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‘I hope I’m representing the whole nation...’ Underdog McCrory determined to prove his doubters wrong

Edgar Berlanga the acid test for West Belfast super-middleweight at Caribe Royale in Orlando

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In the spotlight: Padraig McCrory has trained hard and prepared well - now he has to produce. Picture: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom./Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.)

PADRAIG McCrory is determined to prove his doubters wrong by beating hot favourite Edgar Berlanga on his home turf in Orlando on Saturday night.

A virtual unknown in the USA, unbeaten McCrory was given his chance to fight the 21-0 ‘Chosen One’ after his preferred opponent (Jaime Mungia) pulled out. His prospects are regarded as bleak by many pundits but McCrory intends to shock the world and win the WBO NABA super-middleweight title at the palatial Caribe Royale Resort.

“I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions about my chances in this fight but the people who know me and know boxing back in Belfast, Ireland, the UK or wherever know that I am in with more than a decent shout here,” said an unruffled and relaxed McCrory.

“I’m under no illusion of what I’m up against but I’m definitely in with a chance and we firmly believe that that chance is better than what people are giving me credit for.

“I hope I’m representing the whole nation and they seem to be getting right behind me. I’ve had a lot of messages wishing me luck – too many to even reply too but I will get back to them all at some stage. The goodwill and support that I’m getting is amazing.”

McCrory has won a world title (the IBO light-heavyweight crown) on foreign soil before. He hammered Germany’s Leon Bunn into a early submission in late 2022 but he’s well aware that Berlanga is a level about anything he has faced in the past.

The flashy New York/Puerto Rican, the venue, the media spotlight… Everything has been ramped up but McCrory insists that he is taking it all in his stride and that it will bring the best out of him.

“I’m a laidback guy and I don’t get too stressed out about anything,” said the father of three who didn’t make his professional debut until 2017 when he was 29.

“Obviously you look about and this occasion is bigger than anything I’ve had before. This is the biggest platform I’ve been on by a mile.

“It is definitely different and there are media obligations to do every day which I’m not used to – I’m used to just showing up to the weigh-in and maybe the press conference but I’m not letting any of it overawe me.

“This is the biggest fight of my career and I’ve trained like it is and now it’s up to me to put on a show on Saturday night. People believe in me but the main thing is that I believe in myself and this is the platform and the opportunity that I need.”

Having had the chance to get up close and personal with Berlanga, McCrory has learned that he isn’t as physically-imposing as he might have thought. Head-to-head, McCrory is taller but his opponent is broad-shouldered and strong.

“I met him on Tuesday and he’s a bulky boy, he’s a physical guy but I’m definitely an inch or two taller than him,” he said.

“It says in his bio that he 6′1″ - he’s not but he is a very good fighter. He’s the main event, he’s the star, it’s the Berlanga show (he pointed to the many posters of Berlanga in the room) but I think I’ve got what it takes to win.

“We have practised and gone through a lot of tactics and whether it’s A, B or C we’re ready for what we have to do. If I don’t execute the gameplan I’m in for a very hard night but I’ve been hoping for this opportunity – on Matchroom and DAZN – for a long time and now I’m here it’s up to me to show up.”