Three years and three days on from the contentious judges’ decision that encouraged Noel Murphy to abandon his amateur career, the Cork welterweight hopes to make a victorious return to the National Stadium tonight.
Having built up an undefeated 8-0 paid record in New York, the Macroom native will fight as a professional for the first time in Ireland when he takes on Spanish novice Avelino Vazquez (4-2) on a Red Corner Promotions bill topped by Dubliner Luke Keeler’s clash with former English middleweight champion Lewis Taylor.
As a former national intermediate champion, Murphy had harboured ambitions of reaching the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, but his disgust with a split-decision loss in his first National Elite Championship campaign put paid to those plans and prompted a move to he paid game.
While he may have been sore after that disputed quarter-final defeat to Waterford’s Rohan Date back in 2014, Murphy is looking forward to his return to the scene of the perceived crime.
“I fought there a lot as an amateur so I’ll be well used to it,” said the 22-year-old. “There’s a massive crowd going and I reckon it’ll be a brilliant night.
“It’s great being back home, I haven’t been home since the Christmas before last,” continued Murphy, who is based in Woodlawn in The Bronx, but has kept busy since returning home, training in the Fr Horgans club after linking up with his old Macroom amateur coach Tom Power.
“I’d say I’ll be based over there [New York] for the next few years, so I hope I’ll get a fight at home maybe once a year or every couple of years,” he continued. “I like coming back and the people already seem to like it so maybe I’ll be able to do it every year if [Lou] DiBella allows it.” While brash New York fight promoter DiBella has a number of prospects on his books, Murphy appears to have gradually caught his eye having recently been installed on the undercard of James DeGale’s world super-middleweight title draw with Badou Jack.
A six-round points victory over New Yorker Maxito Sainvil – Murphy’s first win over a fellow undefeated fighter – saw the Corkman deliver on a bigger stage as he attempts to work his way into DiBella’s long-term plans.
“Now he’s starting to take notice,” said the 22-year-old. “I’m always improving and that’s the main thing. I’d say by the end of the year, I’ll be fighting 10 rounders and fighting for titles in New York.” For now, however, his focus remains on his homecoming date tonight, which has stalled reunions with friends and family.
“I haven’t spent much time catching up with people really… I’ve just been sitting at home and then training! I’m just focusing on Saturday,” said Murphy. “I have to treat it like it’s another fight, I can’t be distracted by the people going up to support me.”
Headlining the bill, Ballyfermot native Keeler (11-2) hopes that a victory over 27-year-old Taylor (19-2-1) will help him tee up a European title shot.
“He’s ranked in Europe and that’s what we wanted,” said 29-year-old Keeler. “If I get a good statement win against him or even a stoppage it’ll put me right up there,” added the qualified engineer.
On the undercard, son of the two-weight world champion, the undefeated Steve Collins Jr (9-0-1) faces a test against Spanish-based Argentine journeyman Pablo Sosa. “The goal is to slowly get better opponents and this guy will be better than all of my previous ones, definitely,” said Collins.
Meanwhile, former European amateur medallist Eric Donovan once again facing a late change of opponent ahead of his third pro fight.
The Kildare lightweight’s original foe, Nicaraguan Rafael Castillo, was forced to withdraw due to visa problems, leaving Donovan to face a late replacement for the second time in three months as the 31-year-old RTÉ pundit seeks to maintain his unbeaten 2-0 start to his paid career.
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