Anthony Cacace v Damian Wrzesinski
(IBO super-featherweight title, SSE Arena, Saturday, live on BT Sport)
OVER eight years have passed since Anthony Cacace stepped into a Belfast ring. Then, it was an eight-rounder against Santiago Bustos on the undercard of Carl Frampton vs Chris Avalos at the SSE Arena in February 2015, but on Saturday, he will pass through the ropes at the same venue as defending IBO super-featherweight champion.

In the interim, the Andersonstown man has had many ups and downs, changes behind the scenes and more disappointments than felt possible.

Vastly talented, he was not getting the opportunities because who would want to risk it against a power-punching, skilled southpaw?

He earned a crack at Martin J Ward in 2017 for the British and Commonwealth titles but came up narrowly short - his sole defeat in a 21-fight career - pushing him straight to the back of the queue, but he rebuilt and claimed the British title with a win over Sam Bowen and then after a defence, claimed the IBO title over Michael Magnesi last September.

All those away days built something of an immunity from the hassles of travelling and indeed, it became part of the fight week ritual, so boxing back at home is almost strange.

“I’m buzzing to be back in Belfast doing my thing,” he confirmed.

“It actually feels a bit weird. Everything about it: fighting at home, not getting ready to fly somewhere else, it’s all a bit different.

“It’s not as easy as you’d think as the whole fight week buzz when you fly away and get the jitters isn’t there. Instead, it’s all happening at home and just feels different. But it’s great as all my family and friends can be there this time.”

Standing in the opposite corner on Saturday will be Poland’s Damian Wrzesinski.
The 35-year-old Poznan native moved into position when claiming the IBO’s Continental title last time out and arrives in Belfast with a healthy looking 26-2-2.

Wrzesinski has been vocal in his desire to earn a shot at Cacace and he gets his wish this weekend, so it would be expected he will arrive in town with a determination to throw everything he has at the Belfast man, yet it would go against the grain from his usual approach.

“He was mailing me after he won the (IBO) International belt,” Cacace confirmed.

“He’s good at what he does, can be very awkward and a lot more negative than most of my former opponents, so I’m expecting a very hard fight.

“He’s not going to be like Sam Bowen or (Michael) Magnesi. I think he will come and he’s going to have to as this is his big opportunity, but I’m not really sure what to expect in all honesty.”

In contrast to the champion, Wrzesinski has fought almost exclusively in his homeland with just two of his 30 bouts taking place outside of Poland.

Whether he is prepared for the cauldron of a packed-out SSE Arena and also Cacace who is without doubt the toughest challenge he will have faced remains to be seen.
Certainly, ‘The Apache’ is not taking the visitor lightly and having worked so hard to get his career on track, he is in no mood to slip up.

A good win in front of the BT Sport cameras will certainly boost his profile and potentially open the door to some big opportunities and paydays, so he has been working diligently in expectation of the best Damian Wrzesinski there has been.

He is ready to deliver and although making no bold predictions, should rightly feel confident he will get the job done on a huge night for boxing in the city.

“I know that every fight from here is going to be tough, whether it’s a come-forward style or awkward,” he accepts.

“He (Wrzesinski) has 26 wins, two losses and two draws - 30 fights in total so he has plenty of experience and is clearly doing something right.

“I don’t overlook anything and will always look at the positives in what he does, rather than the negatives, so I know I just need to get myself in good order and that’s the most important thing.

“He hasn’t done 12 rounds before and I’m not sure he’s been hit as hard as I hit, so there will be a few new things coming his way. I think judging by my last couple of opponents, he is going to bring something different to the table, so we’ll just see how it pans out.

“It’s in God’s hands, so we just have to hope and pray it all goes well.”