Sport

West awake as Kieran Molloy brings pro boxing to Galway * Michael Conlan-Lopez deal nearly done * Agyarko close to ring return

Negotiations for Michael Conlan's IBF title challenge are at an advanced stage
Negotiations for Michael Conlan's IBF title challenge are at an advanced stage Negotiations for Michael Conlan's IBF title challenge are at an advanced stage

KIERAN Molloy first pulled on a pair of gloves in Connemara’s Oughterard ABC as a five year-old. Nineteen years later, Molloy is bringing professional boxing to the west of Ireland for the first time.

The wild Atlantic way has produced a steady stream of pro fighters from Clare’s former light-heavyweight champion Mike McTigue to Galway’s Olympic hero Francie Barrett who carved out a 17-3 record and won an EBU title in the early 1990s.

Barrett fought just once on Irish soil (at the National Stadium in Dublin) but Molloy’s childhood dream will come true when he headlines at the sold-out Leisureland Complex in Salthill on April 21.

It’ll be a first eight-rounder for Molloy (4-0) who has had little trouble dealing with his opponents up to now. His footwork, hand speed and eye-catching style have marked him out as a star in the making and he intends to keep winning and expanded his fanbase until one day he’s fighting at Pearse Stadium (the home of Galway GAA) for a world title.

That’s the dream, it’s every boxers’ dream, and Molloy has the tools to chase it down.

“Fighting in Galway is thanks to the people who’ve supported me throughout the years,” he said.

“They’ve helped me build my name and to progress so it’s nice to be able to give them back something and bring these big shows to the west of Ireland.

“I think the show was sold-out within three hours of it being announced so there’s great excitement about it.”

He added: “You have to grab an opportunity like this with both hands.

“There is that bit of extra pressure seeing as how I’m the main event but these are the nights I’ve always wanted. I’ve been working hard since I was a kid for these opportunities and I’m looking forward to having that pressure on me because I feel like my best performances are going to come when I’m really switched on.”

Molloy has been based at the Boxing Centre of Excellence at Loughborough University for the last 14 months or so and is trained there by Anthony Joshua (above) coach Angel Fernandez. The Spaniard has also worked closely with the likes of Richard Riakpore and Frazer Clarke and Molloy says he is flourishing under his watchful eye.

“I feel like I’m progressing nicely,” he said.

“I’m learning all the time over here in Loughborough and I’m getting great sparring at the moment. We’ve got Sergio Garcia (European light-middleweight champion) over training with us at the minute so I’ve got plenty of great sparring and training here and no stone will be left unturned for the 21st.

“I really clicked with Angel when I first went to train with him and I’ve learned so much from him. The set-up at the university is top class, you’ve got everything on campus so it was the right move for me and I feel like I’m improving as a boxer.

“I understand professional boxing better. The pace is different to amateur boxing, how you try to create openings is different and some coaches maybe confuse things a bit. With Angel I feel like he understands my style and he’s not complicating it. It was a refreshing change for me to get over here and I’m really enjoying my training – as they say: ‘A happy fighter is a dangerous fighter…’

“I’ve got a world-class coach, great management and a top class promotion so you can’t ask for much more. It’s up to me now to keep building up towards the top.”

After a stellar amateur career that included more than 200 wins, Irish titles from schoolboy up to elite level, international exposure and experience in Ireland’s High Performance team Molloy made his professional debut in Glasgow just over a year ago.

Since then he has boxed twice in Belfast (on Michael Conlan undercards) and also appeared in Frankfurt, Germany. He moves up to his first eight-rounder next month against an opponent who will be named next week.

“We’re looking at a step up in this fight,” he said.

“Whoever my opponent is, I know he’s going to be coming to fight and I’m looking forward to that. When I sat down with Jamie and Michael Conlan to discuss my contract with them, one of things I wanted was to fight in Galway at least once a year.

“The response from the public at home has been incredible and there’s already talk about a second date in Galway possibly at the end of the year. If all goes well we’re going to build up to something big and the ultimate goal is to fight in Pearse Stadium, the home of Galway football so this is a step along the way."

Also in action in Galway will be Kurt Walker, Fearghus Quinn (below), John Cooney, Danny Keating, Gerard Hughes and Jamie Morrissey and Kevin Cronin will lock horns in a rematch of last month's Celtic title fight in Belfast which Morrissey won on points.

THE deal has almost been done for Michael Conlan’s world title clash with IBF featherweight champion Luis Alberto Lopez at the SSE Arena on May 27.

Conlan Boxing’s Jamie Conlan confirmed that “everyone is on the same page at the minute” so it seems only a matter of time until the fight is announced. Lopez beat Josh Warrington in his Leeds home to win the belt and will defend it for the first time in Belfast if everything goes to plan.

Pody McCrory’s WBA world super-middleweight title eliminator against Brazil’s Yamaguchi Falcao has been lined up as chief support on a stacked bill that is expected to include Belfast warrior Tyrone McKenna.

McKenna’s former adversary Ohara Davies ruthlessly broke Lewis Ritson's resistance on Saturday night with a ninth-round stoppage win that set up a shot at the WBA super-lightweight title.

The Londoner unloaded a short right hand, followed by a left hook to the body that sent Ritson crumpling to the canvas at Newcastle Arena, as Davies emerged victorious from a WBA final eliminator.

Alberto Puello will defend his WBA belt against Rolando Romero next but Davies is now waiting in line for his own title fight.

Ritson, a former British lightweight champion, had landed thudding jabs in the early rounds, but a steady barrage of body shots from Davies began to take their toll. A spiteful shot from Davies rattled the ribs of Ritson in the sixth and he received more punishment to the body before the closing shots came in the ninth.

CAOMHIN Agyarko hopes to get back to full training next month after undergoing surgery on his thumb.

The former Holy Trinity and Ireland amateur star has been out of action since July last year when he added the WBA International super-welterweight title to the middleweight belt he won in 2021 and defended on the undercard of Michael Conlan-Leigh Wood a year ago.

“I’m still injured and waiting on my hand to heal,” said Agyarko (above) who is based in Liverpool at the Rotunda Gym these days.

“I had surgery on my thumb and I’ve been training with one hand – hopefully I’ll be back punching with both in the next month or so.”