Sport

'Hammer' time has come as McCrory faces German Leon Bunn in IBO world title showdown

Padraig McCrory takes on German Leon Bunn for the IBO light-heavyweight title in Frankfurt on Saturday night. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Padraig McCrory takes on German Leon Bunn for the IBO light-heavyweight title in Frankfurt on Saturday night. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

FOR the last six weeks’ Padraig McCrory has had Leo Bunn – the man he fight’s for the IBO light-heavyweight title in Frankfurt on Saturday night (live on TG4) - scorched into his mind.

Bunn has been McCrory’s total focus. He knows how he likes to fight and what he struggles with, he knows how he moves, how he takes a shot, what his engine is like…

He knows that Bunn, on home soil, will be a hard man to break down and that will be times on Saturday night when the gameplan he’s worked out with his trainer Dee Walsh will go out the window and he’ll have to fight hard under pressure.

But most of all, Pody McCrory knows what he can do and he knows he’s going to bring the belt back home.

“I’ve had lots of different visions of this fight,” says McCrory.

“I’ve had visions of knocking Bunn out very early and I’ve had visions of me being in a dark place in the ring. I’ve always had what I call ‘a dog’ in me where I’m able to fight but I have to be smart too – 12 rounds is a long time in the ring.

“There’ll be times when I need to bite down and fight hard but I’ve sparred well, I’ve put in a great camp and I think I’m ready for it. I believe that if I perform to the levels I’ve been putting in in the gym that I’ll come back as the champion.”

McCrory is stepping up from super-middleweight and Bunn (18-0 with nine stoppage wins) is a very solid unit. The German is a relentless battering ram who plants his feet and lets his hands go. He may not be the slickest mover but he is aggressive and will look to take the initiative on Saturday night.

Speed and movement will be key for McCrory. Bunn is durable but he is there to be hit and ‘The Hammer’ has the power to hurt him when the opportunity comes which it will but he may have to weather an early storm to make his skills count.

“He has that typical German style,” said McCrory.

“He comes out of the same gym as Arthur Abraham and they fight fairly similar. He will have the physical size advantage but I’m taller and I think I’ll punch a bit better with him. He’s not the biggest light-heavyweight but he is strong.

“We’ve worked on a few different plans and boxing on the backfoot and letting him walk on to punches is one of them. I think there’ll be different scenarios through the fight when he’s on the front foot or I am so we’ve planned for everything.

“He’s a tough boy, there’s no sign of him ever being hurt or in trouble so I can’t be banking on my power but hopefully we’ve come up with plans for ever scenario that’s going to happen.”

Saturday night will be the 15th fight of McCrory’s career and he has grown in confidence with each one and begun to believe that world title opportunities would come. He has stopped his last four opponents and says his confidence is “through the roof” now.

“When I got called about this opportunity I wasn’t surprised, I wasn’t shocked, it wasn’t something I didn’t expect,” he said.

“This is definitely a fight I can win.”

It was McCrory’s performance against Marco Antonio Periban that opened the door to this title shot. Periban had fought in elite company but McCrory dealt with him very impressively at the SSE Arena in August. He dominated the experienced Mexican and stopped him in the fifth round to retain his WBC silver super-middleweight title.

“Periban has boxed at a much higher level than Bunn,” said McCrory.

“He had much bigger wins than Bunn but I dealt with him fairly handy. He came and tried but I never gave him a chance to get into the fight. That fight got people talking about me and six weeks’ ago I had the choice of fighting for an EU title or this IBO – four years ago, if you had said that to me I probably would have said: ‘There’s no chance!’

“But I’ve put in the hard yards and I’ve worked my way up the ladder and now I’m on the verge of winning a major title.

“I believe that the missed opportunities and the injuries that have come along all happened for a reason. I believe this is where I’m meant to be now and I’m ready to take this opportunity and I don’t see this as the end goal.

“I can see myself going further and being involved in bigger fights. This isn’t my end goal but it’s a massive opportunity on a big stage and I’m really looking forward to it.”

On the undercard of McCrory-Bunn on Saturday night, Lisburn super-featherweight Kurt Walker takes on Columbian Yin Caicedo (6-4-3). Walker is 3-0 as a pro so far and is progressing steadily under the expert eye of coach Adam Booth.

Also in action is Galway’s Kieran Molloy who is up against Georgian journeyman Sandro Jajanidze (10-26-2). Both are scheduled to appear on the undercard of Michael Conlan versus Karim Guerfi at the SSE Arena, Belfast on December 10.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

CAOMHIN Agyarko says he has the “underdog mentality” he needs to win what looks like a crossroads battle against undefeated New Yorker Peter Dobson at Wembley Arena on October 29.

Agyarko (12-0) defends his WBA International light-middleweight belt against Dobson (16-0) and with 29 rounds under his belt in his last three outings, Belfast’s ‘Black Thunder’ says he’s ready for his latest step up in class.

“My last four fights have been step-ups,” he says.

“They (his opponents) have been 14-0, 19-1, 28-4 and now 16-0 so I’m not getting matched easy. Peter Dobson is going to come to win and upset the applecart but these are the fights I feel I need to progress to the next level.

“Whoever wins this one will move up the ladder so it’s a 50-50 fight. He has more experience and he’s higher-ranked than I am. I wouldn’t like to say I’m the underdog but I’ll have the underdog mentality for this fight and you need that. This is one of those fights that is a close one to call on paper but I feel that I’m the better fighter and I’ll prove that on the night.”

Former Holy Trinity star and Ireland international Agyarko began his professional career as a middleweight but decided to drop down to super-welter (160lbs down to 154lbs) 10 fights in. He says the switch is working well for him.

“Making weight is never easy when you are big for the weight,” he said.

“But the more I do it the more comfortable it’ll be. As I get older and mature more I’ll out-grow it but for now I’m making it fine.”