After an absence of 13 years, professional boxing will return to Donegal with a bang this weekend.
Elite Sheer, the show’s promoters, have landed a real coup with former Irish amateur kingpin Joe Ward ready to headline at the Aura Leisure Complex in Letterkenny.
The Rumble In The Hills show is promising to be a knockout affair with Ward (9-1, 5KOs) set to face Prince Oko Nartey (11-1, 10KOs) over eight rounds.
Ward is a three-time European amateur gold medalist, who also won two silver and one bronze at the amateur World Championships and represented Ireland at the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Moate southpaw famously ended Kenny Egan’s decade of rule in 2011 and a destructive performance against the Neilstown man a year later confirmed Ward’s status as one of Ireland’s emerging new punchers.
Egan retired after defeat to Ward in 2013 on the same night Jason Quigley defeated Roy Sheahan to become Ireland’s new middleweight champ.
Quigley and Ward were medallists at the 2013 World Championships in Almaty, where Quigley left with silver and Ward bronze.
Ward was a silver medallist two years later in Doha, where world champion Julio César la Cruz from Cuba beat him a second time.
Quigley is behind this weekend’s show coming to Donegal – and is delighted to have his former Irish team-mate Ward leading the charge as Donegal hosts its first show since Dungiven’s Paul McCloskey stopped Barry Morrison in the seventh round at the Aura to win the EBU European super lightweight title in 2010.
“To have Joe Ward’s first fight in Ireland here in Donegal is something very special and the undercard is stacked,” Quigley said. “These lads all want to push on and do big things as professionals.
“It’s been too long since we had big time boxing in Donegal. “It’s great to have professional boxing back in Donegal. It’s absolutely massive. This is a world class professional boxing show.
“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to put professional boxing back in Donegal again. I would love it if this could start something new, something fresh, something for boxing in the county. A show like this can show young boxers in the county what is ahead of them.
“It can encourage youngsters to give it a proper go and when you’re doing that it’s very important to bring the fanbase along.”
‘Prince of God’ Nartey arrives in Ireland having secured ten of his eleven victories inside the distance, but Ward – who has never lost on an Irish canvas – wants to show that he belongs among the world’s best light heavies.
“The Irish people know what to expect from me – a ruthless performance,” Ward said. “There are levels in this game. I believe that I’m levels ahead. This is a stepping stone for me to get to the best light heavyweight in the world.”
Ward has name-checked the likes of European light heavyweight champ Dan Azeez, IBO world light heavyweight title holder Lyndon Arthur and Joshua Buatsi as those in his crosshairs.
The 30-year-old said: “I believe that I’m better than each and every one of them. I want to stamp my authority now.”
London-based super-middleweight Danny Boyle (2-0-1) will get a chance to showcase on a home show in Donegal. The Dungloe puncher has almost been pinching himself since the possibility became a reality.
“I can’t even say it’s a dream come true because I never thought this would happen,” Boyle said.
Rising Belfast ace James McGivern will feature in the co-headline bout. ‘The Natural’, a Commonwealth Youth Games gold and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist challenges Josh Sandford for the Celtic lightweight title.
The Ormeau Road man (7-0, 2KOs) meets unbeaten Scot Josh Sandford (6-0) and he said: “I feel like this is the start of it and there is a buzz now. It feels like we’re starting to build something now.”
The Walsh brothers, Liam and Paddy, will look to build their respective professional records, while Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Tyler Jolly is two-from-two as a pro and will bring his exciting talents to Donegal having beaten Vojtech Majer and Frank Madsen.
Galway heavyweight Jason Myers will make his pro debut and Navan super-feather Cain Lewis aims to maintain his unbeaten record.
Quigley said: “The card is stacked with unbelievable talent. It’s very important to get local boxers on the local shows. When we’re bringing this to Donegal, we felt that it was important to give a Donegal boxer a crack at the show. Growing a fanbase from the roots up is vital in boxing and this will do Danny Boyle the world of good. It will be brilliant for the people of Donegal to shout on one of their own.”
The night will get underway with two exhibition fights featuring rising amateur fighters – including Raphoe Boxing Club middleweight Cathal McLaughlin, who is set for a showdown with Flow Academy’s Cody Lee Peoples. The pair were the beaten Elite Championship semi-finalists while McLaughlin recently won the Irish Senior title.
Tickets are available to buy at: elitesportspromotions.com