It's been almost three decades since a European Champion last graced the ring at the King's Hall in Belfast. On that November night in 1983 Barry McGuigan wrapped the famous blue belt around his waist having dispatched Italian Valerio Nati in 6 rounds to capture the European Featherweight crown.
Nati's compatriot Giuseppe Lauri will be hoping for better luck when European Championship boxing finally returns to The King's Hall on Friday when Light Welterweight Champion Paul McCloskey makes the first defence of his crown on the Yanjing Fight Night. Lauri arrived in Belfast last night ahead of the clash and the 34-year-old challenger is confident that he has what it takes to bring the European belt back to Italy.
With Lauri having scored 50 wins from his 56 professional outings to date McCloskey knows that he can't afford to look past his opponent despite talk of a world title opportunity being just around the corner. “You can't afford to lose you're focus in this game,” warned McCloskey.
“It only takes a singe punch to turn things around in this sport and you go from hero to zero so there's no danger of me taking my eye off the ball at this stage. I've worked too hard to get where I am to let it slip away and all that's on my mind now is beating Giuseppe Lauri and keeping hold of that European title.
“It's hard to believe that it's nearly 30 years since there has been a European title fight at The King's Hall. When you look at the names that have fought here over the years with men like McGuigan and “Spider” Kelly who sadly passed away recently it makes you realise what an honour it is to headline a bill there. All the greats have fought there so it shows you the kind of standards you have to live up to and hopefully I can deliver the right performance on the night to send everybody home happy.”
McCloskey's first defence of his European Light Welterweight title against mandatory challenger Giuseppe Lauri tops the bill at The King's Hall while in the chief support bout Lurgan's Stephen Haughian clashes with former British Champ Kevin McIntyre for the Celtic Welterweight title.
The bill has also been boosted by the news that former WBA Light Welterweight Champion and recent Prizefighter winner Gavin Rees has been added to the card as he takes on recent Commonwealth title challenger Sam Amoako.
Cavan's Andy Murray also features as the undefeated European number 3 looks to take another step closer to a European title fight with namesake, John Murray. Barry McGuigan's protege Carl Frampton will have his first professional fight in his native city while fellow unbeaten Belfast prospect Jamie Conlan is also in action.
Local middleweight duo Joe Rea and Ciaran Healy have also been added to the card with the pair looking to end the unbeaten records of Kris Carslaw and Harry Matthews respectively while unbeaten Cuban sensation Luis Garcia will look to continue his perfect record against Welsh hard man Nathan King.
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.
Boxing News Tags: Barry McGuigan, Box Office, Boxing, Celtic Welterweight, European Featherweight, Fight, Giuseppe Lauri, Ireland, Italian Valerio Nati, Italy, Jamie Conlan, King Hall, Light Welterweight, Luis Garcia, McCloskey, ROI, Sam Amoako, Spider Kelly, Sports