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Boxing: Hyland aims to go the distance

PATRICK Hyland will become the latest Irish world champion if he defeats Javier 'El Abejon' Fortuna at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas tonight.

The fight, by far the biggest in Hyland's career, takes place on the undercard of the eagerly anticipated bout between the legendary Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Hyland and Fortuna are fighting for the vacant WBA interim featherweight title, and the Tallaght native is confident of bringing the belt home.

"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," he said.

"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 very first day I put on a pair of boxing gloves, so it's a dream come true.

"I've had tunnel vision for this fight. It feels great to have a chance to be mentioned in the same class with those other Irish world boxing champions."

Hyland is also defending his unbeaten record as a professional fighter with 27 wins and no losses and 12 KO victories, but knows that he will receive his greatest ever examination tonight.

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

The 29-year-old Dubliner is ranked sixth in the world by the WBA, but his opponent is a few more rungs up the ladder at number two and boasts an unbeaten professional record with 20 wins, 15 by knockout.

And while Fortuna is renowned for taking the fight to his opponents early on in the bout, Hyland believes he can take the contest into the latter stages.

"I have to stay sharp and focused, especially the first few rounds, so he doesn't catch me. Our plan is to take him into deep water and see what he has left," he added.

Promoted by Final Round Promotions and Team Snooki Boxing, Hyland moved to the States 12 months ago and is based in Marlboro, New York, where he is trained by former world champion Tracy Harris Patterson.

Victory tonight would open up a world of opportunities, with big names in the featherweight division including Daniel Ponce de León, Billy Dib and Orlando Salido, but Hyland can't look past Fortuna.