Hand problems in the past, world title shot in the near future if Tommy McCarthy can defend European Cruiser title

Canelo Alvarez winds up his right hand as Billy Joe Saunders covers up in Dallas on Saturday night
Andy Watters

TOMMY McCarthy's hand problems are in the past and a world title shot could be the near future if he can get past Romanian Alexandru Jur in the first defence of his European cruiserweight title in Manchester on Saturday night.

As we have seen repeatedly this year, the best laid plans of Irish boxers have often gone awry and McCarthy insists his focus is fairly and squarely on Jur (19-4) who will go in as underdog but is vastly experienced and went the distance with former WBC cruiserweight champ Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in 2019.

Jur has lost three of his last five and has been stopped twice but, at 36, he is in the last chance saloon and will be determined to be the latest fighter to dash Irish hopes in the ring this year.

“I feel great,” said McCarthy who arrived in Manchester yesterday.

“Training has been perfect, so I'm really looking forward to Saturday night. At the start of the camp you think: ‘This is going to be a long eight weeks' but it flies in and then the last couple of weeks have dragged so I can't wait to get in there and get it over and done with – I want to get the show on the road.”

McCarthy out-pointed Belgian Bilal Laggoune to win his European belt last October despite boxing with a broken hand (the metacarpal bone) and the British Boxing Board of Control insisted that he went for an x-ray last week to prove the injury was completely healed.

“Everything is A-OK,” said the Lenadoon native.

“I'm back to my full strength. If you don't pick up wee, minor injuries in training you're obviously not training hard enough – you pick up wee niggles here and there because you're putting your body under so much stress but I haven't picked up anything as major as the last time.”

McCarthy's opponent Jur stands tall and works off a crisp jab but the seven stoppage wins on his 23-fight card indicate that he is not a dangerous puncher and McCarthy can certainly outwork him on Saturday night.

His coach Pete Taylor has studied Jur's style and form workout a gameplan for the fight which is chief support to the Lerrone Richards versus Giovanni De Carolis headline act.

“If I watch him too much I end up picking up on what he does well and what his strengths are,” said McCarthy.

“It can start making me second-guess a wee bit so I have left it all up to Pete to do the homework because this is a good opportunity for Jur. He's had the same notice that I have so I'm expecting a tough fight.

“He is a solid all-rounder. He is good across the board, he's not amazing at anything but he's good and he has plenty of experience at the top level – he's been a title holder and been in with some good fighters. He's dangerous.”

McCarthy is dangerous too of course and since his link-up with Dublin-based Taylor he has stepped up a level and scored impressive wins against Fabio Turchi (in Italy) and then Laggoune.

“I feel like I'm improving in every camp under Pete,” he said.

“When you work with a coach there is no quick fix. The first fight with Pete was Turchi and we did seven weeks and you can't work miracles in seven weeks. We had a year until Laggoune and we've had another six months to this fight and what we've been working on in the gym is really kicking in and I feel myself getting better and better.”

As he steps up in class he will need that improvement and he hopes to land that elusive world title shot when he gets past Jur.

“I'm very confident, I've been sparring great and everything has went great in the gym so I feel like I am improving all the time,” he said.

“I'm very confident but I'm not taking my eye off the ball because I want a world title shot next. I'm in the top 10 with the IBF (ranked fifth), WBA (fifth) and WBC (seventh) so I'm only a stone's throw away. A good victory and a good performance here and there's no reason why I shouldn't get a crack at the world title.”

BILLY Joe Saunders moved smoothly around the 22-foot ring he had demanded in Dallas on Saturday night without ever touching the ropes and he out-boxed Saul ‘Canelo' Saunders in spells over seven rounds.

It seemed that the Mexican's intense fighting schedule was finally catching up with him and going into the eighth the Englishman had his nose in front on the scorecards. BBC 5Live summariser Joe Gallagher predicting that the ‘upset was on' and perhaps Saunders became over-confident as he planted his feet and fired a right hook at Canelo's chin.

Everything was going to plan until Alvarez slipped the shot leaving Saunders, exposed in his follow-through, at his mercy.

It was the moment ‘Canelo' had been waiting for and he exploited it brutally and ruthlessly, nailing Saunders with a sledgehammer uppercut. It was ‘game over' in that instant.

The criticism of Saunders for quitting on his stool at the end of that round is unfair and incorrect. He was pulled out by trainer Mark Tibbs because he was in no condition to continue.

“His eye socket was caved in, and he couldn't see, so I didn't get the response that I wanted from him,” Tibbs explained.

The writing was on the wall and if Tibbs had let his man go out for the ninth he could have been seriously hurt and no-one, not even Saunders' critics (and there are plenty of them), needed to see that. After the fight, Saunders was taken straight to hospital where he underwent surgery on Sunday to repair ‘multiple fractures to his orbital area'.

It looks like Caleb Plant (21-0) will be next for Canelo in an undisputed super-middleweight championship clash in September. After Plant the next cab on the rank is David Benavidez and then Gennady Golovkin. Jermall Charlo and Artur Beterbiev are also in the frame but Demetrius Andrade, who instigated heated exchanges with Canelo in the post-fight press conference, is not.

Carl Froch was at ringside in Dallas on Saturday night and he does not dismiss IBF champion Plant's chances if the fight goes ahead in September.

“Plant, does he need a bit more experience and a bit more time? Maybe or maybe not, but that's the unification fight, so why not take it while it's there?” said Froch.

“You always say he has a chance of winning. We saw Billy Joe boxing and moving and not getting hit with those big powerful shots that he ended up getting hit with.

“So you always give someone a chance, but then reality sets in and you watch Canelo go to work. Then you watch Canelo get on his front foot and land the power shots, body and head.

“You begin to see and hear the shots themselves, the devastation of his work. When he puts them together, it's hard for anyone to beat him, it really is.”

Plant has a similar style to Saunders but he has been much more active than the Englishman had been in the past two years. He is an elusive, slick boxer who is good on his feet but can he stand with Alvarez? As Canelo proved again on Saturday night: One false move against him and it's game over.

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