Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Saudi battle with Mexican hitman Nunes could be next for Ireland’s 24th world champ Anthony Cacace

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TEN weeks of blood, sweat and tears in training paid off spectacularly as Anthony Cacace became Ireland’s 24th (see list below) world champion with a brilliant win over Joe Cordina on Saturday night.

Cacace sent the previously unbeaten Welshman down to the canvas in the third and kept up the pressure relentlessly until referee Bob Williams stepped in to save the pre-fight favourite from further punishment in the eighth.

It was an emphatic, superb victory for Cacace and without doubt one of the best wins for an Irish fighter overseas – and it almost didn’t happen. Cacace cornerman and long-term friend Michael Hawkins junior explained that a dispute over the next-day weigh-in rule could have seen the fight scuppered.

The official weigh-in was on Friday and Cacace’s camp insisted that Cordina abided by the IBF’s next-day weigh-in rule which involves a second weigh-in on the morning of the fight to ensure that neither fighter is more than 10lbs over the weight limit (in this case 130lbs).

Cordina’s team claimed that rule didn’t apply because it was a unification fight (for the IBF and IBO titles) but the Belfast team stuck to their guns and, after meetings and the input of solicitors, the next-day weigh-in rule was abided by.

“We had to push for Cordina to do it,” Hawkins explained.

“The fight was nearly cancelled. At the rules meeting Cordina’s team said that because it was a unification fight they didn’t have to stick with the rule but I thought it was the difference between winning and losing and we needed to push for it.

“There was murder over it, during the rules meeting solicitors came in and it went back and forward and we eventually got it and Cordina had to weigh-in (on the day of the fight) which was a big plus on our side because Anto was bang-on the weight all week.

“We won the argument and Cordina and Anto had to do the next-day weigh-in – if he hadn’t had to do that who knows what size he would have been going into the ring on Saturday night? So everything worked out, they played to play their tricks and it didn’t work out for them even though they tried everything.”

Before the fight, Cordina was rumoured to have out-grown super-featherweight and be on the verge of a move up to lightweight. Up against a fully-fledged super-feather in Cacace, he struggled to cope with his power and energy and was dominated and well beaten in his third defence of the title.

“It was some night – amazing,” said Hawkins.

“It was all set up for Cordina to win, this was supposed to be a handy win for him. It was all set up for Cordina and Anto was the ‘B’ side the whole way through fight week but it couldn’t have gone any better.

“Everything just went to plan and the plan was to knock him out – the plan was to stop him and everything we had been planning worked. Anto put it together and put all the effort in.

“He had 10 solid weeks of training and he didn’t miss one day. On Sundays he was out running – you’re meant to take a rest day but not one day out of 10 weeks did he miss training. He stuck to the plan, he stuck to everything because he knew he had the chance to change his life and he did that.

New IBF super-featherweight world title holder Anthony Cacace  is welcomed home at Belfast City Airport on Monday.
The Belfast fighter pulled off a huge upset in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, handing Cordina his first professional loss on the undercard of Oleksandr Usyk's heavyweight unification victory over Tyson Fury.
PICTURE COLM LENAGHAN
Anthony Cacace and his team – including Michael Hawkins senior and junior – are welcomed home at Belfast City Airport on Monday by former world champion Ryan Burnett and welterweight contender and long-term friend Tyrone McKenna. Picture: Colm Lenaghan

“We’ve been best friends since he was 16 so I’ve been there, not even as a coach, more as a friend. I’ve been at every one of his fights to support him.

“It was great to have my dad there in the corner as well and Barry O’Neill as well – it was three Holy Trinity coaches. Anto started his career at (Oliver) Plunkett and joined us when he was 16 and to have the Holy Trinity boys there when he won the world title was amazing.”

The word is that the Cacace team intend to return to Saudi – possibly in September – to defend the IBF belt, possibly against the fearsome Mexican hitter Eduardo Nunes whose 26 victories have all come by knockout. Nunes is the mandatory challenger for the IBF title. There has also been talk of a unification clash with WBC champion O’Shaquie Foster.

“Let’s enjoy this one first,” said Hawkins.

“He’s the first-ever Irish super-featherweight world champion and he won it on the biggest card of the year.

“How Anto has stayed in boxing I don’t know because he has always said it’s a love-hate relationship with it. He has had ups and downs but he has stuck it out and nobody deserves it more and there isn’t a nicer guy – not even in boxing, there just isn’t a nicer guy – than he is. He deserves this and he keeps himself to himself, he doesn’t like the social media, the publicity. Everybody was talking about getting a homecoming organised but he said: ‘No – don’t be doing anything like that’.”

What a night. New IBF World champion Carl Frampton celebrates after beating Kiko Martinez. Pic Ann McManus.
What a night. New IBF World champion Carl Frampton celebrates after beating Kiko Martinez. Pic Ann McManus.

THE seventh from Belfast and the ninth from county Antrim, Anthony Cacace became the 24th Irish fighter to win one of the recognised major world titles (he already held the IBO belt) when he beat Joe Cordina in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.

The first ever Irish professional world champion was ‘Nonpareil’ (unbeatable) Jack Dempsey who was born in Curragh, county Kildare on December 15, 1862.

Dempsey (not to be confused with the legendary US heavyweight champion of the same name) won the middleweight title on July 30, 1884, by defeating George Fulljames in New York.

Almost 140 years’ later, Cacace became the first Irish fighter to win a super-featherweight world title.

Irish world champions:

Ryan Burnett (bantam), Anthony Cacace (super-feather), Johnny Caldwell (bantam), Steve Collins (middle & super-middle), Nonpareil Jack Dempsey (middle), TJ Doheny (super-bantam), Bernard Dunne (super-bantam), Carl Frampton (super-bantam and feather), George Gardner (light-heavy), Deirdre Gogarty (feather), Andy Lee (middle), Eamonn Loughran (welter), Brian Magee (super-middle), Peter Maher (heavy), Dave McAuley (fly), Jack McAuliffe (light), Wayne McCullough (bantam), Barry McGuigan (feather), Jimmy McLarnin (welter), Mike McTigue (light-heavy), Rinty Monaghan (fly), Tom Sharkey (heavy), Dave Sullivan (feather), Katie Taylor (light & super-light)

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