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A Trio of Beguiling St. Patrick’s Day Shows Augment the Big Shebang in Dallas

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  • A Trio of Beguiling St. Patrick’s Day Shows Augment the Big Shebang in Dallas

    Click image for larger version  Name:	conlan-MTK-NY.jpg Views:	1 Size:	139.2 KB ID:	12540

    By Arne K. Lang

    Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia clash on Saturday in the big enchilada at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The pay-per-view fight, which falls on Saint Patrick’s Day Eve, is cocooned by shows in Philadelphia and New York that are in tune with the holiday and it overlaps a show in Boston that is likewise scented with shamrocks.

    This year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday, but fight fans in Philadelphia can get into the swing of things on Friday. The main go on Eddie Hearn’s show at the Liacouras Center, streamed live on DAZN, finds Philadelphia’s own Tevin Farmer defending his IBF 130-pound world title against Ireland’s Jono Carroll, but the real sizzle comes in the form of Katie Taylor, Ireland’s most admired athlete according to multiple research polls.

    Hailing from the Irish seacoast town of Bray but now living in Vernon, Connecticut, the 32-year-old Taylor is the most decorated amateur boxer in the history of Ireland. As a pro she’s 12-0 (5 KOs) and has built a strong case that it is she – not Cecilia Braekhus or Claressa Shields or Amanda Serrano or Layla McCarter – who is the top pound-for-pound female fighter in the world. In her last two fights against solid opponents – Cindy Serrano and Eva Wahlstrom – she won all 10 rounds on all three scorecards.

    Taylor’s opponent Rose Volante, a 36-year-old Brazilian, is 14-0 but a mystery as she has always had the benefit of being the house fighter. Three of the four meaningful belts will be on the line in this 10-round lightweight contest.

    The Farmer-Carroll fight is a battle of southpaws. In his last fight, Carroll (16-0-1) fought 12 rounds to a draw with veteran Guillaume Frenois of France who was 46-1 going in. From Dunshaughlin in County Meath, he’s a huge fan of Rocky and says he dreams at night of climbing the famous steps of City Hall while holding aloft his new IBF belt.

    Carroll, whose birth name is Jonathan Beresford, may climb up the steps but we doubt he will be holding the IBF belt. With only three knockouts to his credit, it doesn’t appear that he has the power to hold off Tevin Farmer (28-4-1, 1 ND), a late bloomer whose record hasn’t been blemished since September of 2012. Another undefeated Irishman, 11-0 lightweight John Joe Nevin from Mullingar, appears on the undercard.

    Boston

    On Saturday, promoter Ken Casey heats things up at the House of Blues.

    Casey is an interesting character. A Boston area native, he’s best known as the bassist/frontman of the Celtic punk band Dropkick Murphys which he co-founded in 1996. When not performing, Casey, 49, writes songs, looks after the saloon he owns near Fenway Park, and promotes fights. Saturday’s show marks the fourth straight year he has cobbled a boxing event around Saint Patrick’s Day.

    The headliner on Saturday’s card is Mark DeLuca. An ex-Marine who served in Afghanistan, DeLuca, 31, is touted as New England’s top boxing prospect. The southpaw from Whitman, Massachusetts, avenged his lone defeat in his previous bout, advancing his record to 22-1 (13 KOs). He is paired against New Haven’s Jimmy Williams (16-1-1) in a junior welterweight contest slated for 10 rounds.

    Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, whose primary home is in Cork, Ireland, returns to the scene of some of his most notable triumphs in an 8-round contest against Worcester’s Khiary Gray.

    A year ago, the colorful O’Sullivan was getting a lot of buzz. He was penciled in to fight Daniel Jacobs on April 18, 2018, but that fight fell out, ostensibly because O’Sullivan received a better offer, a chance to fight Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas on Mexican Independence Day, a bout that would supposedly transpire no matter the outcome of Canelo’s intervening Cinco de Mayo fight with Gennady Golovkin.

    As we know, Canelo failed a pre-fight drug test and things got muddled. The Cinco de Mayo date vanished and Canelo’s rematch with GGG was pushed back four months.

    The consolation prize for Spike O’Sullivan was a date with David Lemieux. A victory over Lemieux would have likely bumped him into a fight with Canelo, but it was not to be. To the contrary, it could not have turned out any worse for him. He was knocked out cold in the opening round.

    And so, a potential seven-figure payday in a bout with Canelo Alvarez went down the drain and Spike now finds himself fighting in an 8-round preliminary on a club show in Boston. But this redounds to the benefit of those that will cram into the House of Blues on Saturday night as O’Sullivan (29-3, 20 KOs) is a proven crowd-pleaser. And it doesn’t figure that his opponent Khiary Gray (16-4, 12 KOs) will go quietly. Formerly known as Khiary Gray-Pitts, Gray is eight years younger than O’Sullivan at age 26 and was considered a very strong prospect until his career went south.

    Irish pride will be at stake when Noel Murphy (12-1-1) opposes John Joyce in a welterweight contest. Murphy, like O’Sullivan, hails from Cork (but currently hangs his hat in the New York borough of Queens). Joyce, from Dublin, will be making his U.S. debut. He’s 7-0 but has yet to face a fighter with a winning record.

    And then there’s heavyweight Niall Kennedy, a peace officer in the Dublin commuter town of Wicklow who, like O’Sullivan, will be making his 11th appearance in a New England ring. At age 34, Kennedy (12-0-1, 7 KOs) is still rough around the edges, but that description when applied to a heavyweight is tantamount to saying he has a fan-friendly style. At press time, his opponent had yet to be determined.

    Ken Casey is a busy man. Dropkick Murphys has a 4-day gig at Boston’s House of Blues this week, the final leg of a 22-day tour. Saturday’s show is a matinee that will serve as the appetizer of sorts for his boxing card that evening.

    New York

    The Saint Patrick’s Day weekend festivities wrap up in New York on Sunday in the Theater of Madison Square Garden where Bob Arum’s Top Rank organization is staging an event hitched to the holiday for the third straight year. And once again the major attraction is featherweight Michael Conlan (pictured). The two-time Olympian from Belfast, whose double middle finger salute to the judges following his last amateur bout went viral, made his pro debut here in 2017 and returned last March 17 to blow away hapless Hungarian slug David Berna. This will be his fifth visit to the erstwhile Mecca of Boxing.

    Conlan, now 10-0 (6 KOs), last fought in Birmingham, England, where he stepped up in class and was extended 10 rounds for the first time in his career. His opponent on Sunday, Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez, is 24-3-2 (10). Hernandez’s first two losses were to undefeated fighters and his third came at the hands of formidable, if fading, Nonito Donaire in a bout that went the full 10 rounds.

    It’s widely understood that Conlan is on a collision course with Top Rank signee Shakur Stevenson who was in Conlan’s pod at the Rio games, winning a silver medal. However, there’s been a new wrinkle. Top Rank recently signed Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, the beneficiary of the awful decision that went against Conlan in Rio. Conlan wouldn’t fight Shakur (who would be a heavy favorite) without first playing the avenger in a second meeting with Nikitin.

    Nikitin, 2-0 as a pro, is on Sunday’s undercard, opposing Juan Tapia (8-3) in a contest scheduled for six rounds. This bout, indeed the full card, will be streamed on ESPN+.

    The co-features to Conlan-Hernandez are a 10-round welterweight match between veterans Luis Collazo, a former world title holder, and Samuel Vargas, and a 6-round flyweight match pitting Belfast’s Paddy Barnes (5-1) against Oscar Mojica (11-5-1) from Dallas.

    Like the aforementioned Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, a two-time Olympian, had a storied amateur career. Turning pro at age 29, his backers decided to move him fast and did him no favors. After only five pro fights, he was thrust into a title fight against Nicaragua’s Cristofer Rosales, the WBC champion, and found himself in over his head. Rosales took him out with a wicked body punch in the fourth round. On Sunday he steps back several steps on the ladder as he begins the next phase of his career.

    This being a Sunday, Top Rank’s Saint Patrick’s Day show has an early start. The first undercard bout is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET with the first of the three main fights going off at 6 p.m. ET. The ESPN+ app costs $4.95 per month with a 7-day free trial. Launched 11 months ago, the live-streaming platform reportedly has more than 2 million paid subscribers.
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