Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Family pain inspires Tyson Fury’s rival Nick Firtha

World ranked heavyweights Nick Firtha and Tyson Fury in their native GAA county shirts come face-to-face at the King's Hall yesterday
World ranked heavyweights Nick Firtha and Tyson Fury in their native GAA county shirts come face-to-face at the King's Hall yesterday

Nick Firtha paused, choked up and defiantly told Tyson Fury that the memory of those who nurtured his boxing career will drive him to victory at the King’s Hall on Saturday night.

Firtha’s father Joe passed away due to cancer four years ago and two months ago the same illness took the life of grandfather Gerry O’Connor, who left Kerry for the States many years ago.

Unlike many heavyweights who can allow more than a few pounds to gather around their ample waists, Firtha looked and sounded the part. Having lost on points to the current WBA heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin he views victory over Fury as the pathway to a re-match.

If Fury didn’t know it before yesterday’s press conference at the grand old venue then he got a sense that Firtha could well turn out to be the hardest test he has had to pass in his career so far.

“On Saturday night I will be wearing symbolic trunks because four years ago a week before my dad died I fought and lost a fight to Franklin Lawrence I should have won,” said Firtha, known as Irish Nick.

“I was going through such a hard time and I promised myself I’d never lose again wearing those trunks.

“I thought I would never box again, but I got myself together with the help of my coach Terry who took over the torch from my dad and now I’m wearing these trunks again and I just cannot lose.

“I’m dedicating this fight to my grandfather who I lost recently. He always encouraged me to do well at school and in the ring.

“I think this is going to be a backyard brawl. Tyson always comes in good shape and so do I.

“Not only are we big guys, but we’re athletic and that’s rare in the heavyweight division. It’s going to be an action-packed fight and I know that I have to knock him out.”

Firtha came late to the sport, truly taking up the gloves at 19 when, as he puts it, his life was “at a crossroads.”

He added: “I had graduated from school and I didn’t know what I wanted to pursue, but I was always athletically inclined, excelled in sports.

“I wasn’t a very confident or assertive person so I said, well why don’t I go for the Akron Golden Gloves championships.

“My dad, who was a boxer, gave me a six-month training plan believing I would quit, but I didn’t and after I won it he could see that I was a fighter.

“I wouldn't say that I’m a fighter by nature because I avoid confrontation, but I’m extremely competitive and you’ll have to kill me to beat me.

“What boxing has done for me is to get me out of my shell, because boxing engulfs every aspect of life — spiritually, mentally, physically, everything.

“Of course it has been a dream of mine to be heavyweight world champion, like any kid who wants to be a top NBA player or a top NFL player.

“My dad taught me how to be a man and what boxing was all about and then when Terry took over as my trainer he has shown me what it takes to be a real heavyweight contender. He was the chief sparring partner to Ernie Shavers who fought for the World heavyweight title a couple of times so he knows what he’s doing.

“Mike Dokes is from the same town as me, he’s ill at the moment and he won the WBA World heavyweight title and if I beat Tyson on Saturday night then I’m hoping the door will open for me.

“I’m so excited about Saturday night because as a boxing fan I would be looking at this and thinking ‘what a great fight’ and then I stop and think how great it is that I’m one of the participants.

“For me to be fighting in Ireland is just a dream come true and to be fighting a world ranked fellow Irishman is just fantastic.

“It’s going to be a great fight between two game men and I think the Irish fans are going to have a great night.”

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