Wednesday 22 January 2020

Dubliner Hyland's world title fight straight out of a Rocky script

Sean McGoldrick

Dubliner Patrick ‘The Punisher’ Hyland’s bid to become the first Irish boxer to secure a WBC title since Wayne McCullough could be straight out of a Rocky movie script.

Now 32, Hyland takes on defending featherweight champion, 30-year-old American Gary Russell Jr in the Foxwoods Resort, Mashantucket, Connecticut in the early hours of Sunday morning (3am).

Hyland works full-time with the Rathcoole-based Mobile Plant Glass company who sponsor him. They gave him three weeks off to concentrate on preparing for the fight under the supervision of his trainer Pascal Collins.

The tragic death of his father Paddy – who introduced Patrick and his brothers, Eddie and Paulie to boxing and later coached them – in July 2015 will make the fight an emotional occasion for the Jobstown pugilist.

Even though he was beaten in his only previous World title bid in 2012 against Javier Fortuna in Las Vegas, Hyland has an enviable record in the ring, winning his other 31 contests – 15 by knock-out.

But he has had just four fights since that 2012 loss; his last victory was fashioned in the US last October.

Like his opponent, the defending title holder Gary Russell, who is a native of Washington, was introduced by his father to boxing.

Initially he had a very successful amateur career. He was due to box for the US at the Beijing Olympics but collapsed in the team dorm on the eve of the weigh-in and had to withdraw from the tournament.

A southpaw, he has won all but one of his 27 fights and secured the WBC title last March when he stopped defending title holder, Jhonny Gonzalez. This is his first defence.

He is three and a half inches shorter than Hyland which gives the challenger a chance to punish him from a distance and makes it more difficult for the American to score on the counter.

The reputation of combat sports has taken an unmerciful battering in the last month. Firstly, former British champion Nick Blackwell was placed in an induced coma when he collapsed after losing to Chris Eubank junior.  He has since emerged from the coma and it is hoped that he will make a full recovery.

Then last weekend night in the National Stadium, a Portuguese mixed martial fighter, 28 year old Joan Carvalho, sustained fatal injuries in a welterweight contest.

Speaking before the tragedy in Dublin, Hyland pointed out that he had never been hurt during his 12 year professional career in the ring.

“I’ve never been hurt, I’ve never been dropped; I ‘ve never been rocked. You work on your defence. They (critics) say, ‘you’re barbaric people going in there fighting’ but we train for 10-12 hard weeks to fight against a guy knowing what he’s good at, so I work on my defence so I don’t get hurt in the fight.”

“The job [boxing] is no more dangerous than the other [glazing] job I’m doing now where I can slice the hand off myself,” said the featherweight.

Hyland is fighting against the odds; he is the 10/1 outsider. But in true Rocky style, he will be aiming for the fairy tale ending to cap a remarkable story.

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