Boxing: Casey lands Euro belt with Big Bang
STEPHEN HAWKING eat your heart out. Willie Casey has finally put the debate about the date and the time of the Big Bang to rest.
The Limerick southpaw, nicknamed 'Big Bang', sensationally claimed the vacant European super-bantamweight title with a fourth-round stoppage of Dubliner Paul Hyland at the University of Limerick on Saturday night.
The title win, achieved after just 11 professional fights, is the stuff of legend, according to promoter Brian Peters.
"Willie Casey's story is inspirational -- to see where he has come from, he is European champion, it is fairytale stuff," Peters said. "These are moments you will remember for the rest of your days."
Referee John Keane took Hyland, the EU and Irish champion, into protective custody two minutes and nine seconds into the fourth round after he was pinned on the ropes and failed to reply to a barrage punches.
Hyland started the scheduled 12-rounder as expected, and was keeping Casey at bay with some raking shots delivered from behind his longer reach.
The Dubliner just about shaded the opener, but Casey posted a warning of what was to come when he stepped inside to rock Hyland with a left uppercut and a right cross close to the bell.
Casey, from Southill in Limerick, ignored the ordnance flying around his head and poured forward to take control of the second and third frames as the first all-Irish European duel began to slip away from the stylish Tallaght fighter.
And Hyland's decision to forgo fighting on the outside and engage Casey on the Shannonsider's terms proved his undoing in the fourth; as he took more punishment on the ropes near a neutral corner, the third man in the ring waved the fight off.
The new European champion is now slated for a mandatory defence against Spain's Kiko Martinez, who was supposed to face Casey on Saturday but had to vacate the belt after picking up a rib injury.
The Spaniard was one of the first into the ring to congratulate Casey -- who had Phil Sutcliffe, an ex-Irish champion and a two-time European medalist, working his corner -- and warned the charismatic Shannonsider that he would be taking the belt back.
However, Casey (28), who only started boxing professionally two years ago with DolPhil promotions under Sutcliffe and Don O'Leary, told the man from Alicante that now that he had the title, there was no way he would be relinquishing it.
"I am over the moon," said Casey. "We knew before I went into the ring that the title was staying here in Limerick. A big thanks to Brian Peters for getting it put on and everyone that made it possible: my coaches, DolPhil promotions, Paulie for taking the fight and coming into my own back yard to fight me.
"Brian said to me before the fight that only 12 Irish boxers had won the European title -- and I'd like to know how many of them won it with only 10 fights and within two years of turning pro.
"That's another record for me and I am the first Munster man as well.
"I am very grateful to Kiko Martinez for relinquishing the belt to give myself and Paulie the opportunity to go at it. People have been asking when we were going to go at it for the Irish title, but I think this is the title to go for.
"I hope it's not the end for Paulie because Paulie has so much skill and talent.
"We all saw what Bernard Dunne did after getting beaten by Kiko -- he came back and he beat Cordoba for the world title. I believe Paulie can do the same thing as well.
"It was always going to be tough. He was quick, he was fast. We both got caught in each round. In the fourth round the Big Bang was just too much."
Hyland reckoned that the fight should not have been stopped -- and advised Casey to keep the belt, as he'll be coming back looking for it.
"I was enjoying the fight then just one silly clip at the back of the ear and I just couldn't see anything," he said. "I don't think the fight should have been stopped.
"I was trying to punch back but the ref just stepped in.I wanted to keep going. I felt strong.
"I'm not taking away from Willie, he stuck to his plan. I just want to say Willie, keep that belt for a while because I'll be coming knocking on your door."