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Joe Fitzpatrick: I want to win at Ulster Hall for my late father and mentor Gerry

 

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Ready for action: Joe Fitzpatrick at yesterday’s press conference at the Europa Hotel ahead of tomorrow night’s Ulster Hall bill

Ready for action: Joe Fitzpatrick at yesterday’s press conference at the Europa Hotel ahead of tomorrow night’s Ulster Hall bill

Ready for action: Joe Fitzpatrick at yesterday’s press conference at the Europa Hotel ahead of tomorrow night’s Ulster Hall bill

Tomorrow night is one of opportunity for not only headline act Sean McComb but also fellow Belfast man and old amateur rival Joe Fitzpatrick who has revealed the pain that is driving him to fulfil his boxing dreams.

Eight months ago Fitzpatrick lost his 65-year-old father, mentor and coach Gerry in such a shocking way that it transformed his boxing career, which comes to a crucial moment at the Ulster Hall when he meets Gary Cully of Naas for the vacant Irish lightweight title.

Unbeaten light-welterweight McComb tops the bill in a good test against Argentina's Mauro Maximilliano Godoy.

Having been an Ulster senior champion and represented Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games, Fitzpatrick turned professional and chalked up eight straight victories before losing his way to a point that it seemed a return to the ring would never be an option.

"I was off the rails, drinking and partying… I had fallen in with the crowd and was just in the bar all the time. I loved boxing but fell out of love with it, I had no interest and it wasn't until I lost my dad that I decided to give it a go again," said Fitzpatrick, a member of the Immaculata club where his dad coached with the legendary Nugget Nugent.

"My dad died eight months ago from sepsis. He had gone in for a straightforward nose operation but got sepsis and was put into intensive care. Just 24 hours later he had died, all his organs had been wrecked. I was just devastated but then it motivated me to stop drinking and get back in the gym.

"That's why I'm back, I want to win titles for him. It took the loss of my dad for me to get my finger out and start training properly again. It's very emotional for me, before and after every fight. His memory is what really gets me motivated before a fight… usually after a fight I would have partied but now I go home and spend time with my mum.

"It's great to be on this card and to have this opportunity."

The Divis man, naturally still coming to terms with the loss of his father, will step into the Ulster Hall ring tomorrow night knowing that a victory over Cully would not only see him land the Irish title but lay a foundation for what could be an exciting year.

At the press conference in the Europa Hotel, Cully insisted he was "the better boxer all-round" but Fitzpatrick - who calls himself The Dragon - is quietly confident he can come out on top, despite only two bouts in the past two years.

As an Immaculata man, Fitzpatrick knows all about the ring success of former British champion Martin Lindsay whose finest hour as a professional came in the same venue when lifting the Lonsdale belt from Paul Appleby with a thrilling stoppage victory.

"I was there the night Martin won the title. The atmosphere was incredible and if I could have a taste of that it would be terrific. Martin now coaches me along with Nugget - he knows everything about boxing," added Fitzpatrick.

"He has been a great help to me and so has my brother Gerard. He deals with my ticket sales so I don't have to worry about that and I've been very encouraged by the support I've had. I sold all my allocation and even had to send others to other fighters to get tickets.

"So it's now about me going in and getting the win and I really believe this will be my breakthrough moment. I could really kick on from here."

Meanwhile, unbeaten Belfast super-middleweight Padraig McCrory is hoping he can take another step towards a title shot with a win on the undercard at the Ulster Hall.

"There has been some talk about a big fight being lined up for me in April so I just have to make sure I get the job done on Saturday night," said McCrory, who faces English journeyman Lewis van Poetsch.

Belfast Telegraph