Wednesday 21 November 2018

'I read that – I thought it was funny, to be honest' - Dublin set for Celtic Clash 7 blockbuster

Stephen McAfee with former world champion Anthony Crolla recently
Stephen McAfee with former world champion Anthony Crolla recently

Ian Gaughran

THE line-up for Celtic Clash 7 was completed this week, and it looks like the biggest – and most important – night of Dublin boxing in years.

It is a star-studded card which will be headlined by Dylan McDonagh and Carl McDonald for an Irish title, will feature a set from Christy Dignam and will also see 'Showtime' Stephen McAfee bid to pick up a second strap this year – cementing himself as one of the country's best.

He is certainly one of the most entertaining, that's for sure. His two wars with Cork's Colin O'Donovan proved at least that, but now he has set his focus on Coalisland's Fergal McCrory in a battle for the Irish super-featherweight title.

McCrory earned his slot by beating Brayan Mairena earlier this month on the Assassin Promotions 'Rise Again' card and was bullish in the aftermath having stared down McAfee, who had been ushered into the ring to announce the upcoming fight.

"That fighter was better than Stephen McAfee," McCrory told Irish-Boxing.com.

"I believe if McAfee was to fight Brayan Mairena he would lose. You have to take into consideration I fought that lad after being out for a while.

Colin O'Donovan, left, and Stephen McAfee both have their hands held up as their bout finished as a draw at the National Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Colin O'Donovan, left, and Stephen McAfee both have their hands held up as their bout finished as a draw at the National Stadium in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

"I thought I did okay, but it wasn't the best me and I think Stephen McAfee wouldn't have got the win against him."

McAfee, for his part, wasn't impressed by Nicaraguan Mairena, or what his upcoming opponent had to say.

"I read that – I thought it was funny, to be honest," McAfee told the Herald.

Mairena has a good record on paper but I was ringside and I watched the fight. He was basically just a little bantamweight!

"I was actually surprised McCrory didn't take him out – I'm telling you, I'd have had him out of there and gone in four so I wasn't impressed."

All soundbites, for now, and the contest does promise to be a barnbuster, with McAfee really stepping up his preparation, having recently gone 12 rounds with former world champion Anthony Crolla in the UK.

It is something that will stand to the Sallynoggin puncher, both physically and mentally, particularly as he was asked back for more – the ultimate compliment.

"It was a great experience, going over there," McAfee added.

"You can't get much better sparring than that, with someone of his calibre. We went over and the first thing I noticed was the heat in the gym.

"It was roasting hot but I had been warned about it as Joe Gallagher likes it that way so when it gets hot on fight night his lads don't feel it.

"I watched Anthony for a bit and then we had six rounds, where I had plenty of success, which gave me loads of confidence.

"That was on the Friday evening and, before we left then, he asked if I could come  back on the Sunday morning for another six rounds so I must have done something right."

Camp is really hotting up now for the BUI Celtic champion, who has been recently joined by McDonagh under his trainer Jonathan Lewins, a move which has benefited them both as they build towards November 24.

"Dylan coming in has been great – for the two of us I think," he continued.

"He is a real pro, not just a normal pro, he works extremely hard and it helps that the two of us have a common goal, we're both fighting for an Irish title on the same night.

"That helps us both in training and in sparring.

"We're smack bang in the middle of the real hard work  now and I can feel the transformation.

"I'm fitter, stronger, harder and sharper and I can't wait to get in there and win that Irish title."

Online Editors

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