Casey and Hyland have Euro vision

WILLIE ‘Big Bang’ Casey and Paul Hyland were primed for battle as they weighed in for tonight’s all-Ireland European title thriller at the University Arena in Limerick.

And injured Kiko Martinez, who vacated the EBU super-bantamweight title to clear the way for the first European title fight between two Irishmen, was taking a close look when they weighed in.

Casey tipped the scales at a comfortable 8st 9lbs 3ozs while Hyland warranted a second look when he climbed on just 3ozs under the 8st 10lb limit but the Dubliner insisted afterwards that there were absolutely no problems with weight.

“I have never had a problem making the weight — in fact I made the weight too early for this fight,” he said. “I was able to have my breakfast this morning and I feel nice and fresh and I have been relaxed all week.”

There was tension around the University Arena foyer as the protagonists came face to face for the final time before the hostilities begin and each insisted that he was going to be European champion by midnight tonight.

“What a way to finish off the year — to finish it off as a European champion,” Casey said as he held his daughter, Ellie May, in his arms. “Three or four months after winning Prizefighter I am here fighting for a European title. It’s big for Limerick, it’s big for my family and it’s big for me.”

Casey became an overnight success when he won Prizefighter but he installed himself as a European contender when he beat the Italian Emilio Salvini at the Citywest Conference Centre in August and when Martinez came to Dublin to fight Arsen Martirosyan to reclaim the belt he sensationally snatched from Bernard Dunne three years earlier, it took him just hours to accept Casey’s challenge.

Martinez came out of that fight with a badly cut eye and a damaged rib. He was given 12 weeks to recover from the eye injury but the rib injury proved more troublesome and he will only start training for another shot at the title when he returns to Alicante on Monday.

While Casey and Hyland both extol their strengths it is impossible to predict who will have custody of the belt by then. Casey insisted yesterday that he is stronger and fitter than he has ever been.

“The man you see tomorrow night will be a different Willie Casey than you saw win Prizefighter,” he said.

Casey has a reputation as a ‘banger’ but he showed against Salvini that he can be technical and can pace himself while still posing the ‘Big Bang’ threat.

“I am prepared to go the distance if that’s what it takes,” he said. “I have put all my time and effort into my training. I have spent a long time away from my family — my wife and my kids. Now I want to show them what it was all for and make Limerick proud.”

The sell-out crowd will be behind Casey but he is determined not to allow the occasion to get to him or allow himself to get carried away.

“We try not to feed off the crowd too much,” he said. “I want to stick to my game plan. I want to be composed — I don’t want to be losing the head and I want to just keep going and win that title. Sometimes that is hard especially in your own home town. I have to keep my head cool.”

His trainer, two-time European bronze medallist Philip Sutcliffe, predicted the early rounds will be critical but he insisted Casey can go 12 rounds if necessary.

“He has an engine like Rolls Royce — he can go the distance,” he said. “We can’t take it away from Paulie (Hyland) — he is a slick character, lovely boxer and we have all seen him box.

“He can move like no other but we have a plan for that.”

Hyland says has no problem taking on Casey for the European title in his own backyard. “A ring is a ring at the end of the day,” he said.

“I am not thinking of a European title at this moment I am thinking of just me and him.

“He’s trying to take my No 1 — my pole position — in Ireland. I have never been beaten by an Irishman and I am not going to start getting beaten by them now.

“Two Irishmen fighting for a European title — what more could the fans want? I just can’t wait for it. You are going to see a boxing lesson tomorrow.

“Willie is tailor-made for me. He likes to come and fight. For the first four rounds he is going to be in my face but then after that my experience and my class is going to show.

“I won every Irish title from age 11 up to senior level and I had two senior titles at 18 years of age. I have done a lot in my career and I’m not going to let Willie Casey stop me from moving on.”

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