Ireland could have another world boxing champion very soon as Patrick Hyland targets title
In two weeks time, Patrick Hyland will step into the ring at the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut knowing that he's just twelve rounds away from lifting the biggest prize of his career, the WBC World featherweight title.
The Dubliner (32) faces title holder Gary Russell Jr who claimed the belt with a fourth round TKO against Jhonny Gonzalez in Las Vegas a year ago.
A former Ring Magazine Prospect of the Year, Russell (27) doesn't have an unblemished record. Although he qualified for the Beijing Olympics, Russell didn't box because he was dehydrated.
The one defeat in the southpaw's pro career of 26-1, 15 KOs was in a WBO World title fight in 2014 against Vasyl Lomanchenko, who won gold both in Beijing and London 2012.
Hyland (31-1, 15KOs) knows Russell is beatable. He's put in gruelling hours in camp at the Celtic Warrior Gym ahead of this fight. And on Tuesday will have his last serious spar before tapering down with technical work and fine-tuning his game plan.
If there's even a hint of Russell regarding this as a keep busy defence, Hyland will exploit his weakness.
On a personal level, Pajo has had a whirlwind couple of years. He's become a dad and, tragically, suffered the sudden loss of his own father, and lifelong coach, Paddy last year.
Hyland returned to the ring in the States for the first time without having his father in his corner in October and stopped David Martinez in the eight round. Now he's fully focussed on joining Wayne McCullough as just the second Irish fighter to lift a WBC world title.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for Patrick," says Irish promoter Brian Peters, who represents Hyland's interests. "It's a fifty-fifty fight and Pajo is definitely in the best shape he's ever been in. He knows what's at stake and he knows that this is his time. This is the world title fight he's been preparing for all his boxing life. This is his moment to make boxing history. A WBC belt is hard to come by."
"Patrick has had a great training camp with Paschal Collins and the buzz around his gym is super at the moment," adds Peters. "From Stephen Ormond, Jono Carroll, Luke Keeler, Spike O'Sullivan, Frank Buglioni and so on, there's a lot of talented boxers there who've been having big fights and it helps everyone up their game."
Coach Paschal Collins, who's been showing himself to be a skilled operator, says, "We're going to the US for a win. We've left no stone unturned. Pajo is a dream fighter to train. He has a huge appetite for hard work and has a really confident positive attitude. This is his first proper world title shot and he's fully intent on taking it."
For his part, Hyland is not underestimating the fighter he's up against.
"He's a great fighter," says Pajo. "So I'm going to have to be at my best. But I'm ready for this and I know I can beat him."