Patrick Hyland (27-0) moved out to New York 15 months ago with his fiancé Lorna to join ranks with Nicole Polizzi (better known as ‘Snooki’ from Jersey Shore) from Team Snooki and Final Round Promotions.
It was a surprise move by Hyland and one that was fraught with risk, but, no matter what happens on Saturday night, it has proved to be a very successful move.
On Saturday night, Hyland will be performing in his fourth US fight this year, and more importantly will be punching a pathway to his version of the American dream when he challenges hot prospect, Javier Fortuna for the interim WBA featherweight title on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Marquez bill, in the fight capital of the world, Las Vegas.
Hyland has based his training in Kingston, upstate New York under the watch of former two-time world champion, Tracey Patterson at Mac Fitness gym. Hyland has been sparring many up and coming fighters and has visited top New York gyms such as Gleeson’s and Trinity Boxing Gym.
“I’ve been training really hard for the last ten weeks, working on strength and conditioning, running, everything that I need to be involved in, I have been doing in training. I have got in a lot of rounds with southpaws”.
Regarding his experiences with sparring partner in the US, Hyland said: “They are a very different kind of fighter. They are very fast, they are very cocky.”
So, what does it feel to be in Las Vegas with only a few days until he boxes on the biggest stage of all? “It's a once-in-a-lifetime feeling. I have to pinch myself a few times. Like today I was down in the lobby and Marquez and Pacquiao came in and it was absolutely jam-packed. I was just like ‘wow – I am on the undercard of these boys' show’ and I am being shown live on HBO boxing – it is just an unbelievable feeling.”
When Hyland was first offered the opportunity to fight on the Marquez-Pacquiao card, he did not need to think twice: “I accepted it straight away when they said when it was, what show it was and the opponent. I was over the moon. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fight on the under card of Manny Pacquiao-Marquez and to fight one of the best featherweights in the world for the WBA interim title. To myself I said ‘alright you want to prove yourself, to be the best you have to fight the best and be on the best card possible – that's what I am doing now. I couldn't believe it, I am taking it – I want this fight”.
Top Rank got in touch with Final Round Promotions/Team Snooki and together with manager, Brian Peters, they handled the negotiations. “I have had three tough, durable fights this year and Top Rank have been impressed with me – I think that’s how it all came about, with them getting in contact,” reflected Hyland.
Since arriving in Las Vegas, last Sunday, Patrick Hyland has been training at Pat Barry’s Gym in Las Vegas, and has a busy week ahead with various media commitments fitted around the unbeaten Dubliner’s gym time. The hardships of making the transatlantic move has been counter-balanced with the desire to succeed at the highest level, as Hyland explained: “It has been a bit of a change, a bit of hardship leaving all the family behind, but you have got to do these things if you want to become a champion.
“It has also helped with the fame that Nicole (from Jersey Shore) has helped in getting my name out there. Everyone is like ‘What’s this Team Snooki boxing and who is this Irish fighter?’ and people have been coming out to watch me fight.”
Hyland has been working on improving his game over the past year, particularly improving his hand speed and combination punching . “There has not been too much changes to my style. There has been a better quality of sparring and Tracy has been working on my hand speed and combination punches – you know partly like the American style. There hasn't been much change in my style, I have made myself a more determined fighter and being over here away from everyone, I have not been on a vacation – I have been training really hard and been waiting for an opportunity like this to come along. It’s paid off nicely for me.”
Fortuna has got a reputation as an explosive puncher, but he can sometimes look a bit reckless in his work, I suggest. “Yeah, sometimes he is very reckless, he tries to blow the guy out of there in the first few rounds and he leaves himself open and that's stuff that I have been working on.
"He is an explosive lefty and a big puncher and apparently is supposed to be the next big thing in boxing over in the States. I suppose a few of the other featherweight champions are avoiding him because he is a lefty with hand speed and power. But I jumped at it. He is only one guy in front of me, if you work hard enough you can beat anybody.”
As an underdog in a big fight against a hot prospect like Fortuna, Hyland elaborated on a special ingredient has he believes will make him a champion – self-belief: “You put in all of the hardship in the gym and deep down you have to have the heart as well, to believe in yourself and to believe that you can become the champion and that's why when I took this fight I believe my will, will take over (and compensate for any deficit in skills).”
Hyland is in Vegas with his father and on Saturday night he will have friends, fiancé and cousins at the fight to provide his support when he enters the ring to his familiar ring walk music of ‘Thunderstruck’ by ACDC. Fight fans from both sides of the Atlantic will discover if Dubliner, Patrick Hyland, really can pull off the unexpected and seize his American dream.