The entertaining Celtic Clash undercard featured a finely balanced co-support bout for the International Masters Bronze super featherweight title between the popular Belfast brawler, Daniel ‘Insane’ McShane (6-0) and Zoltan Kovacs (3-3) that had the crowd on his feet for the full eight rounds. McShane entered the fray donning his customary Hannibal Lector mask to deafening support that was an obvious sign he was the biggest draw on this action packed small hall show.
This fight was an action packed battle of strength, grit and will and commenced at a frenetic pace. Kovacs looked the bigger fighter, but McShane’s relentless aggression was rewarded as he finished many of the earlier rounds in the ascendancy and looking the stronger fighter. McShane picked up a bloody nose in the second round that seemed to have been caused by a clean right hook as he came out of a clinch. The high tempo pace continued and McShane pushed Kovacs on the back foot mixing head and body assaults. Kovacs finished the fight well, taking the seventh – which was probably his best round and in the eighth he looked to have momentarily wobbled McShane. It was a close fight and a hard earned title win for McShane. Referee Paul McCullagh scored the fight 79-72 to McShane – much to the delight of his legion of fans, many of whom immediately swamped the ring. The popular Belfast fighter moves to 6-0 and will be in action again in the under card of Frampton-Parodi next month.
Late addition to the ‘Celtic Clash’ fight card, Oisin Fagan opened the show in a dominant performance as to dropped Andis Didzus three times before referee, halted the onslaught in the second round. Fagan, despite his long inactivity, looked sharp from the off – jabbing to the body and stepping in with full-blooded right hooks. It was the right hook that delivered the 2nd and 3rd knock-downs, with the bell saving a certain stoppage at the end of the first. Fagan quickly resumed matters and referee John Lowey wisely called a halt to the action with only 28 seconds of the 2nd round.
Next up was highly rated Belfast welterweight, Paddy Gallagher in a scheduled four rounder against the durable Jozsef Garai (4-14-1). Gallagher looking compact, pressed forward to test the Hungarian’s resistance with accurate right-left combinations, that were sometimes doubled up. Gallagher clinically dropped Garai to the canvas with the first knock down, a beautiful three-punch combination, right-left hooks and a right uppercut that landed cleanly and heavily dropped Garai. Garai to his credit got up and continued but he was on borrowed time as the former Commonwealth Gold medalist scored two more knockdowns. The referee called the fight off after the third knock down at 2.46 into the opening round. Overall, a classy and eye catching display by Gallagher, his timing and boxing an improvement on his pro debut win against William Warburton, last year. The only minor detail to improve, based on this brief ring outing, was pointed out by his trainer Gerard McManus during the fight – who could be heard instructing his charge ‘to keep his right hand up when he disengaged’. Gallagher moves to 3-0 and will be hoping to build momentum as he targets his first domestic pro title.
Donegal’s John Hutchinson returned to Belfast to face Lithuanian Devidas Sajuka (1-2) in a four rounder. It was an untidy and scrappy four rounds that was interrupted by too many clinches and a lack of clean scoring punches. It was late into the second round that the first real eye catching shot landed, a left hook from Hutchinson that Sajuka walked straight into. Hutchinson pressed forward for the duration of the fight and in the untidy work there was a clash of heads that left a slight cut near the Sajuka’s left eye. Hutchinson was a comfortable winner on referee, Paul McCullough’s card of 40-37 and the Donegal man improves 4-0-2.
In a six rounder Belfast’s Joe Hillerby returned to the ring after a nine-month hiatus to take on the well-chiseled Czech fighter Valclav Polak (1-2). Hillerby, looking fleshy in the midriff, started off very sluggish and allowed Polak to do most of the work in the first couple of rounds. It was at the end of the third when Hillerby finally got the attention of his game challenger, when he rocked Polak – who staggered through the remaining seconds of the round. However, Hillerby had a poor fourth round as he got tagged repeatedly with lead lefts. Polak continued to be the aggressor as the fight closed and by the sixth he was desperately throwing wild hooks, hoping to land a knock out punch. Referee Hugh Russell confirmed the fight 58-56 in favour of Joe Hillerby. Although Hillerby won a close verdict – it could have went either way, and his performance fell below past standards, particularly his excellent, commanding win over Willie Thompson to secure the Northern Ireland Area Title.
Christina McMahon faced Lana Cooper (0-8) in a scheduled 6 rounder. McMahon boxed cautiously in the first couple of rounds, biding time to work her way into the fight. McMahon, the noticeably smaller fighter, took advantage of Cooper’s low guard in the third, and landed a clean one-two to the head, forcing Cooper onto the ropes where she piled on more pressure. McMahon dominated the fourth and in the fifth the fight came to a dramatic conclusion. McMahon landed a seemingly innocuous punch that hit Cooper on the shoulder forcing Cooper to land to the canvas in a heap, clutching her should in agony. Referee John Lowey called the fight off at 0.32 and this stoppage win for McMahon improves her record to 6-0.
• Bizarre moment towards the end of the first round of McShane-Zoltan. McShane stopped boxing and walked towards the corner (thinking that the round had ended). Trainer Tony Dunlop put the stool in the ring and referee Paul McCullough looking somewhat bemused, ordered the fight to continue. A few seconds later the bell rang to end the round.
• MC Mike Goodall announces on the microphone that if the ringsiders did not come away from the ring and take their seats that the fight would have to be stopped. This warning was prompted as one section of ringside got caught up in the drama and got out of their seats to shout for their man.
• Former Irish boxer and bronze medalist at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics Games, James McCourt was at ringside.
• Daniel McShane in a clinch with his opponent spots a ringside photographer in his eye line and sticks out his tongue to pose for a photo.
• The packed out Devenish (formerly Emerald Roadhouse) venue generated a rapturous atmosphere that was every bit as loud and vocal any small hall show that this writer has attended in the UK and Ireland, including the much-celebrated Hard Knocks shows
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