I'm willing to risk it all for career swansong says Anto Cacace

Anto Cacace, Michael Conlan and Padraig McCrory will star at the SSE Arena on May 27. Picture: Mal McCann
Anto Cacace, Michael Conlan and Padraig McCrory will star at the SSE Arena on May 27. Picture: Mal McCann

HOW much does he want it? Anto Cacace says he’s ready to give whatever it takes to finish his career in a blaze of glory.

Cacace, who will defend his IBO super-featherweight title on the undercard of Michael Conlan-Luis Lopez on May 27, has been around the professional scene for more than 11 years now. He’s 34 and made his pro debut in February 2012 but still hasn’t reached his peak.

Always rated top class by his fellow fighters, Cacace is British super-featherweight champion who won the IBO belt in his last fight but he’s been avoided and overlooked throughout his career and, after clearing one hurdle, has had to wait too long for a go at the next.

“I’m getting these opportunities now and I wish I had got them six years ago but I’m ready and willing to do whatever I have to do to win,” said Cacace.

“I’m 34 but I don’t feel old, nothing has changed physically but my mentality has changed.

“Any time I go into the ring, I’m willing to risk my life – if I die doing it, I die doing it. That (attitude) has changed over the years but I’m just happy, I’m happy to be here.”

His last fight in his native city was during his time with Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions. He fought and beat Santiago Bustos that night on the undercard of Frampton-Avalos at the SSE Arena.

“All I need now is to get an opponent and I hope they get me someone worthwhile,” he said.

Archie Moore and Dubliner Jono Carroll have both been offered the fight but turned it down.

“I’m holding out for a big name,” he said.

“Do you know something, I’m 34, I need a big fight. I don’t want to be fighting a 10-0 kid on the way up here. Whoever it is, I’m good to go. I’ve just done seven weeks’ down in Carrickfergus because I thought I would be fighting in March and it didn’t happen. I’ve done five or six different camps over the last couple of years and I’ve had two fights.

“I’ve put the graft in but I’ve just been unlucky and that’s part of the game. For me, paying off (for all his effort) was winning the IBO world title. I know it’s not a legitimate world title but it did it for me. Anything from here on is just a bonus to be honest, it’s something that I can look back on in the future and say: ‘I did that’

“So I’m delighted to be here. I was told I might be on this card but I’ve been told I was going to be on undercards before and it hasn’t happened. So this is a shock but it’s great because I haven’t fought in Belfast in eight years.”

A NORMAL training day for Kurt Walker (and the other fighters including Michael Conlan at Adam Booth’s gym in London) begins a little later than you’d guess.

Walker is up for around 9-9.30am and he’s in the gym for 10am. Some days the fighters start with pad work, on others they do a 15-round circuits course and, after an afternoon break, they’re back in at 5pm to do hill sprints on the treadmill.

On Saturdays training begins at 6am and the fighters assemble at the bottom of aptly-named Box Hill for a 12 kilometre run. Thursday and Sunday are rest days.

“It’s tough but I’m getting stronger, I’m getting better,” says Walker.

“And then you’ve got your sparring on top of that when you’re in camp. You’d be sparring Monday, Wednesday and Friday and doing the circuits on Tuesday and then all the other stuff in the evenings.

“It’s the toughest training I’ve ever done but I feel comfortable doing it. I’m sparring 16 rounds now at times and it’s just like a walk-in-the-park to me – I’m able to pick up the pace.

“All those hill runs are conditioning your body to be able to do the rounds.”

Walker has been training hard since January and says he’s “ready to go now” but he has a few weeks’ more to wait until the action begins. He’ll appear in Galway on the undercard of local favourite Kieran Molloy on April 21 and then returns north to prepare for a place on the Conlan-Lopez world title bill at the SSE.

He could be set for a six-rounder in Galway before moving up to the eight-round distance in May and then, if all goes to plan by the end of the year, he wants to be pushing for the title belts.

“Whatever title is there, I’ll take it - that’s the plan,” he said.

“I could do 10 rounds now. Training in the Booth Gym is just different level. I’d say I’m more excited for Mick’s fight than I am for my next two fights which isn’t good because I need to focus as well.

“I’m looking forward to May, it’s going to massive and I can’t wait to be part of a world title card, I really can’t.”

A laidback, easy-going character, Walker is obviously a different personality when he steps in the ring.

“Well I’m laid-back but I wouldn’t be stupidly laidback,” he says.

“I would study a lot, I would study every fighter I come up against. I was fighting journeymen last year and I studied them to see how they move and see what not to get caught with.

“I can be laidback because I know that Jamie knows what he’s doing and I’m with Mick every day so I know I’m going to be fit so I’ve nothing to worry about except for my performance.”

IRISH boxing lost a committed and astute official at the weekend when John Campbell, long-term British Boxing Board of Control member and secretary of the Northern Ireland Area, passed away.

A popular and knowledgeable official whose well-organised behind-the-scenes work allowed so many of Belfast’s most famous fight-nights to take place, he was respected as a man who put the fighters first.

“John was one of the good guys of boxing,” wrote Carl Frampton.

“He always put the fighters first and he’ll be sadly missed by the boxing community.”

Super-middleweight contender Pody McCrory added: “John was always on hand to help me with any boxing-related issues and always went above and beyond.”