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Brutal lesson for 'Big Bang'

They call Guillermo Rigondeaux 'The Jackal' because he's a vicious predator in the ring.

On Saturday night in Citywest, other sobriquets came to mind. Ireland's world champion Katie Taylor, who'd sparred four rounds with the Cuban, said it had been like trying to hit a ghost.

But the crippling shots with which the double Olympic gold medal winner demolished the dreams of Limerick hopeful Willie Casey suggested he should be called 'The Crusher'.

Casey dismissed fears that this match would expose too great a gulf in class and experience by saying he'd put himself through hell preparing for this WBA world super-bantamweight decider. Certainly he entered the ring more confident, more enthusiastic for the challenge than for any other bout. The home crowd were on their feet baying for victory from the opening bell.

But 60 seconds into the contest with both boxers testing each other, and Rigondeaux displaying balletic ringcraft, the Cuban found his range with a sledgehammer left to the body beneath Casey's right elbow.

It was a crippling shot. Devastating. Casey's face contorted. Blood rushed to his face. For the first time, he moved backwards. The Jackal scented blood. He went in for the kill. Casey was on the ropes, a weakened animal. Soon afterwards a sweeping uppercut with the precision of a tactical air strike put Casey on the canvas for the first time. He took an eight count.

Rigondeaux pursued him. A piledriving left to the side of Casey's head put him down again. This time the damage seemed complete. Casey's legs had turned to jelly. But his great heart pushed him on. As he stumbled under a flurry of punches, the referee stepped in.

"By way of knock-out, 2.38, Round 1..." It had been quick and brutal. And Rigondeaux's coach Ronnie Shields was a happy man. "When you come to someone's else's country and you have the skills set that Rigondeaux has, you have to use it right away and take the crowd out of the fight. Willie Casey is a come-forward kinda guy. When he started backing up, you knew it was over. Rigondeaux is a puncher, man. He has the skills set to do both. Nobody is going to beat this guy. It's going to be hard to beat him."

Rigondeaux's performance was impressive, but not to him. "I've had better days," he said.

Gary Hyde, his manager from Cork, was breathless with excitement. "I knew he was going to put on a stellar performance but that was fantastic," he enthused. "I knew he was facing something that he never faced before in Willie Casey, who's a hard young fella, but he just took him apart. He's a phenomenon."

Casey wasn't complaining afterwards. "He landed the big bang and deservedly won the fight," he said ruefully. "His shots came from all directions. He was world class tonight. It was either him or me and it was me tonight. The real test for me is to see where I go from here. You'll see me back in the ring soon again."



Bruising

On a night that also saw Ian Tims narrowly claim the Irish Cruiserweight title in a bruising encounter with Michael 'The Storm' Sweeney, Anthony Fitzgerald showed that he's Ireland's most improved boxer when he subjected former French champion Affif Belghecham to a punishing display which saw the referee stop the EBA middleweight title contest in Fitzgerald's favour in the fifth round, much to the Frenchman's annoyance.

Dublin's new European champion revealed how his plan worked. "We planned to shock him from the first round," said Fitzgerald. "I was hurting him and he didn't really want to know. I trained alongside Willie for 10 weeks and the hard work paid off."