BRENDAN Irvine was made to wait at the National Stadium on Friday night, but the result was the same as the St Paul’s man held onto his flyweight title with a unanimous decision win over Thomas McCarthy.
The West Belfast man has been used to boxing in one of the early bouts on finals’ night, but the clock was ticking towards 10.30pm before he entered the ring, something he felt detracted from his performance.
He was being a little bit tough on himself as Irvine was in complete control throughout the three rounds that culminated in a 5-0 win, but he was clearly unhappy at how the night’s schedule played out.
“I only really got going in the last round,” he offered.
“It took me a while to get going, it's been a long night. I had been sitting in that changing room from about half six or so.
“My legs were like lead going into the ring. I didn't want to say anything to the coaches or that, but I felt like the night was never ending.
“I'm used to being one of the first fights so we had planned when to eat and that. It was hard because last week (before the semi-final) I had it spot on, but this week they were putting breaks in and not telling people. I had started my warm up... ah it was a nightmare to be honest.”
It did take the St Paul’s man until he end of the opening round to get into his groove, but when he did he was in total control, stiffening McCarthy’s legs with a left and right combination in the opening frame.
Into the second and a right hand wobbled the Corkonian who was forced into a standing count following what appeared to be a low blow with Irvine landing at will, his uppercut a big weapon on the night as he jolted his opponent’s head skywards on several occasions.
By the third it was clear who the winner was as Irvine continued to land solid blows at will, opening the round with a huge right hand and following up with an assault on the ropes that would see some professional bouts waved off, but McCarthy survived and saw he final bell. Still, this was not enough as the defending champion held onto his title with a bit to spare.
“I felt really comfortable. Credit to him, he's a lovely lad,” said Irvine after.
“I respect him, he's a nice fella, but I'm delighted to lift another Irish Senior title, not just for me, but for my club and my family. It's a great honour for me to be sitting here.
“All those kids from St Paul's club look up to me as a role model so it's great to give them something back down here.
“They love that, the buzz and getting to see what it's like on a big night. I'm just proud I could deliver.”
Establish Having boxed at the Olympic Games, fighting at the National Stadium on Friday was far from daunting for the Glencolin man who says he now wants to push on and establish himself as one of the leading lights on the world stage at 52kgs.
“There was a lad I boxed in the qualifiers to get to Rio (Daniel Asenov) who went on and won the world qualifier so it just shows the world qualifier and World Champions aren't far off each other, so it's just that level. I'm in the mix, so I need to keep performing.
“I'm still ranked at nine at light-flyweight in the world, but I'm looking to move on and want to progress at flyweight, so that's where I need to put down a marker.”
The increase in punching power was evident on the night and as Irvine continues to grow, it looks likely he will become an even bigger threat to his rivals according to his coach, Frankie McCourt.
“He is hitting a lot harder and he is maturing,” he agreed.
“Rio really came a year too early for him. He is still to grow into it (flyweight) and is probably a year or two away until he is a fully-matured flyweight.”