Boxing

Paddy Gallagher hoping for title shot on Belfast behind-closed-doors bill

Paddy Gallagher hopes to fight for a Irish or Celtic title if boxing returns in July
Andy Watters

PADDY Gallagher hopes to fight for a Celtic or Irish title if Ireland's first-ever behind-closed-doors bill goes ahead in July.

The Belfast welterweight has been earmarked for the show – the first in the city since February 1 - alongside Padraig McCrory, Lewis Crocker and Sean Duffy. Medical advice permitting, it will mark the tentative return of the sport after months of inactivity enforced by the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the cancellation of two bills in April and the postponement of Carl Frampton's challenge for the WBO super-featherweight title, which was expected to take place at either Windsor Park or the SSE Arena on June 13.

“I'd be up for any fight if it's worth it,” said Gallagher.

“If it's an all-Irish show it could be for a Celtic or an Irish title.”

‘Pad Man' had been confirmed for a six-rounder on a Europa Hotel bill on April 24 which, if all went according to plan for him, was expected to be followed by a title fight on the Frampton-Jamel Herring undercard in June. He is now hoping to “get stuck straight into a good fight” and he has very few reservation about potential health risks.

“In reality I think the restrictions will be lifted a lot more by then because it's gradually getting better, bit by bit,” he said.

“I think it'll be lifted a lot by July. If the bill goes ahead I'd reckon there'd be 15-20 people in the room – two fighters, two or three cornermen each, the referee and then judges and officials.”

You'd have to add medical personnel, the TV crew and possibly some other media but there would be no spectators in the venue - what or where it is has still not been decided - and no need for the presenters or pundits to be at ringside.

“I don't think it'll be a problem by then and MTK have done their homework,” added Gallagher.

“They're not going to just wing it and see what happens, they're going with a good plan towards it.”

If the July bill does go ahead it will be Gallagher's first action since last August when he appeared on the superbly entertaining Feile an Phobail show at Fall's Park. His loss to Chris Jenkins for the British and Commonwealth welterweight titles was the biggest disappointment of the night for Irish fight fans.

Gallagher sent Jenkins to the canvas in round six but when the fight was stopped, due to a gash over Jenkins' left eye which the referee ruled had been caused by an accidental headbutt, the Welshman got the decision; 86-85 on the scorecards of all three judges.

Afterwards an irate Gallagher threatened to quit the sport in disgust with the decision but he has opted to come back for “a last hurrah”.

“I've talked about quitting a couple of times and I'm sick talking about it,” said Gallagher who can count himself very unlucky to have half-a-dozen losses on his record. All six - apart from the defeat to Freddie Kewitt in London last year – were debatable.

“The next time I say I'm retiring, that's going to be it definitely,” he added.

“It's part of boxing to get bad decisions and you get to a stage when you do get fed up but people will be thinking: ‘How many times is he going to say this?' It's the B'oy who cried wolf' kind of thing. The next time I say it, it is going to be it and I did think about hanging up my gloves for obvious reasons. I thought about it seriously and over Christmas I more-or-less did retire, I thought: ‘That's me done' and then somebody said: ‘Well then make it official that you're retired' and I said: ‘Nah' so obviously I had something left to give, there was still something in there somewhere and then I got offered a fight and so I decided to give it one last hurrah.

“I'm sick crying about it: ‘Poor me, poor me' but I have had some bad decisions. If I do get the rub of the green and things go well then, happy days, hopefully I'll finish off with a couple more belts.”

Since his last action in the ring, Gallagher has embarked on a new career as a coaching officer for the Irish Athletic Boxing Association's Belfast Boxing Strategy. It's a role he enjoys and, during the Covid-19 lockdown he has been making and posting coaching videos to the IABA Facebook page.

“I've been as busy as ever although I haven't been out working in the schools,” he said.

“I love it, it's a very good job. It can be challenging, you could be training up to 200 kids in any one day but I enjoy it. I enjoy working with kids and it's boxing and, this isn't blowing my own trumpet, I am good at the job so I can't really complain.”

FORMER featherweight world champions Carl Frampton and Oscar Valdez could be on collision course at super-feather if they take out their targets when boxing resumes following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Frampton has his sights trained on WBO champion Jamel Herring and Valdez (27-0) is focussing on WBC super-featherweight champion Miguel ‘El Alacran' (the Scorpion) Berchelt.

Valdez moved up in weight last November, rising from a second-round knockdown to knock out last-minute replacement Adam Lopez.

“We only have one fighter in mind right now, which is ‘Berchelt because I'm the mandatory challenger,” he said.

“The fight hasn't been announced yet, but it's a mandatory fight and it has to happen. We're ready to sign the contract because I'm going for my dream. I want that belt. We want to make it official and I was already training for that fight. Right now, we just have to train back home.

“I think Berchelt is the toughest fighter in that division. That's why we're going after him.”

Former Scott Quigg foe Valdez added “we want to go for everything” and he is also open to the possibility of meeting Shakur Stevenson as well as two-time Frampton opponent Leo Santa Cruz.

“Of course I would love that fight (Stevenson), especially now,” said Valdez, Michael Conlan's former training partner at Manny Robles' Rock Gym in Los Angeles.

“There's a lot of people, including him, who think I'm avoiding that fight but I'm not. I'm chasing my dream to become a world champion at super featherweight. I want to fight for the world title with Berchelt who is a tougher opponent than him.

“That's no offence to Shakur, he is a great fighter and he'll be up there. We'll have to fight sooner or later. If he goes up to 130, I'll gladly fight him.”

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Boxing