Wilton wants to be star of the east
East Belfast will come to a standstill for all the right reasons on Saturday night as Luke Wilton bids to land the British and Commonwealth flyweight titles.
Around 500 fans will be in the Liverpool Echo Arena roaring on Wilton against local champion Kevin Satchell, while back at home many more will be crammed into the local pubs offering their own support.
Dad Alan has been running the main boxing club in the area, Eastside, since 1997 as well as running a promotional company with wife Jane, all of which is funded by his scrap metal business.
While there has been a steady stream of amateur success at junior level, Luke is the first to have a shot at major professional title success and it means a lot to those in the surrounding area of the gym just off the Newtownards Road.
Alan said: “If Luke wins it will mean a lot to the community. Throughout all those troubles with the flag protests we had 70 to 80 kids every night, not a bother, the families were allowed in with the kids without any trouble.
“All the bars have got it televised on BoxNation, they’re having a late licence because there’s a lot of people can’t afford to go.
“This community takes a lot of stick, it gets slated all the time but there’s a lot of good people in this area and we want to make them proud.
“There’s nothing in this area for the kids and we recently had ones who had come through the club who committed suicide. East Belfast is now the biggest area for teenage suicides
“It’s down to drugs, they can’t cope. This place is a place for them to be happy, they come through those doors and they are as happy as anything but when they go out through the doors you can’t control what is happening. Boxing saves these guys.
“I can think of one guy who is almost crippled, he can’t box but he still comes to the gym to help out, and then there’s another guy, a lovely kid who died of alcohol poisoning.
“I had him off the drink, he was coming to the gym but then we had to close the gym for refurbishment for two years and he started having problems again. The club had given him a purpose, but at 36 he died, it’s a terrible a shame.
“In this area we’re a refuge for the kids, we’re packed to the doors. Sport keeps kids out of trouble, when they’re finished in the club they go home and straight to bed.
“The parents love it, they come out and support them which is great and we have kids from Ballygowan, Donaghadee, Bangor.
“We have a good reputation and recently we had an Irish novice champion Ben Little.
“I live, sleep and eat boxing, we’ve put in a lot of time, it’s all about the kids, giving them a chance.”
On Saturday night, it is Luke’s opportunity to become a local hero and he is aware that British and Commonwealth champion Satchell will start favourite.
“Satchell is entitled to be favourite because he has stopped Chris and Paul Edwards, he’s on a good run but I don’t think he has fought anyone like me before,” said Luke, whose brother Matthew is unbeaten in four pro fights.
“It’s great to know that the whole of east Belfast is behind you, the area will be buzzing and if I can bring those belts back here it would be so special.”
Meanwhile, Martin Rogan wants to put an end to Audley Harrison’s career this Saturday if the pair clash in the sold-out Prizefighter event at York Hall, Bethnal Green.
Rogan won the inaugural event in 2009 and then went on to defeat Harrison before landing the Commonwealth heavyweight title.
Now he is back in Prizefighter hoping for another clash with Harrison — also a former winner of the three-round tournament.
“Audley has been fooling himself and the British public for too long,” said Rogan.
“It's time to end him once and for all and I would love to be the man to do it. I am desperate to face him again on Saturday and I'll beat him again and throw ‘A-Farce’ out of boxing for good.”
It has been confirmed that unbeaten Tyson Fury will make his New York debut on April 20 when he takes on former IBF cruiserweight Champion Steve USS Cunningham at The Theater in Madison Square Garden. The fight will be live on NBC.
“Cunningham's got all the tools; a former World Champion, good fighter, he's got a lot of skill. I'm looking to put on a devastating performance; the best of my career to date,” said Fury.