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Paddy Gallagher is on a mission to give Feile fans a night to remember

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Paddy Gallagher
David Kelly

By David Kelly

The serious tone in Paddy Gallagher's voice comes as a surprise and suggests a change of approach as he prepares for a night that could change how he is remembered when this golden age of Irish professional boxing is written about decades from now.

It is easy to take for granted just how far the sport has come over the past decade, largely driven by the success of two-weight world champion Carl Frampton.

Open air fights at Titanic Quarter and Windsor Park, sold-out nights at the SSE Arena, Ryan Burnett becoming a unified world champion and now we have Michael Conlan headlining in front of around 8,000 at the Falls Park.

As the main supporting act to Conlan, Gallagher finds himself in a clash with Welshman Chris Jenkins for the British and Commonwealth welterweight titles.

With the bout going live to the States on ESPN as well as on BT Sport, this is the moment that Gallagher has been seeking since he turned over in 2012, having won a Commonwealth Games gold medal. Five defeats along the way - all on points - have made it a bumpy ride and when the latest came in February against Freddy Kiwitt, he was ready to walk away.

But now he looks back to that night and takes the mistake made in preparation for Kiwitt as a major help in making sure he can grasp the opportunity of his career against Jenkins on Saturday night at Falls Park.

"I feel I'm more mature, more focused for this fight than ever before. When I fought Kiwitt I was that busy thinking about having the WBO European belt around my waist and what it would mean for my career and the ranking I would get that it took my focus away from making sure I did the job I had to do and I paid the price," said Gallagher.

"I was expected to win so that loss hit me very hard and after that I just thought that was it. I actually told my management that I was finished but then I had that fight at the Ulster Hall and getting that knockout last month in the Ulster Hall over Liam Wells, who came into the fight unbeaten, gave me a big boost and I'm carrying that momentum into this fight.

"My mind is solely focused on Jenkins. I know the belts are there and they would be great to win but I'm really just focusing on what I have to do to beat Jenkins.

"He's a good fighter, he has a good engine and I think everyone believes it's going to be a good scrap. I think the fans will enjoy it. It could be mayhem in there with blood and teeth everywhere!

"I know it's a big opportunity and not everyone gets a chance like this but I don't want to be remembered as the guy who fought for the British and Commonwealth titles, I want people to say in years to come, 'Do you remember Paddy Gallagher winning the British and Commonwealth titles at the Feile?'"

It is also an important night for another Belfast man in Fredo Meli, whose career could take a significant step forward if he was to defeat fellow unbeaten fighter Araik Marutjan.

Full-time mechanic Meli said: "I've seen what Marutjan has been saying and there's no doubt he did some impressive things as an amateur so that's why he's coming here saying he's going to beat me and move up to world level.

"The thing is, this isn't amateur boxing. It's the pros and that means no headguards and smaller gloves.

"I've shown in my last two bouts that I've developed some serious power and I plan to make him feel that on the night.

"I know this is a fantastic opportunity for me to push myself up the rankings and towards the title shots. It's a great stage and it's going to be a great night for the city as well as myself.

"I've had a great camp. I've been working too but I've always done that. I'm good at two things - fixing cars and fighting."

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