Collins to step it up
Dubliner is determined to turn sacrifice into reward
The boxers engaging in Irish title fights are not the only ones stepping up tonight at the National Stadium.
Red Corner Promotions are also upping their game with what promises to be a sensational eight-fight card that features two Irish title fights sanctioned by the Boxing Union of Ireland.
The Irish middleweight belt will be contested by Dubliner Luke Keeler (12-2, 5 KOs) and determined army man Darren Cruise (7-5, 1KO) who's intent on bringing the title back to Roscommon.
Equally appetising is the fight for the vacant Irish light heavyweight title which features two closely-matched fighters, Steve Collins Jr (10-0-1, 4 KOs) and Paddy McDonagh (10-2).
McDonagh has been out of competitive action since 2015 when his last win was at the York Hall in Bethnal Green.
Collins has had five wins in the same period, with four of them in the United States and three won by knock-out. He's taking nothing for granted in this clash with the southpaw who won the Irish title against John Waldron in Liverpool in 2012.
"I want the best of Paddy McDonagh," he says. "I asked to step up again and this will be a massive fight for me. I've left work and have been concentrating on my professional boxing career, training full-time at the Celtic Warrior Gym. Winning the Irish title will be massive."
McDonagh, one of the two high profile Mullingar brothers, is signed to Assassin Promotions in the UK.
Assassin's marketing chief Conor Slater believes Collins will get more than he's bargained for.
"This is a much more even fight than people are crediting," he says. "Eddie Hearn wanted to promote this fight in Belfast. Paddy's been training hard in the UK and is focussed on re-gaining the belt. There's a lot of pride at stake. Steve will be meeting a man who's experienced and highly motivated.
"Win this title and you're ranked in Europe," he adds. "That's what Paddy wants. This is going to be a real scrap."
Also on tonight's show will be Ray Moylette whose pro record is now 4-0, 2 KOs. This will be his first time back in the National Stadium since his days as an amateur star.
"This was home for me for years but I left with a bad taste," he says.
"I want to change that story. Tonight's the start of it."
Allan Phelan, Chris Blaney, Craig O'Brien, Thomas Finnegan and Victor Rabeii are also on the card.
"There are some really competitive divisions in Ireland right now," says Red Corner's Jonathan Graham. "Tonight's fights have value and prestige. We want our fights to be a stepping stone to bigger fights at European level."