Boxing

'The Hammer' ready to strike when he makes return to action in England

Padraig McCrory says he’ll be fit and ready to go when he gets the green light for a comeback fight later this summer
Andy Watters

PADRAIG McCrory says he'll be fit and ready to go when he gets the green light for a comeback fight later this summer and he's hoping for the step up in class that will put him in the frame for a crack at the British super-middleweight title.

Experienced Englishman Mickey Ellison has been mentioned as a possible opponent for ‘The Hammer' who recently switched from Ray and Mark Ginley's gym and is now being trained by Dee Walsh and Dan Anderson.

The Covid-19 lockdown meant McCrory (10-0) took three weeks' off from training but he has returned in decent shape and says he's feeling “fit and strong” as boxing nears a return after more than three months of inactivity. The sport has resumed in the USA and there were pro bills in Russia, Germany and Poland last weekend.

McCrory is currently ranked 17th in Britain and with a number of the fighters above him reckoned to be on the verge of a move up to light-heavyweight and the likes of Calum Smith already beyond British title level, a McCrory win would inch him closer to a shot at a Lonsdale belt.

He couldn't confirm his opponent, but did say: “It's a fight I've been looking for.

“It'll be interesting. He is ranked above me so it is definitely a step up and he has had a couple of 10-round fights so he has been where I am looking to go.

“Winning it will put me right in line for a title shot and I'll be very confident going into the fight.”

The personal favourite from his 10-0 pro career to date is the victory over Derry rival Sean McGlinchey victory in 2018 “because of the history” but in the grand scheme of things, he accepts that his stoppage win over Steve Collins junior at last year's Feile an Phobail in the Fall's Park is the most significant of his career to date.

That win earned him the vacant BUI title and with the first belt of his pro career secured he took a break to spend some time with his new-born daughter and baby son. He returned in February and out-gunned 129-fight veteran Lewis van Poetsch at the Ulster Hall and the durable journeyman was impressed with McCrory's power in that fight.

“He said I was one of the hardest punchers that he's fought, so it was good to know that I leave my mark on fighters like him,” said McCrory who explained where his nickname ‘the Hammer' had come from.

“When I was 15 there was about 10 of us from St James's who all boxed and a local youth leader gave us all nicknames,” he said.

“I was given ‘the Hammer' but it wasn't anything to do with punching hard and it has always stuck with me. Then when I turned 17-18 and started fighting men, I was stopping everybody so I always knew that I had a bit of power.”

Because of his youthful appearance and attitude, it's a surprise to learn that he'll turn 32 soon (on Saturday to be exact) and McCrory puts that down to taking an extended break from boxing in his early 20s which means he doesn't have the “miles on the clock” other fighters of his age have.

“I stopped boxing for four years when I was 22,” he explained.

“I don't have the same miles on the clock as somebody my age who has been fighting four years longer than me and sparring hard rounds. So I don't feel like I still have the same wear and tear as your average guy my age, I still feel fresh in training, I'm keeping up with the younger lads in training and actually beating them.”

His next fight will be his first since his switched from Ray and Mark Ginley's gym to the busy fight stable run by Dee Walsh and Dan Anderson which includes welterweight-title hopeful Lewis Crocker.

“There's always sparring in camp,” McCrory explained.

“It's easier to get sparring and there's a competitive edge within the team environment so I thought that, at this stage of my career, it was the right move for me.”

Himself and Crocker are both expecting to get fights in England before the end of the summer and, depending on Covid-19 regulations, they may have to travel 14 days ahead of their fights.

“I'll just do whatever I'm told,” said McCrory.

“In our camp we're looking at me and Lewis getting fights and hopefully they're on the same weekend because apparently there'll be three or four shows on. Whenever I'm on, I'll be fit and ready to go.”

PUTTING on the Ritz held a special meaning for Belfast fight folk during the 1960s, although it had nothing to do with the dancing feet of film star Fred Astaire, writes Dennis O'Hara.

The spotlight was on exceptional ring master supreme, Muhammad Ali and ‘The Greatest' was the screen gem in the old ABC Ritz Cinema at Fisherwick Place. For the first time Belfast fans had the opportunity of watching live on a cinema screen the full 15-rounder of Ali defending his world heavyweight crown against Ernie Terrell and the Ritz staged a late evening show on Monday, February 6, 1967.

The venue for Ali-Terrell was the Houston Astrodome in Texas and ironically, another Astaire masterminded the live cinema screening in Belfast. Jarvis Astaire was experienced in processing piped-in action of many Ali fights. Back as 1963 Ali (then Cassius Clay) was fortunate to squeeze a points decision in Madison Square Garden against New York light-heavyweight contender Doug Jones and that bout was relayed via a novel telephone system across the Atlantic.

Before 1967 Astaire's enterprising offerings were confined to major cinema outlets in England and Scotland but then London sports impresario Astaire made a deal with BJ Eastwood to test Belfast interest in the cinema screening of fights.

It was proving a money-spinner in cities such as London, Manchester and Glasgow. Astute Astaire sealed a deal with US television moguls for the rights to satellite relay of live late-night major fights to UK cinemas, where he collected a percentage of the gate receipts.

The 6'3" Ali, with his mesmeric fast hand action and dazzling footwork, was all the rage ever since he had sensationally taken the heavyweight crown away from Sonny Liston.

After title defences against Floyd Patterson, Canadian George Chuvalo, England's Henry Cooper and Brian London, Argentine's Oscar Bonavena, German southpaw Karl Mildenberger and Cleveland Williams, the match-up against Terrell of Chicago was sealed to go global.

He gave Terrell 'a good whupping' over 15 rounds. At the end of a one-sided contest he repeatedly asked Terrell: 'What's my name?' in reference to his opponent's refusal to call him Muhammad Ali.

The champion also showed the same spite in a fight against ex-titleholder Floyd Patterson and Bonavena, because he felt he was being insulted.

Neither Terrell, Bonavena nor Patterson would address him as Ali, but used his birth surname name of Clay.

Astaire, who was also involved in a London bookmaker business chain with ex-world middleweight champion Terry Downes, took a percentage of the box-office profits from the show in the Ritz. Eastwood gambled on the show being a hit, made a profit, and left the arrangements with his matchmaker and co-fight promoter Mike Callahan.

The late evening film screening of Ali-Tyrrell was the second occasion in the 1960s for the Ritz Cinema to be used as a fight venue.

Three years earlier, on Thursday March 5, 1964, a Jack Solomons promotion featured Falls Road ring hero and ex-world champion Johnny Caldwell, halting West Hartlepool's George Bowes in seven rounds for the British and Commonwealth bantamweight titles, vacated by Ardoyne's port-sider Freddie Gilroy.

The ring was erected on a stage that normally supported a movable screen, and just behind where musician Stanley Wylie played the rising organ before shows started.

The supporting bouts to the Caldwell-Bowes fight included the Pound Loney's Spike McCormick, who outsmarted Ghana lightweight Ebe Mensah over 10 rounds. Andersonstown's Young Gabriel (Gabriel Young) outpointed Ballyclare welterweight Bob Sempey in an eight-rounder.

A 20-year-old 'Doagh Destroyer' Henry Turkington, in his second pro contest, stopped Scottish light-middleweight Adam Robertson, while there was also a second paid outing for 24-year-old Derry heavyweight Jim Monaghan, who took a six-round decision against Belfast's 31 year old Gerry Hassett.

CATHY McAleer, the North's only female pro fighter, is due to be back in the ring in September at Aston Villa football grounds in Birmingham and in the meantime the former Down Ladies' GAA star and karate world champion has been appointed ambassador of Street Soccer NI.

From small beginnings in 2010, with one weekly project in Belfast, Street Soccer NI has grown to include 10 weekly sessions across Belfast and Derry and works with over 120 people a week. One of their core projects also involves working with a men's and women's team to represent Northern Ireland at the global Homeless World Cup.

McAleer is managed by the experienced Kellie Maloney, formerly known as Frank Maloney, who guided Lennox Lewis to the heavyweight world title and the John Breen-trained bantamweight has progressed to 4-0 as a pro.

“Sport is a powerful tool,” she said

“It can help so many with mental health, routine and building self-esteem and confidence. Sport is amazing for learning new skills such as communication, team work and discipline.

“Within Northern Ireland we have so many areas that need help and support, in the local community with homelessness, mental health, suicide and addictions. I believe sport can help assist and reduce these cases fast and help so many that really need a routine and sense of belonging.

“Everything I learnt in sport helped me mange my life and my working life. Sport taught me team work, discipline, communication skills, time management, motivation and how to overcome success and loss and I'm excited to be part of the street Soccer NI team and grateful for the opportunity.”

FEATHERWEIGHT Jessie Magdaleno prevailed over Yenifel Vicente via disqualification at the MGM Grand Conference Centre in Las Vegas last weekend.

Magdaleno scored knockdowns in the first and fifth rounds, while Vicente had three points taken away for low blows in the fourth and another one in the 10th. At 1:38 of the 10th, referee Robert Byrd disqualified Vicente due to repeated low blows.

Magdaleno (28-1, 18 KOs) has won three in-a-row since losing his super-bantamweight world title in April 2018. Vicente (36-5-2, 28 KOs) has now lost two of his last three.

“He was a rugged fighter. He was a tough veteran. I tip my hat off to him. He knew what he was doing. His way was to get me low," Magdaleno said.

“Gary Russell, I'm coming for you. But like I've said before, I want any of the champions at 126 pounds. I want to be a two-division world champion. Simple as that."

On the undercard, Adam Lopez (14-2, 6 KOs) won a 10-round majority decision over the Robert Garcia-trained Louie Coria (12-3, 7 KOs) in a battle of California natives. Lopez, who was coming off a valiant effort in a TKO loss to Oscar Valdez, won the last two rounds on two of the judges' scorecards to pull out the win.

“That was my toughest fight to date. I used to say my fight with Jean Carlos Rivera was my toughest fight, but this one was definitely my toughest fight," Lopez said.

“I want to fight anyone Top Rank puts in front of me. This was a great, close fight, and I have the utmost respect for Louie Coria.”

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Boxing