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magee plots roman ruin

The return of Brian Magee to the National Stadium in September is something all Irish fight fans are looking forward to.

The man who represented Ireland in the '96 Olympics made a sensational return to the pro ring in January when he stopped Denmark's Mads Larsen to claim the EBU super middleweight title following an enforced 13-month lay-off mainly due to injury. "I always knew if I persevered I was good enough," says Magee (35).

Magee put Larsen down in the fifth, twice more in the sixth and again in the seventh before the ref stopped the bout. It was just the Dane's second defeat in 10 years.

"I knew it was going to be tough," says Magee. "It was like he was the matador and I was the bull. But the pressure paid off and the plan worked. Desire and will got me the result."

With the WBA and WBC ranking Magee at five in the world, the Lisburn boxer will be defending his European title in the stadium against the German based Armenian Roman Aramian.

Promoter Brian Peters has come up with another star-studded night of boxing. "We have two European title fights on the same bill," he says. "As well as Brian Magee's title defence, we have Kiko Martinez contesting the vacant European super-bantamweight title with French-based Armenian, Arsen Martirosyan."


Martinez has had a rocky time since he sensationally demolished Bernard Dunne in 2007 when he took just 86 seconds to rip away Dunne's European belt. He lost the title to Rendall Monroe the following year and lost a rematch last year, both over 12 rounds. Understandably, Martinez eyes the possibility of a super bantamweight title on September 11 with relish.

"I'm a better Kiko than when I fought Rendall Munroe and Bernard Dunne," he insists. "I'm determined to become European champion again. This guy's a bit hard and a bit dirty but I won't let anyone get in my way."

La Sensacion, as he's nicknamed, knows he's become a bit of a legend to Irish boxing fans. "I love coming to Ireland," he says. "But a lot of people thought I was lucky against Bernard. I wasn't lucky. I can prove it again. That time, I saw my opportunity and I took it. I could do the same again."

Martinez knows that if he has a European title, he'll be sure of a big-money defence against an Irish challenger. "There aren't many around," he says. "Only Willie Casey and Paul Hyland. I want to fight Paul Hyland. But I don't think Paul Hyland wants the bout. He's said yes but I think he's a bit scared of me. So that's a problem. Willie Casey would be easier for me. Hyland would be a bit harder. That's why I want that fight."

As a wind-up, it's a good one. Promoter Peters is already linking the two names for a possible future showdown, "Down the road".

At a recent press conference, Paul Hyland took the microphone, looked Martinez in the eye and declared: "I'll answer that question now. I'll take that fight. No problem."

With Bernard Dunne in retirement, a Hyland and Martinez bout would certainly excite the locals.

Martinez knows Hyland's style. And he tells me he's ready to fight the 25-year-old Dubliner.

"I've already beaten Bernard Dunne and I believe he was a better fighter than both Hyland and Casey so it would be no problem for me to fight them in Ireland," he says. "I trained alongside Hyland in Spain and his style is similar to Dunne. He is flashy and sometimes keeps his hands a little low which is very dangerous against a puncher like me. But I don't worry about my opponents. I let them worry about me because they know that I have the power to end a fight with one punch."

The Spaniard will get a chance to see Hyland in action on September 11. The Dubliner will be having his first outing since he claimed the European Union super bantamweight title over 12 rounds in Naples in March. It was a brave move by Hyland to challenge an Italian boxer on his home turf, particularly a city with the reputation of Naples, but with his father Paddy as coach, Hyland prepared well, getting in plenty of quality sparring ahead of that important bout.

Under Paddy's watchful eye, Paul is making progress towards becoming the complete fighting machine. Right now he's focusing on one thing in particular.

"I'm working on improving my punching power," he says. "My defence is great. My reflexes are good. All I want is to increase my punching power.

"I'm starting to mature now and it's coming up. My brothers say they're starting to feel the power coming into my shots. I'm with a strength and conditioning coach and he's building up my arms and chest."

With just one loss (in Philadelphia) in 18 bouts, Hyland's career is on the up. "You get hungry," he says. "I really enjoy it. I get more confidence with every fight."

Katie Taylor is successfully coached by her father Peter. And Paul is comfortable with his father Paddy. But has he considered moving out and seeking something extra from elsewhere?

"I trained with Paul Cook," he reminds me. "And I trained with Tracy Patterson. But I always come back to my da' cos he knows me inside out. I have a lot of respect for him as a trainer. I know he's my da' but all he wants is to bring out the best in me and my brothers. I have tried different trainers. I really enjoyed working with Paul Cook. He's a brilliant trainer. And Tracy too. But I felt there was something missing."

Paul pauses for a second and then sums it up. "They never give out," he reveals. "It's great that my da' and Pat Ryan are my trainers because even after a fight, like when I won the EU title, they bring you down. They'll say, "Look you're not at the top level. You're not where you want to be". Even when I won my senior titles and go back to the gym, once I was in the gym that was it. Boom! There's no acting the maggot. You'd be straight back at it."

How difficult is it for Paul fighting in the shadow of the massive achievements of Bernard Dunne? Does it do his head in that, time and again, people automatically compare his progress to Bernard's record?

"I have a lot of respect for Bernard," states Paul. "When I was turning professional I was texting him to ask him what it was like. He said it's just boxing. You just get in and do your own thing. The main thing he said to me was, 'Be the boss. At whatever you do, be the boss. You're after winning 10 Irish titles in a row. So do what you're doing and carry it through'. Bernard was always a great fighter. I have a lot of respect for him."

If a European title decider against Martinez comes together, Paul Hyland won't be under the public radar for long. Not that he's bothered. "We just like to stay in the background," he says. "We don't like to get into hype."

"This fight next month will be a stepping stone towards a European title for me," he adds.

"I hope Kiko wins and then I'm off. That'd be a big-time fight."