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Hatton blown away by Belfast love for boxing

By David Kelly

Boxing in Belfast is on fire at the moment with unbeaten star Carl Frampton leading the way and last night former World champion Ricky Hatton was at ringside in Andersonstown Leisure Centre to taste the passion fore himself once more.

On the first Belfast City Council's 'Day of Boxing', a Belfast select were taking on Spain, following on from the afternoon when hundreds of children were being encouraged to give the sport a try. It's all part of the £200,000 a year investment by the council for Northern Ireland's most successful sport.

Hatton, – in town to be in the corner of Anthony Upton at the Alan Wilton-promoted Holiday Inn show this evening – revealed how he has been overwhelmed by the reception he has received in the city and is unsurprised at how the Belfast is investing in the Noble Art.

Hatton said: "This is becoming a little like my second home because I'm training Anthony and Sonny Upton as well as Ryan Burnett – and you know when you look at the way the sport is here it's as if it's the national sport.

"From my personal point view, the fight fans are so fanatical, I've never walked down the street and been pulled up by so many people – it makes me feel very, very proud.

"It really is a booming place here. You have Carl Frampton flying the flag and there are guys coming coming through who can follow in Carl's footsteps.

"Ryan is one of those guys, he's really coming on, he's improving with every fight."

Antrim County Board vice president Harry Cunningham, who organised last night's international, was delighted with the crowd who packed into the leisure centre and overall he feels that the sport can do a lot of good in the community.

"Boxing is the number one cross-community sport here, there's no doubt about that and it's great that the council is getting behind it," said Cunningham.

"Boxing brings people together and we're hoping that with the funding we now have, we can improve the facilities in clubs and produce more international medallists."

One man expected to go to the Commonwealth Games this year is Ulster senior flyweight champion Ruairi Dalton and after one of the contests of the night he lost on points to Spain's Kelvin De La Nieve Linares.

Fellow flyweight Sean Higginson also lost on points to Francisco Torrijos Portillo, before bantamweight Michaela Walsh – another Games candidate – impressed with a comfortable decision over Cristina Gomez Babio.

Immaculata's Joe Fitzpatrick proved too powerful for Frank Urquiaga Cruzzat, dropping his opponent in the opening which led to the referee calling a halt to their lightweight clash.

Commenting on the day, Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir said: "The council, in partnership with boxing organisations, has drawn up a strategy to develop the sport and facilities encouraging even more people, including girls and women, to take up the sport. It is about raising standards and providing high level competition."

Meanwhile, Matthew Wilton will seek to move his career forward tonight when he faces Lewie O'Meara at the Holiday Inn.

Light-welterweight Wilton has chalked up eight straight wins and should make it nine as he looks to move into Irish title contention.

Hatton protege Upton meets Alec Bazza in a four rounder, also at light-welter.

Casey Balir makes his debut at light-middle, while Marc Morris, Paul Quinn and Fredo Meli are also on the show.

Belfast Telegraph

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