Boxing

Second time lucky? Paul Hyland all set for British title showdown with Maxi Hughes

Paul Hyland Jr came up short in his first British title challenge - he's determined to go a step further on March 19
Andy Watters

THIS year hasn't begun well for Irish fighters. Carl Frampton, Anto Cacace and Steven Ward have all had fights cancelled and Sean McComb's promising career hit a sizeable setback when he lost his Commonwealth title shot against Gavin Gwynne.

There hasn't been much to shout about but Belfast lightweight Paul Hyland jnr can get the show back on the road by beating Scottish challenger Maxi Hughes in their British title showdown in Bolton on March 19. Hyland has had to deal with a delay himself this year. He was originally scheduled to meet experienced Liam Walsh (elder brother of Ryan Walsh) but Walsh pulled out because of a positive Covid-19 test and Hughes – fresh from his unexpected win against Jono Carroll - has stepped in.

“He's a different-style boxer to Walsh,” says Hyland.

“He has a different stance but I'm focussing on what I have to do. I've trained great in this camp, I know it has been over lockdown but it's probably one of the best camps I've had to date. I feel great and in my mind I feel great as well.

“Whatever Maxi has to bring I'm going to adapt to it. I can fight and box and push back. I can do whatever needs to be done and I feel it's my time to take that title.”

As you'd expect for a British title fight, Hyland is in for a serious test in Bolton. The contest is the Belfast man's second shot at the Lonsdale belt. The first, in June 2018, ended in disappointment when he travelled to Lewis Ritson's backyard and was stopped early by the big-punching Geordie. Meanwhile, after previous losses at super-feather against Sam Bowen and Martin Joseph Ward, this will be Hughes' third British title challenge. He recovered impressively from setbacks and turned the corner when he boxed clever to get a unanimous decision win over Dubliner Carroll last August. He kicked on from that by winning the WBC international lightweight belt in October, so he'll be brim full of confidence and could arguably consider himself the pre-fight favourite.

“I know he's a good boxer and he's durable so I'm expecting to go the 12 rounds,” said Hyland (20-2).

“I'm expected a hard fight but I'm confident and I know what needs to be done.”

He's right to expect 12 rounds because Hughes may lack genuine KO power but he is a tidy, skilful boxer who surprised Carroll – a former world title challenger who went into that fight after dominating a fading Scott Quigg – with his range and movement.

“I want to replicate what Tenny (James Tennyson) and Anto (Anthony Cacace) did,” says Hyland.

“They both won their British title second-time-out and I want to do that. He's very experienced and he was active last year but I'm focussed in my head on what needs to be done and I'm sure that I'll get in there and do the business.

“I've had two losses (Ritson and an EBU title disappointment against Francesco Patera in Italy) but that's part of boxing isn't it? You can't expect to win every time, I've had my setbacks and I'm feeling great now. I feel this is my time to win the title.

“Hughes is going into his third try for a British title and he probably feels confident and feels like he's on a roll but I intend to put an end to that come March 19th. He might feel he's the favourite because he's been more active than me and he beat Jono Carroll but that won't matter on the night.

“There'll only be me and him in the ring and that's when it counts so we'll see who wants it more.”

THE Cinco de Mayo super-middleweight super-fight between Saul ‘Canelo' Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders will see Mexico's pound-for-pound king tangle at last with the unbeaten WBO champion who has long believed, and often stated, that he can overcome him.

Canelo and Saunders clash for the WBC, WBA Super, WBO and Ring Magazine World super-middleweight titles in a unification blockbuster on May 8, live worldwide on DAZN.

Alvarez dismantled WBC mandatory challenger Avni Yildirim in three rounds in Miami last weekend and next he takes a giant step in his quest to become undisputed by facing the WBO king Saunders.

Alvarez's win over Yildirim followed hot on the heels of his dominant triumph over Callum Smith in Texas and Saunders (30-0) will be putting his WBO strap on the line for the third time, after recently sending Martin Murray into retirement following his comprehensive points win over the Jamie Moore-trained veteran.

“We want to unify the division, he's a world champion, we want to go for it and we need to go for it,” said Canelo.

“He's a very difficult fighter and has a championship, the WBO. People talk but I'm a very mature fighter and I know how to control myself. All I need to do is go into the ring, win and make history.

“It's because it hasn't been done, no one has done it in Latin America. In the world only a few fighters have done it, the best. I want to make history and be one of the best in the world.”

Meanwhile, Saunders countered in typically brash fashion: “Canelo, I'm ready to rock and roll.

“You have to dare to be great and you aren't going to be a great if you don't beat the greats.

“I believe I am the only one with the footwork, knowhow, skillset, mindset and brain to unlock that door in Canelo.

“He's the main man in the sport and the face of boxing. You have to give him respect, he hasn't ducked anyone, he's beaten good names, but nobody is unbeatable and I believe I have got the tools to beat him if I use them properly and if the gamelan comes off that I believe works.

“I am looking at the golden ticket to cement my legacy, and that's how you have to go in there to beat him.

“I've won everything from Southern Area to world titles. I could say ‘I've won it all, been to the Olympics, I'm unbeaten - I'll see you later'. But I've only just turned 31, I've got no miles on the clock, haven't taken any punishment. I believe he's been in harder fights than me and has more miles, so I want to cement my legacy and beat him.”

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