the Apache’ to see if their expectations were on the same level and when he was satisfied that they were, he agreed to train him at Emerald ABC

“It wasn’t planned,” said Hawkins, who is also training highly-rated amateur boxers Kane and Jake Tucker.

“It’s just the way it has turned out. I’ve been training Sean for quite a while now and I was approached by Anthony to train him for the British title fight he has coming up.

“I’m just working with a few boxers, I’m not planning on building a stable but there is a wee stable building there.”

Cacace and Hawkins first teamed up during the fighter’s amateur days at Holy Trinity. Cacace went on to begin his amateur career in the USA before switching to London where he trained alongside Carl Frampton at Shane McGuigan’s gym.

He captured a Celtic title during that spell before parting company with the Cyclone camp and returning to Belfast. Now 30, the title shot against ‘Bullet Bowen’ could be his last chance to break into the world title scene.

“Anthony is talented but there’s an opportunity for him here – if he wins a British title it opens all sorts of doors for him,” said Hawkins.

“It’s a big chance for him and he needs to give it everything he has. We had a yarn about it and he wants to give it 150 per cent and there’s no point going into it any other way.

“He’s very determined to give this a real bash and when someone’s willing to work as hard as that it’s easy to train them. He wants to get his head down and he seems to be really looking forward to it – you can’t get him out of the gym at the minute so that’s a good sign.

“I know what I want him to do and we’re fine with that so he’s really looking forward to the fight.”

The date and venue for the Bowen fight are expected to be confirmed by Frank Warren tomorrow with the bill expected to be shown live on BT Sport.

“Once we get the date we can set out the plan for our sparring and everything else,” said Hawkins.

“In the meantime, it’s a matter of building up the fitness and working hard and then start working on the tactical stuff.”

Hawkins guided Brian Magee to a world title before linking up with Dunne and taking him to an unforgettable world title triumph over Ricardo Cordoba in 2009 when the battling Dubliner recovered from two knock-downs to stop his opponent in the 11th round at the O2. Hawkins has returned to a much-changed landscape and a vibrant Irish pro scene.

“Boxing changed when MTK came in, they’ve just taken over boxing and the pro scene has really changed,” he observed.

“Most boxers now are turning pro and a few years ago they might not have had an offer, promoters wouldn’t have taken them on. Now kids are just turning over and they’re getting a chance to achieve their dreams.

“A few years ago you would have had two or three pro boxers and all you were doing was getting on the phone trying to get them fights. You didn’t know how many fights you could get them but at the minute MTK are just running shows and there is plenty of work there for boxers – it’s a different scene.

“Kids can dream they can be something in the pro game. If they give it 100 per cent then away they go and they’re certainly getting their opportunity.”

Duffy is among the new wave of emerging MTK fighters. The Keady native scored his second pro win with a promising performance against durable Naheem Chaudhry at the Falls Park in August after he’d made a successful debut in May. He returns to the Ulster Hall for his third professional outing against journeyman Eligio Palacios next month.

“Sean has his own gym down in Armagh so he is always in good shape, he keeps himself in good shape all the time,” said Hawkins.

“He is very easy to work with and he’s a tough lad, he can fight and he can go places. He has a tough journeyman ahead of him but it’s all about getting the wins under his belt and MTK are keeping him busy.

“I’m enjoying working with him, it’s great to work with talented lads like him and Anthony and the Tuckers.”

Hawkins, who is synonymous with the Holy Trinity club in Turf Lodge, took the decision to train at Emerald after Holy Trinity decided to concentrate solely on amateur fighters.

“The committee didn’t want any pros in the club and Holy Trinity boxers were turning over and then going somewhere else to train,” he explained.

“Every boxer’s dream is to go to the Olympics but then becoming a world champion is the next stage. So why not train a few pros? Every boxer who comes through the door dreams of being a world champion. I’m not going to say to somebody: ‘I’m not going to train you because you want to be world champion’.

“The Emerald club is right beside me, it’s a good spot and a good gym and Harry Murray and JB Delaney are more than helpful.”

STEVEN Donnelly was the resounding winner of BT Sport’s Ultimate Boxxer 5 in London on Friday night.

The Ballymena super-welterweight was a class above all three of his opponents in the entertaining tournament which was decided using a Prizefighter-style format. Pre-tournament favourite Donnelly began by demolishing Ish O’Connor in the first round of their quarter-final and outclassed Sean Robinson in the semi before facing-off against Lenny Fuller in the decider.

The 2016 Olympian rocked Fuller with a series of right hands in the first round. Fuller survived but he was on borrowed time and Donnelly caught up with him again in the second, nailing him with another right hand. Referee Ian John-Lewis stepped in to wave it off with Fuller out on his feet in a neutral corner and a delighted Donnelly was awarded the champion’s golden cloak and the prize money.

“All the hard training has paid off,” he said.

“I’m still only a novice pro but I want to be up there.”