THE chance to fight at one of America’s iconic venues is still high on the bucket list of most British fighters. Some get to do it after reaching a certain level of success while others are handed undercard opportunities early in their careers.
Ricky Hatton had his second pro outing on the undercard of Naseem Hamed’s fourth-round KO win over Kevin Kelly at Madison Square Garden in December of 1997 before returning to the US as a world light-welterweight Champion years later. Ballymena-based Steven Donnelly (3-0, 0) will hope to share a similar journey to Hatton after being given the opportunity to feature on the undercard of Daniel Jacobs’s vacant IBF middleweight title fight against Sergiy Derevyanchenko at MSG tomorrow night.
Although the 30-year-old will not be fighting in front of a packed house, Donnelly has told the Belfast Telegraph that he intends to relish every moment of his US debut. “This is a great opportunity for me,” he said. “The fights are coming thick and fast, it’s my fourth fight in two months and it couldn’t be on a better stage.
“Every boxer wants to fight at Madison Square Garden and to have the chance to do it in my fourth fight is great. I want to make the Americans sit up and take notice of me. It may be just a four-rounder but it’s still a chance to show the big promoters like Lou DiBella (who co-promotes with Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn) that I have a lot to offer.”
The Rocky fan also revealed that he has come up with something to help wow those in attendance. “I’ve even got special shorts made for the occasion — the Stars and Stripes ones like Apollo Creed wore,” he said. “That should catch the eye! But at the same time I want to have a better performance than my last one.”
Jordan Gill (21-0, 5 KOs) puts his ‘0’ on the line when he meets the in-form Ryan Doyle (17-2-1, 9 early) for the Commonwealth featherweight belt at London’s Copper Box Arena tomorrow night yet the 24-year-old believes that he has the beating of his 27-year-old opponent and that a title shot has been long overdue.
“I’ve been craving a title fight for a long time now,” he told The Cambs Times. “The motivation is there because if I win this fight, I become the Commonwealth Champion, so it puts me up towards world level. As an athlete in any sport, you always strive to be at world level…This title fight isn’t the end goal; this is just another step on the ladder.
Gill had 18-months out of the ring between March 2016 and September 2017. Rather than seeing that period of inactivity as a negative, he insists that it has helped him develop the mental strength required to go all the way.
“Only I will ever know how much I’ve had to put in and how hard I’ve had to dig just to get as far as I’ve got now,” he said. “Everything has just been a process where I’ve taken everything into my stride and I’ve grown as a person. I think sport, especially a brutal sport like boxing, it does make you mentally tough and I think it’s about resilience in general.”
Hughie Fury (21-1, 11 KOs) could take a step closer to securing a showdown with Anthony Joshua if he beats Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 stoppages) in Bulgaria tomorrow night. The fight is an eliminator for the IBF belt currently held by “AJ” so a Fury win could see Tyson’s younger cousin leapfrog his way into an all-British fight with the man widely recognised at the world’s top heavyweight.
The 24-year-old lost to Joseph Parker last September, but has since bounced back with a fifth-round stoppage win over Sam Sexton for the British title; he maintains that lessons were learned against Parker and will be implemented in future fights.
“Those are the kind of fights I want and that fight in particular,” he said when speaking to the Manchester Evening News about Joshua. “I’m not looking past Pulev, but whenever that Joshua fight is available, I’d take it with both hands. It’s a case of beating Pulev, getting that out the way and then we’ll talk business after that.
“Titles mean a lot more to me than money. I’ve never really been interested in money. I’m focused on one thing and that’s becoming a world champion. I feel stronger in myself and I’ve got more hunger, drive and motivation to get the job done. I’ve had disappointments in the past but they helped make me the person I am today.”
Glenn McCrory has recently been battling to highlight the issue of dehydration in the sport yet the former IBF cruiserweight titlist has still had time to squeeze in another challenge after scaling the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro.
McCrory was helping out a boxing fan called Geraint Williams, who has Fridriech’s Ataxia, a condition that McCrory knows all about as his younger brother, David, died from it in his twenties. They even paid homage by adopting the name Team David before making their way to the peak and then back down again. McCrory joined Williams, his dad Clive, and a friend of the family for the challenge.
The group travelled to Tanzania together to scale the 16,000 foot mountain. McCrory told the Evening Chronicle that it was one of the toughest challenges he has ever faced. “I had been boxing since the age of 12 and so was trained for the path that lay ahead,” he said.
“However I wasn’t prepared in the same way to scale Mount Kilimanjaro,” he added. “It was awesome — when I first saw it in all its glory I was overawed and felt there was no way I was going to stand on the summit of such a majestic natural wonder. I shall remember the experience for the rest of my life.”
“It took us five and a half days to climb Kili and another three to come down,” he revealed. “Geraint was such an inspiration. He was in a specially-adapted wheelchair which we pulled on ropes though he insisted on working it himself whenever possible. At one stage on a particularly tricky piece of terrain the porters carried him in the chair on their heads.
“I must admit I shed a tear for my brother David at the summit but was proud of a brave young man Geraint who had shown exactly the same sort of courage I witnessed back in 1996 when David died after a long illness aged 29. He had lived beyond the life span forecast by doctors through sheer bloody mindedness.”
The term “human remains” may prompt thoughts of the deliciously dark BBC 2 comedy series that helped launch the careers of Rob Brydon and Julia Davis back in 2000. For archaeologists, though, it creates a different spark of excitement as hunting for them could lead to the discovery of a famous, long-buried body or two.
The construction of London’s HS2 railway line will lead to the largest excavation of human remains in the nation’s history as 45,000 corpses will be disinterred as part of the work. The Times has reported that the work could finally help uncover the remains of Bill “The Terror” Richmond after nearly 200 years.
Acknowledged as one of Lord Byron’s favourite boxers, the poet sought him out for boxing lessons, the excavation work at St James’s Gardens in London could lead to a huge discovery if they manage to track down Richmond’s remains.
“Does he have any evidence of his trade on his body?” asked Helen Wass, the Head of Heritage for HS2 when explaining how they hope to identify Richmond. “Does he have lots of broken bones? We know he had an odd knee that apparently made him nimble in the ring. We will be looking for anything out of the ordinary like osteoporosis.”
Known at the time as “The Black Terror”, Richmond was a former slave who became a professional boxer and attracted some notable fans. The St James’s plot hosts the remains of both the rich and poor of that era, and Ms Wass is positive that they will find the remains of a boxer who was so renowned he attracted the attention of both Byron and George IV.
Indeed, should the remains be found and identified there is actually every chance that Richmond could end up in the WBO’s ratings.