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Fitzpatrick and Webb ready for war

Joe Fitzpatrick (pictured) and Stephen Webb are both confident in Saturday’s West Belfast derby at The Devenish Joe Fitzpatrick (pictured) and Stephen Webb are both confident in Saturday’s West Belfast derby at The Devenish
By David Mohan

IT is a fight that has captured the imagination locally as lightweight rivals, Joe Fitzpatrick and Stephen Webb tangle at The Devenish on Saturday night in the latest installment of Boxing Ireland Promotions’ ‘Celtic Clash’ series.

This is a meeting between Divis and St James’, with the amateur boxing rivalry of Immaculata and Holy Trinity also to the fore as both aim to score a win that holds huge bragging rights and the opportunity to push on.

Fitzpatrick, a Commonwealth Games silver medalist, has been out of the ring since October 2017 having fallen away from the sport, but had amassed a record of 8-0 and looked impressive on each occasion, so will be keen to pick up where he left off.

Webb is something of a novice pro with his sole fight and win coming back in December after a frustrating 2018 that saw numerous fights fall through.

Both will feel this is a massive opportunity to grab the limelight and for Fitzpatrick, it is also the chance to pay tribute to his late father and coach, Gerry, who passed away in March and he is determined to deliver a performance he would have been proud of.

“I haven’t felt this good since the Commonwealth Games,” says the Immaculata-based southpaw.

“After my daddy died, that was a big shock to everyone, but he’s with me every step of the way.

“Things will never be the same around the club again and in my corner. I know what my daddy wanted out of me and I’m going to give him that. It’s been hard for everyone, but you try your best to get on with it.

“My daddy knew the ability I have, so it’s just about getting in there and showcasing it. I’m not going to lie to people, but I was on the verge of retirement.”

‘The Dragon’ has not been shy in declaring this is going to be a devastating win on Saturday, claiming Webb will be forced into journeyman mode in the future given the level of performance he is ready to produce.

The long absence from the ring won’t be a factor in his opinion and he is not bothered if his pre-fight comments have upset his rival.

“This is a local derby – Divis v St James’ – and there has been so much history over the year with the football and stuff,” he stressed.

“I just really want to beat him – simple as that. He is being beat on the night and I’m going to prove it.

“I’m the better boxer; the stronger person; fitter and just have all the advantages. I’m going to turn him into a journeyman and I don’t care if he thinks that’s disrespectful.”

Fitzpatrick’s comments have stung Webb who believes he is set to make Fitzpatrick eat his words.

The former Holy Trinity amateur is also a southpaw, so this fight could see a little bit of feeling out in the early stages, but now training by John Breen and having sparred James Tennyson, Feargal McCrory and Marco McCullough in camp, he believes he is ready to blast his way into the lightweight mix.

“I thought what he said was very disrespectful and everything he says is ammunition for the night,” he warned.

“All I’ve said is that when I beat him, I don’t want him to go away and hang up his gloves. I want him to rebuild, come back and do well in the sport because he is a quality fighter.

“I was a late starter in boxing and people know I wasn’t giving it 100 per cent, but over the last year I’ve given it everything and I’m ready for whatever he has.”

While defeat for either man will not spell the end, it will certainly entail a period of rebuilding, but worst of all is losing to a local rival.

There has been needle in the build-up and the sub-plots around this fight ought to ensure an electric atmosphere and Webb knows he must get the win with so much West Belfast pride at stake: “It’s Divis and St James’ and there’s wee things around that like his amateur club, Immaculata and mine, Holy Trinity are big rivals and then the two football teams are big rivals, so there’s a lot at stake here.”

The 11-fight card will also feature Conor Doherty and popular North Belfast man, Owen O’Neill who make debuts as-well-as Conor Cooke and the returning Ciaran McVarnock.

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