Pedro Diaz is Conlan's new coach - Tyrone McKenna and Lewis Crocker in Belfast battle - O'Neill primed for Geraghty showdown

Miami-based Cuban Pedro Diaz is Michael Conlan's new coach
Andy Watters

TYRONE McKenna and Lewis Crocker will lock horns at the SSE Arena on December 2.

The IBO world welterweight title could be on the line when the Belfast rivals, from opposite sides of the city, battle it out as the headline act of a card that will also feature Sean McComb, Kurt Walker (in his first title fight) and the return of Steven Ward.

McKenna was due to fight Nicholas Esposito in Dublin earlier this month and he was disappointed when hat fight fell through but ‘The Mighty Celt’ can put all his training to good use against unbeaten Crocker who is 17-0 and has been chomping at the bit for centre stage in a major title fight.

“Very rarely do you get two fighters who are ready to risk it all in front of their home crowd because of the added element of pressure that comes with that,” said Jamie Conlan.

“It’s very intriguing and it’s a fight that could go either way. Lewis has the power but he’s never really been in with someone as tough and rugged as Tyrone who also has that high-octane workrate. “Tyrone McKenna can make any fight a dogfight but he’s in with an opponent in Lewis Crocker who is heavy-handed and is on his game with Billy Nelson. It has all the ingredients for a real firefight.”


Read more: 

Dos Santos determined to keep Olympic flame burning after Barcelona stoppage

"I just want to fight..." Tyrone McKenna wants Ulster Hall fight after Dublin bill cancellation

'A proper old school character': Magee pays tribute to mentor John Rooney


PEDRO Diaz will be Michael Conlan’s new trainer. Vastly-experienced Cuban-born, Miami-based Diaz – former coach to Miguel Cotto and Guillermo Rigondeaux among other world champions - has taken over from Adam Booth as Conlan’s new cornerman.

Belfast featherweight Conlan will travel to Florida for a training camp next month with a view to a possible return to action before the end of the year.

“We went to a few gyms and met a few coaches but Pedro stood out - he ticked all the boxes,” said Jamie Conlan.

“He is very technical and he impressed us at different levels: His knowledge, his experience… They gelled well, they worked really well so it’s a very, very exciting collaboration.

“Pedro has rebuilt fighters - he did it with Cotto to beat (Antonio) Margarito in the rematch and to fight Mayweather but we went with him because him and Michael are on the same wavelength, they think the same about how to approach a fight.

“He was very impressive and I think it’s a breath of fresh air. I think he can help Michael improve and learn and hopefully get over that last hurdle. He identified strengths and weaknesses in Michael – he saw things in Michael that he thinks will be able to make him a world champion.”


Owen O'Neill has dedicated his next fight to the memory of his grandmother Eilish McGarrigan who sadly passed away last month


UNBEATEN Owen O’Neill has dropped down to welterweight for the biggest challenge of his career against experienced Dubliner Declan Geraghty.

The Belfast versus Dublin battle takes place at the atmospheric Girdwood Community Hub in the O’Neill’s backyard and the flame-haired fighter says he is “flat to the mat” in training with coach Dee Walsh.

O’Neill has been pushed to the limit before at the Girdwood Hub. Last year Owen Duffy met him in the centre of the ring and gave as good as he got until O’Neill landed the left hook of his life and knocked him out.

He wasn’t known as a big puncher before then but Geraghty – a master boxer who has 24 wins but four stoppage losses on his card – will be wary of him next month.

“It’s a cracking fight,” said O’Neill.

“Declan is obviously a massive name compared to myself. He’s been on the big stage, I actually went to watch him at the Ulster Hall (Jono Carroll) and the Odyssey (Marc McCullagh). So from watching him fight to now fighting him for the Irish title… I’ve done alright for myself.”   

The fight is an interesting clash of styles. ‘Pretty Boy’ Geraghty will look to keep the distance and use his nimble feet and fast hands. O’Neill will aim to close the distance, keep the pressure on and break the Dubliner down.

“His skills are unreal, he’s a quality boxer,” said the 12-0 Belfast fighter.  

“The plan is to bring him into deep waters. It’s a 10-rounder and I think the 10 rounds will suit me better than it suits him. Obviously he’s good at the start of fights so my plan is to wear him down but this is going to be my hardest fight to date.

“He’s such a talented boxer but I wouldn’t have taken the fight if I didn’t think I could win,” said O’Neill.

“If I get the win here my profile will rise again – if you win the Irish title you’re ranked in Europe so you can fight for a European or a Commonwealth title… The sky’s the limit so I’m really giving it my all in training.”

Sadly, O’Neill won’t have his grandmother Eilish McGarrigan, cheering him on next month. Eilish passed away five weeks ago and O’Neill will dedicate the fight to the woman who brought him up.

“I lived with my nanny and granda most of my life,” he explained.

“I’m dedicating this fight to her but, then again, all my fights were for her and my granda – they were big supporters of mine, they brought me up.

“She passed away from cancer just when I had started the camp for this fight but I’m not going to feel sorry for myself, it’s motivation for me. It adds fuel to the fire.”