Paddy Barnes is championing the prospect of several Belfast boxing heroes featuring at the Manchester Arena on Frank Warren’s bumper Christmas show.
Olympic legend Barnes, Irish light-heavyweight king Steven Ward, former world amateur champion Michael Conlan and headliner Carl Frampton all star on the December 22 bill – live on BT Sport Box Office – as Frampton bids to relieve Josh Warrington of the IBF world featherweight title.
With Belfast boxing in the midst of an all-time high, Barnes is looking forward to plenty of supporters making the journey across the water.
Barnes said: “It’s crazy to have so many Belfast boxers on the card. I saw Warrington tweet that the fight should have been in Belfast because there are so many of us on it. We’ll certainly be bringing plenty of support.
“I was best man at Carl’s wedding and we’re very good friends. In terms of him as a leading light for Irish boxing, we’re so lucky to have the likes of Carl. He sells out massive arenas, brings TV coverage and brings it all back to Belfast.
“If you’re a boxer from Belfast, Carl Frampton is someone you’d aspire to be. If you can do a fraction of what he’s done in his career with winning all those world titles, you’ll have done well.
“Frampton and Conlan are the godfathers to my kids so to be fighting alongside them on the card is special on a personal level for me.”
Also on a stacked card, MTK Global team-mates JJ Metcalf and Liam Williams square off for Metcalf’s WBC light-middleweight ranking title, with other team members Sam Maxwell, Jack Massey and Alex Dickinson all looking to shine.
Former British champion Hosea Burton is set to send the light-heavyweight scene another clear message at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse on Friday night.
After a ruthless sub-30 second victory just four weeks ago, ‘The Hammer’ takes on cruiserweight Arturs Kulikauskis on the MTK Global card – live on iFL TV.
Burton said: “I’m happy to be out again straight away. The last fight wasn’t much of a fight – it only lasted 29 seconds – so I’ll be happy to get some rounds in.
“I would like to go on a roll of early stoppages in one way but I’m afraid to say this opponent I’m fighting next is a cruiserweight who’s quite hard to stop.
“He’s as awkward as you like and a southpaw too. He does a lot of running away so he’ll be hard to stop but who knows?
“The fight with Liam Conroy could happen one day so it’s good he’s on the bill. Liam is looking for the British title and I’ll be one of the first in line for that so who knows? It could happen.
“My perfect 2019 would be to win the British title back, then win the Commonwealth, beat Frank Buglioni up and get the decision if it goes to the judges, then fight for a world title. Those are my goals.”
Dan Azeez is among a host of emerging MTK Global stars added to the #ConqueringEurope card at London’s iconic York Hall on December 14 – live on BoxNation.
With a triple-header of European title fights with Brian Rose, Darragh Foley vs. Akeem Ennis Brown and Larry Ekundayo vs. Louis Greene already announced, an extensive list of up-and-comers will try and steal the spotlight.
Leading the charge is south London light-heavyweight Azeez (6-0-KO3), who will be looking to cause a stir as he continues lining up a maiden title shot.
Elite Kazakh amateurs Sultan Zaurbek and Azhbenov Nurtas return to the scenes of their professional debuts having cruised to victories on MTK Global’s October card. Both will hunt their maiden stoppages in the paid ranks.
Three more fighters are set to follow up promising debuts – welterweight Liam Wells, super-middleweight Jamal Akay and middleweight Donovan Mortlock – with the latter two having made their opening marks alongside Zaurbek and Azhbenov.
In addition, there are professional debuts for the promising pair of welterweight Alex Bellingham and super-welterweight James Hawley.
MARK HEFFRON ADMITS to being a little bemused over the apparent lack of enthusiasm amongst his middleweight rivals to step up and contest the British title against him.
The unbeaten knockout artist worked his way into mandatory position for a shot at the belt with a string of impressive victories and he was all set to take on the champion, Jason Welborn, who was fresh of a double over Tommy Langford.
The Manchester match-up was then aborted after purse bids had been won for Heffron to challenge for the title on the big Josh Warrington-Carl Frampton card on December 22.
It transpired that Welborn had understandably accepted a world title opportunity on December 1 against Jarrett Hurd on the undercard of Deontay Wilder-Tyson Fury, but the development was still a blow to the ambitious Heffron.
"I was pretty gutted that Welborn vacated the title, but obviously he has got a big opportunity," said the 21-0 man known as 'Kid Dynamite'. "I knew straight away that he had vacated to fight for the world title because my manager rang me, but I was still gutted although I understand it.
"I'm not really bothered that I won't be fighting a champion, I just want to fight for the British and it doesn't matter who I am fighting - as long as I win!"
Heffron will still fight for the coveted Lonsdale belt at the Manchester Arena if a contender steps up to the plate and accepts the challenge. However, at the moment, willing volunteers are not queuing up around the corner.
"We've had a few names thrown at us to fight for the vacant title and every name we have said yes to, but the people it has been offered to have come back and said they don't want the fight, so it is a bit hard work at the minute.
"I can't understand it, can I 'eck, because if someone offered me the chance to fight for the British title I would grab it with both hands, which I obviously have done anyway.
"Reece Cartwright got offered it and then came back not wanting it, but I don't know for what reason, while I think Tommy Langford was asked and he is moving up a weight.
"It has now got back to me about Conrad Cummings as well and he has not taken it either. I think he has got something else going on.
"I just need somebody to come forward and take the fight now.
"After that, Elliott Matthews is fighting for the Commonwealth soon, so if he wins that and I win the British then we can get it on next for both."