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Hyland gets star billing


Paul Hyland Jr. Photo: Sportsfile

Paul Hyland Jr. Photo: Sportsfile

Paul Hyland Jr. Photo: Sportsfile

Tonight's Frank Stacey-Ricky Hatton promoted show at the National Stadium is one for the fans.

While naysayers point out that there's no high-profile, headline bout on The Future show, there's no denying that staging an event that features three boxers making their professional debut at the traditional home of Irish boxing is a risky marketing strategy.

But genuine fight fans, aficionados of the sweet science, aren't complaining.

Tonight's show provides us with a chance to see Belfast lightweight Paul Hyland Jnr (11-0, 3 KOs) fight outside his home town for the first time.

The Gleann ABC man has talent and ambition. His opponent tonight is from Hungary but, for a 23-year-old, Laszlo Fekete (15-10-2, 10 KOS) has gained a lot of pro experience and has lost just one of his last five fights.

He has also shown he can punch.

Hyland, who is targeting Scott Cardle's British title, will need to perform at his best if he's to maintain his unbeaten progress.

He's popular with fight fans, explaining, "My game-plan is always to box but when I get caught with a shot it sort of goes out the window."

'Hylo' has self-belief. He doesn't believe Cardle, who successfully defended his title in two torrid wars with Sean Dodd, would present an impossible task.

"I'm confident I'd beat him," he declared recently. "I've seen weaknesses that I could work on."

Tonight's also a big night for super middleweight Chris Blaney.

The Navan boxer, who won 10 underage national titles, will be making his professional debut.

The national senior championships hadn't been kind to Blaney in recent years. In 2015 he had an 81kg semi-final loss to Roy Sheahan. This year he progressed to the final but came unstuck against John Paul Delaney from Emerald Antrim, who won by unanimous decision.

Blaney then made the decision to turn pro.

His manager Frank Stacey believes the 24-year-old has what it takes to headline big nights.

"I'd seen him right through his career when he was winning his 10 titles," says Stacey. "I reckon he's destined for bigger things."

Training with Hatton in Manchester has been an eye-opener for Blaney who'll demonstrate this evening how he's made the transition from amateur to the more demanding pro game.

What convinced Stacey that Blaney has what it takes to win titles? "His toughness, style, big heart and strong chin," says Frank. "He has all the ingredients necessary for success. And with Ricky coaching him, he's learning from the best."