Big time boxing returns to Belfast with a bang next month with a night of Championship boxing at the legendary Kings Hall.
European Light Welterweight King Paul McCloskey headlines the Yanjing Beer Fight Night there on Friday, June 11th as he makes the first defence of his crown against mandatory challenger Giuseppe Lauri while the chief supporting bout will see Stephen Haughian taking on former British champ, Kevin McIntyre for the Celtic Welterweight title.
The duo who both made their professional debuts in the Kings Hall back in 2005 have been guided by top Belfast trainer John Breen throughout their careers and the ex-pro is confident that both charges will emerge victorious from their title showdowns.
“I think you'll see the best of Paul and Stephen next month,” predicted Breen, a perfectionist who still managed to find faults with McCloskey's comprehensive triumph over Daniel Rasilla last November to lift the European title.
“Paul is so far ahead of most of the guys he's been in with that he hasn't been properly tested yet,” said Breen. “He's World class and there's no doubt in my mind that he can win a World title. People talk about Amir Khan but I think that would be an easy fight for Paul. He's up there with the very best of them, he just needs the chance to prove it.”
Breen has equally high hopes for Lurgan native Haughian ahead of his Celtic title assignment at The King's Hall. “Stephen had a bit of bad luck of late but this is just the kind of fight he needs. In this game you have to grab any opportunities with both hands and I'm confident Stephen will do a job on McIntyre and show people what he's capable of.”
Haughian believes that a win next month should be enough to secure him a straight track at the British title. “It's been a frustrating time for me recently with fights falling through but this is the break I've been looking for,” said the 25-year-old.
“I'm Irish Champion and I feel that a shot at the Celtic title is a good step for me now. I know that a good win against McIntyre will put me in the frame for an British title shot.”
McIntyre however has designs on regaining his old Lonsdale belt. The 32-year-old Scot is a southpaw but that doesn't worry Haughian as he has a ready made sparring partner in Breen's Gym. “Southpaw sparring doesn't come much better than Paul McCloskey,” said Haughian.
“There's nothing that Kevin McIntyre will be able to show me that I haven't already seen from Paul in the gym. He's a world class operator and you can only improve from training and sparring with guys likes Paul on a daily basis.”
Breen will be a busy man at The Kings Hall next month, aside from McCloskey and Haughian the no nonsense trainer will also be leading Andy Murray and Jamie Conlan in to battle. Murray, the current European number 3 at lightweight is chasing down a showdown with recently crowned European champ and namesake John Murray while flyweight Conlan is the latest of the Breen Team to enter the pro ranks and has already racked up 2 straight wins since turning professional last November.
Another Belfast man making big waves in the pro ranks is Barry McGuigan's protege Carl Frampton. The 23-year-old Super Bantamweight is unbeaten in his first five professional fights and relishing the prospect of fighting in his native city for the first time as a professional and at the venue in which his mentor had so many memorable nights.
Cuban sensation Alexei Acosta will also feature as he looks to continue a incredible knockout streak that has seen him stop all 10 of his professional opponents to date. Acosta, a World Junior Champion in the amateur ranks is now based in Cork having turned professional in 2008.
The Yanjing Beer Fight Night will be live on Sky Sports and tickets priced £30, £60 and £90 are available from Ticketmaster and all usual outlets. Contact Ticketmaster 0844 8472455 (0818 719300 from ROI), Box Office 01277 359900, Julie 07745698372, Francie 07803282224.