Aside from the willingness to exchange brutal punches in a boxing ring, there are often out-of-ring nuances that a fighter provides to an inquisitive outsider that serve as a reminder of warrior-like psyche that is unique to prize fighters. Former Commonwealth Gold medalist and rising Irish prospect Paddy Gallagher (2-0) provides a good example, when discussing the intricacies of moving from amateur to professional ranks.
“People say it hurts much more with the headgear off and it’s much different, but I prefer it. With the headgear off I don't know whether I have a numb head or whatever but I didn't feel no problem”. Indeed, Gallagher feels he is tailor-made for the professional code, and now that he is unencumbered with ‘the nuisance’ of wearing headgear, he is keen to press ahead by targeting a domestic title by the close of the year.
Gallagher, who describes his style as ‘nice and tight, scrappy – in a good fighting way and entertaining’, will be in action tonight in the ‘Celtic Clash’ and faces Hungarian Jozsef Garai (4-13-1) at The Devenish in Belfast. Although a two-fight novice, Gallagher has enjoyed a successful amateur career since he first laced up his first pair of boxing gloves. Like a generation of fighters, Gallagher was first drawn to boxing as a result of the Rocky movies:
““I was watching Rocky 3, I love the film, watching Clubber Lang and I used to watch it on tape one time after another – it was brilliant. A mate of mine asked me if I wanted to go to a boxing gym, and I went and liked it.” Gallagher stuttered through the first few years of boxing, however by as he turned 16 he applied himself and started to reap the rewards”.
Gallagher whose boxing idols include Mike Tyson, Miguel Cotto and Roy Jones Jr, praises the many people who have helped him over the course of his aspiring boxing career, and particularly singles out his trainer, Gerard McManus and his family.
“There was loads of people (who have helped me). Gerard McManus – he was the one that (he didn't literally do it) but he more or less hit me a big slap across the head and told I could make something out of it, I could be doing things if I train hard. He was always there. He could always get the best out of me - which has worked for me brilliantly.”
“All of my family, like my younger brother and sister, they are only 11 and 14 and my big brother, big sister, mummy and daddy, my girlfriend – everybody – they have all been a very, very good support. Everything I do, it all ‘well done’, they are always at my fights and asking me how I am getting on, and anything I need, they will be there for me.”
Gallagher’s last amateur fight was a quarter-final loss to Jason Quigley in the All Irelands. Gallagher made his mark on the amateur code winning three Irish Titles and won Commonwealth Gold by beating England’s Callum Smith 11-6 in the final. However, the amateur prize that most alluded Gallagher, and the one that he craved, was to win an Ulster Seniors Title. Gallagher lost in four Ulster Senior Finals to Willie McLaughlin, Paddy Murphy and twice to Stephen Donnelly.
Before the transition to the pro ranks Gallagher took the chance to fight for Mumbai Fighters a the WSB at middleweight, where he had two fights.
“It was great. People say that it is like a stepping-stone to professional boxing because it is the closest thing. It was more or less pro boxing as it was over five three’s (three minute rounds), no headgear or vests and it was 10-9/10-8 point scoring. It was good to get a bit of experience, to go more rounds, different scoring and different style of fighting. So, before I even signed pro, I had got more or less two pro fights, which was a good thing.”
In the early hours of tomorrow morning, one of Gallagher’s favourite fighters, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez will try to become the first fighter to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr and the Belfast prospect jokes that the “ginger-Mexican looks like he’s from the Falls (Falls Road, Belfast)”.
Gallagher will be hoping to cap off an eventful summer that saw him become a father for the second time, with his partner giving birth to a baby boy in August – a baby brother for their daughter Amber, who will be two later this month. Boxing is Gallagher’s full time job, and his hunger to seize title opportunities before the end of the year ‘at the latest’, will no doubt be further spurred on by wanting to succeed for his young family.
The seven-fight Celtic Clash card in Belfast is co-promoted by Mark Dunlop and Boxing Ireland’s Leonard Gunning. Both promoters have matched their respective unbeaten big guns in the top of the bill fight - an intriguing Cruiserweight Celtic Nations Title fight between Declan Trainor (2-0) and Stephen ‘Block’ Reynolds (2-0). The other title fight on the bill is Daniel ‘Insane’ McShane v Zoltan Kovacs for the vacant International Masters (Bronze) Super Featherweight title. The card also features Joe Hillerby, Osin Fagan, John Hutchinson and unbeaten female boxer Christina McMahon – who is closing in on a world title fight.