“Everybody will know who I am and what I’m about...” Pierce O’Leary promises to steal show as next generation get time to shine on Belfast fight night

Opponents vow to end winning streaks for Conor Quinn and Colm Murphy at SSE Arena

The Belfast Brawl
Colm Murphy and Jack Turner will lock horns at the Belfast Brawl at the SSE Arena on 28 June. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

PIERCE O’Leary made his professional debut in Belfast five years ago and the 24-year-old Dublin returns to ‘Ireland’s fight capital’ as a fully-fledged contender and the headline act in an all-Ireland duel with Darragh Foley at the SSE Arena on June 28.

Paddy Barnes topped the bill at the Ulster Hall when O’Leary turned over to the punch-for-pay ranks and ‘Big Bang’ has added 13 more wins (eight by stoppage) to the points success he had that night.

Last time out he defended his WBC International super-lightweight title for the third time against Belgian Hovhannes Martirosyan and is now ranked at 15 with the organisation and hoping to force his way into a position to challenge for the world title.

He hasn’t had the attention he deserves – yet – but that will change with an impressive performance live on TNT Sports.

“I’m a contender now,” he said.

“Darragh Foley has been in with some top guys – the likes of Tyrone McKenna and Jack Catterall (lost) and Robbie Davis junior (won). He has a good fanbase and he’s been in there with good operators so he’s got the experience but after this fight everybody will know who I am and what I’m about.

“I’m not sure how the fight will go. I’d like to get the K-O which I can see happening and I’m confident that it will happen but the main thing for me is to remain cool, calm and collected and get the win. Do the business and then push on to the next one (which I want) straight away.”

O’Leary recently signed with Belfast-based Conlan Boxing and is confident the Conlan brothers Mick and Jamie will push him on to world title level.

“Being signed by Mick and Jamie at Conlan Boxing is amazing. I’ve always had a close bond with them from the amateurs – I used to watch Mick train with the high performance and I’d ask him every now and again to give me little tips and he always would.

“Jamie was in the professional game then and I had a good relationship with him so the best thing for my career was to have them managing me. They’ve got big plans, they’re ambitious just like I am so we’re on the same wavelength.

“I’d take a world title fight tomorrow, that’s how confident I am, that’s how confident my coach is. Managers aren’t going to do that, they want to sit back and guide me in the right direction which is the thoughtful and caring thing to do as a manager and they see the bigger picture but it’s going to be big over the next few months.”

The Belfast Brawl
Someone's '0' has got to go when Conor Quinn and Connor Kelsall clash at the SSE Arena on 28 June. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

WHEN it comes to fighting talk, Conner Kelsall’s patter is as good as you’ll get and fans will see if he can match his words with deeds when he takes on Conor Quinn for the Commonwealth flyweight title at the SSE Arena on June 28.

Kelsall (11-0) is the English champion while Quinn (9-0-1) holds Celtic and Commonwealth ‘Silver’ belts. The Rotherham native brashly told Quinn he would “smash his face in” and says he wants to “steal the show” next week.

“It’s what you’ve got to do,” he said.

“This is my first time on a big show and I’m here to make it my show and steal the opportunity. 18 years I’ve been at it now, I’m a council estate kid and once I got a chance to box it’s always been there.

“I’m a nice kid but I know how to dig deep and that’s been throughout my whole life. There’s no story, there’s no struggle, I just love fighting. I’ve just got it in me and as soon as I feel that first punch in the gym that’s it, there’s no stopping me.”

Underneath all the bravado, Kelsall has respect for Quinn who has steadily improved under the coaching of Dee Walsh. His last win was a career-best performance against Jemsi Kibazange and the second round stoppage victory led to Quinn signing a deal with Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions.

“It’s a tough fight,” Kelsall added.

“It’s his Queensbury debut in his home town of Belfast but I feel sorry for the kid (because he’ll lose). I’m not disrespectful in any way – he’s got his own pedigree, he’s built himself up, he’s hard a good amateur career, he’s got a good professional career so, on paper, if you look it’s 50-50 straight down the middle.

“We’re both young kids, we’ve both achieved a lot and it’s a great fight, a really great fight and these are the ones I want to be in. It’s a test for him and it’s a test for me, we’ll bring the best out of each other and the best man will win on the night – I 100 per cent believe that’s me.

“I don’t think he can match me and self-belief is the most powerful thing you can have and I’ve got that over him a thousand times.”

The Belfast Brawl
James McGivern will defend his Celtic title against Rashid Omar at the SSE Arena. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

JAMES McGivern defends his Boxing Union of Ireland Celtic lightweight title against Welsh challenger Rashid Omar in Belfast on June 28.

The former St George’s ABC Irish amateur champion is fighting in his native city for the first time in two and-a-half years after appearances in the USA, Scotland, Dublin and Letterkenny where he won the belt in November last year.

“In the grand scheme of things it’s not a superb belt to have but it’s one that I always wanted and I’m glad to have it,” he said.

“It’s a stepping stone for me and I’ll hopefully defend it and then get onto the Queensbury Promotions’ team and then start looking at British, Commonwealth and European titles. I don’t want to speak too soon and say it’s a foregone conclusion that I’m signing with Frank Warren – I need to impress on June the 28th – and if I impress them enough that they want to sign me and move forward then happy days.”

Known as ‘The Natural’ from his amateur days, southpaw McGivern is now 8-0 as a professional and is a slick, elegant boxer who certainly has star potential and intends to prove that against unbeaten Omar (6-0).

“I just need to do what I do,” said McGivern.

“I need to do what I’ve been doing my whole career, I’ve never been in the spotlight for these Queensbury people to see me but once they do see what I can do I think they’ll go: ‘Why did we not get onto this boy sooner?’

“I’m an unknown quantity as a professional but I’ve met with George Warren and he said: ‘We know who you are, we know what you’ve done’ and he told me to fight on the 28th and we’ll talk afterwards.

“I’m glad I’m on this show with my mates. The likes of Michael Conlan and Tyrone McKenna are a few years ahead of me but me and Conor Quinn have been away on numerous trips with Ireland together and me and wee ‘Murph’ (Colm Murphy) have been on numerous trips together. Pierce O’Leary is in and around that same age group so I’m glad that people of our age are getting a rattle at headlining these shows.

“This has been billed as the next generation for Queensbury and Ireland and it’s going to be a good show.”

After he defends his title and secures a contract with Queensbury, McGivern will hope to watch his friend Aidan Walsh and the other nine Irish fighters have success at the Paris Olympic Games.

“Aidan is a big mate of mine, he qualified the hard way and I’m absolutely over the moon that he did,” he said.

“There’s no-one that I know deserves it more and I hope he goes and wins the gold this time. I hope they all do well, it’s the biggest Olympic boxing team Ireland has ever had and I hope they’ll make a real good show of it.”

The Belfast Brawl
Colm Murphy and Jack Turner won't see eye-to-eye at the SSE Arena on 28 June. PICTURE: MAL MCCANN

ON the rare occasions he’s not boxing, there’s a good chance that Jack Turner will be watching his beloved Bhoys. The Glasgow featherweight is “Celtic daft” but he has been concentrating on his boxing of late and intends to inflict a first career defeat on Belfast’s ‘Posh Boy’ Colm Murphy on Saturday-week.

After six wins by decision, Turner lost for the first time when Andy Tham stopped him at the Braehead Arena last year. However, he is totally confident of bouncing back and bringing an end to all-action Murphy’s winning run.

“I eat, sleep and love this sport,” he said.

“Outside boxing I follow Glasgow Celtic everywhere. With boxing you need a switch-off, people don’t understand, it’s a sport that’s gruelling, it’s mentally draining so it’s good to have something else to concentrate on.

“I’ve got a big following through a Celtic ultras group called ‘The Bhoys’. Anybody who knows Celtic knows it not a football club, it’s a family and it’s been amazing the way the fans have supported me and got behind me.”

Turner will be fighting outside Scotland for the first time when he faces Murphy but says defiantly: “The boxing ring is my home”.

“Put it anywhere in the world – put it in a desert and put me in it and that’s my home,” he added.

“I’m looking forward to it. been chatting to Murphy and he’s a lovely guy and we’ll get in there and do the business – it’s the hurt business but outside the fight everybody can be pals.

“I’ve been watching him and technically he’s not the greatest but his workrate is insane so I’ve got to slow him down, make sure I use the ring and my feet and I think he might be quite surprised with how physically strong I am.

“I think when I push him off and work him on the inside and not allow him to work I can make it a really tough night for him and he’ll go: ‘Ah no man, I’ve picked the wrong apple’. I’m not here as an opponent, I’m here to win the fight convincingly and I don’t expect to lose a round if I’m honest.

“I’ve had great sparring, everything in the camp has gone well but, in saying that, I’m training for the best version of him – I’ll train for him like he’s Muhammad Ali. Me and my coach have sat and watched him, we’ve got a plan from A right through the alphabet.

“I could go 10 rounds now so I’m ready to go. It leads on to bigger things and I’m not looking past him but it could generate some big fights which I’m looking forward to.”

The late Jack Monaghan was a highly-respected amateur referee, judge and administrator
The late Jack Monaghan was a highly-respected amateur referee, judge and administrator

TRIBUTES have been paid to Jack Monaghan, the former referee, judge and long-term treasurer of the Ulster Boxing Council IABA who passed away recently.

Ulster Boxing posted: “Deepest condolences from all in Ulster Boxing to our former treasurer and member. Jack served many years on the Ulster Council and was a very well respected referee and judge.”

Mr Monaghan was also known for his many years of service with Northern Ireland teams at the Commonwealth Games.

“All at Team NI were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jack,” read a statement from Commonwealth Sport in Northern Ireland.

“Jack gave decades of service, acting as our treasurer for many years while also being part of the team management at multiple Games. Our thoughts are with Grace and the family circle.”