Fired-up Hyland out to conquer Europe before world assault
Belfast fighter Paul Hyland Jnr is ready to perform an "Italian Job" tonight when he bids to wrestle the European lightweight championship off holder Francesco Patera.
Boxing in Milan, on a Matchroom show that also features former world title holder Jamie McDonnell, Hyland Jnr is a key part of an attractive nine-fight card.
"I'm really excited about it and we've put in a long, hard camp and here we go," said Hyland Jnr, who believes he has the correct strategy to prevail.
"I can box, I can fight, whatever comes at me, whatever I have to do in that ring. I'm not giving any strategies away, but whatever needs to be done on the night, I'll do it," he added.
Aged 29, having boxed over 100 professional rounds, Hyland Jnr is in his prime years. Fans with a keen eye on the form guide will point to Hyland and Patera's respective performances against Lewis Ritson as a reason why the Belfast man will struggle to bring the EBU crown home.
Last June, Hyland stepped into a red-hot Metro Arena in Newcastle to take on the British champion. Unbeaten in 15, with a pile of spectacular knockouts on the ledger, Ritson was enjoying a domestic reign of terror.
Sent in to use his boxing skills, Hyland Jnr was dropped multiple times, dragged into an unnecessary firefight and extinguished by Ritson in a single round.
Hyland Jnr has since hinted that the 18-fight winning streak he had amassed since turning pro in 2014 may have encouraged complacency. Ritson viciously snapped him out of that malaise and reignited Hyland's fistic flame. Riding on the crest of a wave, dubbed the "Geordie Golovkin" and seemingly hurtling towards world honours, Ritson was swiftly matched for the vacant European title with a certain Francesco Patera.
Arriving in England with three losses on his record - including a 2016 reverse to unheralded Sean Dodd - Belgian Patera was expected to present another stepping stone for Ritson.
It did not pan out that way. After 12 torrid rounds, a battered and bruised Ritson had apparently run out of ideas when Patera refused to fold under his heavy hands. The away man won a split decision and sent Ritson back to the drawing board.
Since the Ritson victory, Patera snuck in a title defence against Marvin Petit. Since his Ritson loss, Hyland Jnr has defeated two lesser foes, both on points. Most recent victim - Czech Miroslav Serban - gave Hyland Jnr a brief scare in their Ulster Hall tussle.
The hometown fighter regrouped and boxed his way to an eight-round points win.
Promoter Mark Dunlop will be hoping for two wins on Italian soil in the space of two weeks as Tommy McCarthy travels to Rome on July 11. McCarthy takes on Fabio Turchi for the WBC International cruiserweight title. The head of Belfast-based MHD Promotions is fully focused on his lightweight hope ahead of tonight's challenge.
"Paul has trained hard, done the weight well and knows he has the key to the door to a world title," said Dunlop.
"He is going to open the door and go in and take it!"
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• MICHAEL Conlan's grudge fight with Vladimir Nikitin on August 3 at Falls Park is off as the Russian has had to withdraw due to injury.
It's a second major blow to the card within 48 hours as Sam Bowen was forced to withdraw from his British super-featherweight title fight with Belfast's Anthony Cacace.
A replacement will be found for Nikitin - who had a controversial Rio 2016 Olympics points win over Conlan - as the Belfast man seeks to continue moving up the featherweight ladder.