JOHN RIORDAN: Hyland hopes Las Vegas gamble pays

Despite the lofty reputation of Irish boxing wherever there happens to be a ring and a bell, if undefeated Tallaght featherweight Patrick ‘The Punisher’ Hyland wins in Las Vegas on Saturday night, he would join a small and exclusive club of world champions.

Hyland, a Shamrock Rovers supporter with 27 wins and 12 KOs, is based in New York and made a splash with his two brothers earlier this year when all three made their US debuts in Atlantic City in January as part of a new promotions outfit fronted by one of the more notorious reality television stars of this decade, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi.

If at first it seemed like a joke and a cheap way of using Irishness to sell a fight night, it slowly became apparent that there was a deeper legitimacy. For one, Hyland along with super featherweight Eddie and super bantamweight Paul, were fighting on the same professional card for the first time, a nice touch that overdid the gimmicky nature of the event.

Nor has Jersey Shore Polizzi star become bored and walked away. She was using her star power and charisma to make her father’s dream come true. That has fed through to Hyland who now has his shot at greatness, fighting on the undercard of the highly anticipated fourth bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, a HBO pay-per-view event at the MGM Grand.

Hyland is sixth in the WBA rankings and has the record for most consecutive wins of any Republic of Ireland professional ever. What’s more, should he overcome fellow undefeated challenger, Javier Fortuna, this weekend he’ll follow in the footsteps of our first ever world featherweight champion, Barry McGuigan, who beat the reigning WBA featherweight title holder, Panama’s Eusebio Pedroza, in London in 1985.

The Vegas connection between Hyland and the Clones Cyclone is a bit more ominous — McGuigan lost his title there — but at least he’ll have proper air conditioning to protect him in the desert.

Hyland’s younger Dominican southpaw opponent will be a tough prospect though and Hyland acknowledged that last week, soon after he landed in Nevada to begin final preparations with his trainer, Tracy Harris Patterson, himself a two-time, two-division world champion.

“Fortuna is an explosive fighter and it’s a pleasure to share the ring with him,” he said. “He’s a lefty, which is a problem for most right-handed fighters, but we’ve trained hard to move to the left.

“There has been a lot of hype about him and deservedly so because he’s had some decent wins. He comes out of the blocks quickly and has a lot of first round knockouts so I’ll have to weather the early storm. A storm always blows itself out though so lets see what he’s like later in the fight because I plan to take him into deeper waters and drown him.”

Colourful talk, but he has no choice. He trains slightly off the radar in upstate New York, thousands of miles from home, while his dream fight is benefited but understandably hidden by the star power of Pacquiao. But that shouldn’t diminish the enormity of this moment for the Tallaght native.

“It’s every kid’s dream to fight for a world title so to do it on such a big stage on a Manny Pacquiao card in Las Vegas live on US TV is an added bonus. Fighting for the world title will fulfil a lifelong ambition and now the opportunity is finally almost here. This is what I’ve worked for since the first day I put on a pair of boxing gloves, so it’s a dream come true.

“Training has gone very well, I worked very hard at my training camp in upstate New York and I’m feeling nice and sharp and ready for fight night. He’s a southpaw but that has never been an issue for me. In fact I’ve KO’d every southpaw I’ve met in the pro ranks so hopefully I can keep that streak going against Fortuna.

“Obviously everything is on the line for both of us in this fight. As the old cliche says, ‘somebody’s gotta go’ but there is a major incentive for us to shine and the winner is going to go on to some massive unification fights and headline big cards like this in their own right.”

The Republic of Ireland has been without a world champion for three years now since Bernard Dunne lit Dublin up in 2009.

“If Hyland is to follow in his footsteps and those of McGuigan, Steve Collins, George Gardner, Mike McTigue and Jack McAuliffe, he’ll need to draw on a lot of their battling qualities.

Best of luck Patrick, I don’t even mind that you’re a Hoop.

* john.w.riordan@gmail.com Twitter: JohnWRiordan


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