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Tommy McCarthy: Saturday's Sky Sports fight can shape the rest of my career



Glove affair: Tommy McCarthy works out in Peterborough ahead of tomorrow night’s big fight

Glove affair: Tommy McCarthy works out in Peterborough ahead of tomorrow night’s big fight

Glove affair: Tommy McCarthy works out in Peterborough ahead of tomorrow night’s big fight

Tommy McCarthy has been waiting for this opportunity for two years - maybe his whole career - and knows he simply cannot afford to fluff his lines live on Sky television tomorrow night.

The big Belfast man takes on Richard Riakporhe for the WBA inter-continental cruiserweight title. More so than the belt, it is the chance for McCarthy to prove he is a live contender for bigger opportunities and also to grab a world ranking.

The opportunity comes three weeks after he went eight rounds in the Ulster Hall against a journeyman and since then he has been sharpening his skills ahead of facing unbeaten Riakporhe in Peterborough.

A top amateur, McCarthy turned professional in 2014 and was easing along the cruiserweight ladder until he, by his own admission, underperformed and fell to his solitary defeat at the hands of former British champion Matty Askin in November 2016.

The shock loss left him out in the cold for longer than he could have imagined and so heightens his awareness of the value of victory over Riakporhe.

"This is the biggest fight of my professional career. It can shape not only the rest of this year but the rest of my career," said McCarthy.

"When I lost to Matty Askin it was the biggest low of my career and came after the biggest high when I beat Jon Lewis Dickinson. Everything was going great and then I didn't turn up against Askin and it all went downhill.

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"I have stayed in the gym and kept the faith even when things didn't look good and I had thoughts about packing it in. But last year I sparred some of the best guys in the world and it reminded me that I had the ability to get to where I want to be.

"This is a massive opportunity for me. It's the chance to show people that I am a real player in the cruiserweight division. Having the opportunity live on Sky I have to go and grab this chance.

"Losing the way I did to Askin and also winning the way I did against Dickinson are experiences that have shown me what I must do and what I must not do in order to grab this opportunity."

Riakporhe took his big chance when defeating Sam Hyde, who suffered a freak eye injury. That was the Londoner's seventh straight stoppage victory and he is relishing the chance of another good scalp.

"I'm feeling good going into this fight as I believe Sam Hyde is a better opponent than Tommy McCarthy," said Riakporhe. "That's meant as no disrespect to Tommy as he's a fighter that I've watched a lot of and have admiration for. I remember watching the Commonwealth Games back in 2010 and he looked pretty decent then.

"He's got a good skillset and a solid background, but I believe that this is my time now and the momentum is in my corner. I'll do anything to win and to keep on winning. There's no way I'm overlooking Tommy as every fight is a huge risk and anything can happen, but I've got the bit between my teeth and I'll be prepared come fight night."

McCarthy insists that despite moderate opposition over the past four months he will be more than ready to overcome Riakporhe.

"I've spent a couple of weeks sparring unbeaten heavyweight Niall Kennedy and I feel everything is good. In the Ulster Hall fight I was being careful, I didn't want to damage my hands because I knew this fight was coming up. My timing is good and I'm ready to go," said McCarthy.

• JAMES DeGale has announced his retirement following his unanimous points defeat by Chris Eubank Jr.

The 33-year-old is a two-time world champion and 2008 Olympic champion and is the first British boxer to win both an Olympic gold medal and a professional world title.

DeGale said in a statement: "Today marks 10 years since my professional debut fight on February 28, 2009 and today is the day I am announcing my retirement.

"It's been an unbelievable journey and I've had an amazing decade - the best years of my life."

DeGale rose to prominence after winning his first world title in the United States in 2015 against Andre Dirrell before defending it three times across the Atlantic.

He said: "It's hard to admit that I'm not the fighter I once was, but I'm human and along the way, my injuries have taken a toll - both on my mind and body and these things have contributed to my performance in the ring.

"I lost the fight on Saturday at the O2 but I'm touched to have a good send-off from the fans in my home city.

"I am proud to have been a road warrior - to travel wherever I needed to be to fight and win. There's nothing left to prove."

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