Boxing

Tommy McCarthy closes in on rematch with McGuigan fighter Chris Billam-Smith

That's a wrap. Carl Frampton was in the Chris Billam-Smith dressingroom on behalf of Tommy McCarthy to observe his former trainer Shane McGuigan wrapping Billam-Smith's hands, watched also by Frampton is former manager Barry McGuigan

TOMMY McCarthy's rematch against Chris Billam-Smith is in the works. The Irish News understands that Lenadoon cruiserweight McCarthy could get a second crack at the Shane McGuigan-trained Englishman next month.

McCarthy threw a curveball into the pre-fight works when he first met Billam-Smith in July last year by adding Carl Frampton – whose issues with the McGuigan family are very well documented - to his corner.

McCarthy started the fight brilliantly but took his foot off the gas over the second half of an engrossing contest at Eddie Hearn's Brentwood Fight Camp and Billam-Smith was awarded a split decision win which won him collect the European, British and Commonwealth titles.

An overhand right stunned Billam-Smith in the opening round and McCarthy said he tried to repeat that shot instead of sticking to boxing. Ultimately that cost him the decision.

“I wobbled him in the first round with it and then I was looking for a big power shot,” he said.

“If I had stuck to my boxing the early rounds and then started to throw the power shots in the latter rounds it would have been a clear win for me. I left it too close and I'm really annoyed at myself for doing that.

“When they were calling out the scorecards I wasn't paying attention to the name – I was just listening to the numbers – and then when they said '116-112' (referee Ian John-Lewis who is no stranger to controversy had Billam-Smith winning by four rounds) I was thinking: ‘100 per cent, that must be me'.

“I didn't think there was any way they could give it to Billam-Smith, it was close but there's no way they could give it to Billam-Smith by that margin.”

AFTER knockback was followed by disappointment, Ruadhan Farrell admits he thought his dream of becoming a professional boxer was over. But the John Breen-trained Belfast super-featherweight's persistence finally paid off and he will make his pro debut at the Europa Hotel on Saturday, March 19.

The MHD Promotions bill also features John Cooney, Colm ‘Posh Boy' Murphy, Mathew Fitzsimons and Limerick's Jason Harty and Farrell says he intends to “shine” on debut against 134-fight veteran journeyman Jamie Quinn.

“It's a dream come true,” he says.

“After so much disappointment, I'm fighting in front of my home fans in my home town. It's going to be a special night for me.

“I've been let down, I've been pulled off shows and I've had shows cancelled on me four times so this is fifth time lucky. I've been waiting on this opportunity since 2018 – I've been walked over, screwed over and knocked to the ground but Mark Dunlop has given me this opportunity and I'm going to shine, I'm going to put on a good performance, get the win and move onto bigger and better things.”

Boxing out of Ray Close's Ledley Hall club, Farrell had around 70 amateur contests and reached County Antrim Championship level. He says he “could have done better” and it wasn't until he linked up with veteran Belfast trainer Breen that he really began to make strides in the sport. He came through the ‘semi-pro' route and won an Irish title before he decided professional boxing was for him.

“John has all the experience and he'll be working on a gameplan for me to stay on my bike and keep boxing, stay out of range,” he said.

“I know I will be nervous on the night, the nerves do get the better of me but I am going to put on a good performance.

“I've had a good family around me – my mum and dad, my brothers and sisters and my girlfriend have been pushing me and getting behind me.

“They're very supportive, they don't let me miss training, they keep me going and told me I just had to wait for an opportunity coming and it all starts in two weeks.

“I did lose hope a couple of times, I thought it wasn't going to happen and then Mark Dunlop spoke to me. He said: ‘I'm not promising you anything but I'll speak to John (Breen)' and then he got me on the show and the following day he had tickets in my hand.”

He has sold those tickets – 50 of them – and hopes to shift another 20 before fight night. That's how it goes for young boxers at this level who are trying to climb the ladder and while he does that he'll continue working as a painter and decorator.

“Boxing doesn't pay and I've got bills to pay,” he said.

“I work from nine to five and then I'll be in the gym from half five to eight o'clock and then I come home, get my dinner and go to bed – that's what I've been doing for the last five weeks. So it has been hard going but I have to try and keep in that routine. This where it all starts and there's a long journey ahead.”

CAOIMHIN Agyarko will defend his WBA International middleweight belt against Mexican Juan Carlos Rubio on the undercard of Michael Conlan's challenge for Leigh Wood's WBA featherweight title at Nottingham Arena on Saturday night.

Rubio, from Guadalajara, goes into the fight on the back of the first loss of his 18-1 career – he was stopped in the third round by highly-rated American Charles Conwell in a USBA light-middleweight title fight in Cleveland in August last year.

Former Holy Trinity ABC star Agyarko stopped Noe Larios Jr at the Echo Arena in Liverpool last time out, breaking the Californian down before ending the fight in the ninth round.

Mexican fighters are always dangerous and Rubio – who has nine stoppage wins on his record - will come to fight but Belfast's ‘Black Thunder' says it's his time to shine.

"To be on Mick's undercard for a world title, especially if he goes and wins it, and I put on a good performance - it's one for the history books," said Turf Lodge native Agyarko.

"Last time it was Katie's undercard and she successfully defended her world titles, so this is great for my career to be on the undercards of Irish superstars.

"This is the kind of route that I want to be on. I want to be headlining shows back in Belfast and want to be the star of Belfast and Irish boxing, so to be on this and get a glimpse of what that is like is amazing for my career.”

Naas lightweight Gary Cully (13-0) is also up against a Mexican in Nottingham on Saturday night. Cully takes on 44-10 veteran and world title challenger Miguel Vazquez, who has previously traded leather with Josh Taylor and Ohara Davies. Meanwhile, Dublin heavyweight Thomas Carty (2-0) takes on Poland's Michal Boloz (2-3-2).

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