While Henry Coyle will be bidding to keep the WBF Light Middleweight title belt in Mayo when he takes on Elio Cotena at The Royal Theatre, Castlebar on Friday, August 12th local bragging rights will also be fiercely contested on the undercard when Michael “The Storm” Sweeney and John “The Warrior” Waldron clash in an all Mayo battle on the undercard.
It’s a must win fight for both men with the duo coming into this fight on the back of Irish title defeats. Ballyhaunis native Waldron lost his Light Heavyweight title to Ciaran Healy last November while Ballinrobe’s Sweeney missed out on the Cruiserweight title on a close points defeat to Ian Tims. The two local rivals traded verbal blows at last months press conference to announce the fight and both remain equally confident of the outcome when the talking stops at the first bell on Friday week.
Waldron who is now based in Castlerea in Co. Roscommon says he’s relishing the role of underdog going into the fight and is determined to prove the doubters wrong. “I know that some people have already written me off and said that it’s a formality and he will knock me out in a round or two but I love hearing that kid of stuff,” said Waldron.
“Sweeney suggested at the press conference that I wouldn’t turn up but you’d have to break both my legs for me not to step into that ring on August 12th. People are saying he’s the bigger guy, he’s had the better amateur career and is more experienced but all that just fires me up even more and will make it all the sweeter when I win.
“This is a huge opportunity for me. It’s only a few months ago that Sweeney was being lined up for a European Union title shot so once I beat him maybe it will put him on the scrap heap and put me in the frame for those kind of opportunities.I know it won’t be easy, I’m prepared for 8 tough hard rounds and I’ll be willing to get in the trenches and dig deep to get the win.”
The two men sparred extensively in the amateur ranks but neither man is reading too much into the time they have already shared in the ring. “We’ve sparred plenty of rounds and it’s always been good sparring,” revealed Waldron. “I remember one day in particular where we both dropped each other in a spar so if the fight is anything like that it will be worth watching.
“The last time we were in the ring together was at an outdoor exhibition in Claremorris around 6 years ago when we were both still amateurs but we haven’t sparred since. I think once we went pro we both knew that we’d clash somewhere down the line so that’s probably the reason why we stopped sparring.”
Sweeney who is now based in Galway had his own reflections on those sparring sessions. “When we were amateurs John was only just up the road from me in Ballyhaunis so we sparred constantly and we’ve easily done over a hundred rounds together down through the years. We’re vey familiar with each other and we know what makes each other tick.
“I know John has sparred with Ian Tims for this fight but if he thinks that will give him an edge over me then he’ll be disappointed. I’m a completely different fighter to Tims so I’m not sure what benefit sparring him would be to John, maybe he thinks that by sparring the guy who beat me that he will get inside my head or something but it won’t work. I know Tims was slagging me off and calling me “the light breeze” but we’ll see, its all about what happens on the night and I’m very confident about the fight.”
Sweeney has racked up some quality sparring partners of his own since turning professional in 2007 having travelled the world to share the ring with the likes of world heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko, former middleweight champ Arthur Abraham and former light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson with the most recent of those sessions being a stint at “Bad” Chad’s training camp earlier this year.
“It’s great experience sharing the ring with top fighters like that. I was in the U.S. sparring Chad Dawson before his last fight in May and he’s lined up to fight Bernard Hopkins now for the WBC Light Heavyweight title in October. I really enjoyed the stint over there and once I got back home from that it was straight into training again and I’ve been hard at it in the gym since then.”
Since his return from the U.S. Sweeney has been training with former World title challenger Sean Mannion at the Rosmuc native’s gym in the heart of the Connemara Gaeltacht and he’s been very happy with his preparations.
“We’ve had 3 guys in from the UK for sparring and I’ve been very happy with my form. I went away for a couple of weeks to Croatia as well last month just after the press conference for some warm weather training as well and the weight is spot on right now. I’m only 4 pounds over the weight with over a week to go and the way I’m training right now I feel I could make super middleweight.
Waldron though remains unimpressed. “As far as I’m concerned he can go where he wants to train but a boxing ring is a boxing ring no matter what part of the world your in whether it’s Croatia, Castlerea or Castlebar! He can spar with whoever he wants as far as well because once that bell rings you can’t bring Wladimir Klitschko, Chad Dawson or any of these other guys into the ring with you, it will be just me, him and the referee.
“I’m peaking at just the right time now and as long as I fight the way I know I can then I’m very confident about the result. I feel like I’m hitting harder than ever and when you put the work in you get the results out. If I’m honest I haven’t been doing that in some of my fights to date, particularly the last one against Ciaran Healy and when you cut corners in preparation you get found out in the ring. It was a hard lesson to learn but I’ve learned it.”
Having previously travelled to Dublin for training Waldron says he’s now happier basing himself closer to home. “Training couldn’t have gone any better for this fight. I’m based at home in Castlerea now, training out of the new boxing club there and it’s the perfect set up. I’m trained now by Finton Gylnn, we have been friends for years and grew up boxing together but once we go through the doors of the gym the friendship is put aside and he pushes me very, very hard in the gym. He’s been looking after my strength and conditioning as well and I’ve really put the work in for this fight so there will be no excuses from me afterwards.”
Despite all the verbal jabs between the two fighters Sweeney says that ultimately the two will resume their friendship after the fight. “John’s a nice lad and his family are a good boxing family like my own so I’m sure after the fight we’ll all have a laugh about it but until then I have to look at it as strictly business. I have big plans after this fight and I want to move on with my career so John Waldron is an obstacle that I need to get out of the way before I can move on.”
The Sweeney V Waldron clash is part of an exciting undercard at the Royal Theatre. The chief support bout features Dublin’s unbeaten Patrick Hyland as he bids to stretch his perfect record to 24 and 0 against Italy’s former European title challenger Fabrizio Trotta.
A second title fight on the bill will also hold huge appeal for Mayo fight fans with Westport’s unbeaten Finbarr “The Rock” Eade bidding to lift the Irish Super Featherweight title against London based southpaw Mickey Coveney. Another all Irish affair on the card will see Roscommon’s Darren Cruise look to extend his unbeaten record against Leeds based Belfast southpaw Lee Murtagh while the Hyland family will be hoping for a double celebration when former European title challenger, Paul Hyland joins his older brother Patrick on the card when he takes on Welsh opposition in the shape of Dai Davies.
Tickets for the August 12th event priced from €30, €40, €70 and €100 are on sale from the Royal Theatre Box Office on 0818 719 300, Ticketmaster.ie / 0818 719300 and the boxers on the bill.