Hickey ready to de­fend his ti­tle

BOX­ING GRANGE­CON FIGHTER IN LIGHT­WEIGHT FI­NAL

Bray People - - Bray Sport - Kevin BYRNE

ROSS HICKEY is primed for his first de­fence of his Ir­ish light­weight ti­tle when he takes on Eric Dono­van this Fri­day night in Dublin.

Grancecon club­man Hickey is the cur­rent belt holder but Athy’s three­time na­tional cham­pion will be ea­ger to reach the top again.

The pair met in a 57Kg de­cider back in 2007 with Dono­van cruis­ing to a 20-6 win; how­ever Hickey had his re­venge in the 60Kg semi-fi­nal last year.

The 22-year-old - who won a Euro­pean bronze medal in Liver­pool in Novem­ber - edged a count­back de­ci­sion 1513.

And com­ing up to their lat­est bat­tle, Hickey says: Bring it on.

En­joy­ing a 10-5 win over Ciarán Bates in the last four on Fri­day, Hickey’s class was on full show as he danced away from his op­po­nent who ob­vi­ously fan­cied a brawl. Not for Hickey, though, whose coun­ter­punch­ing from the ropes and vi­cious hooks were too much for his Dublin op­po­nent.

He said: ‘It’s been a great year and hope­fully it’ll last. It’s good to get rid of the cob­webs be­cause I felt a bit rusty in there.

‘My fight was al­right at times. I felt a bit stiff and couldn’t get my range. He was get­ting in tight with his head and try­ing to rough me up a bit. Hope­fully all goes well and I’m cham­pion again next Fri­day night. It came from the blue last year be­cause I was only back train­ing but this year I’m fly­ing in there, spar­ring is go­ing great too. It’s bring­ing me on a lot.’

Bruiser, bat­tler, stylist - Hickey doesn’t care how Dono­van ap­proaches the fight as long as he wins.

‘I’ll take any style,’ he added. ‘I’m not wor­ried. I’ll box any way to do the job.’

Dono­van’s pas­sage to the show­down was equally im­pres­sive, by­pass­ing World Youth gold medal­list Ray Moylette to book his ticket. It was a close con­test, the Athy man pre­vail­ing 8-7 af­ter the Mayo young­ster launched a fi­nal-round come­back.

The fi­nal is set to be a cracker with both Dono­van and Hickey seem­ingly on form.

Hickey, pick­ing shots from nowhere, could have beaten Bates by a larger mar­gin had some of his un­scored up­per­cuts - which nearly dropped his op­po­nent - been added to his score­sheet.

Hickey’s club­mate De­nis Ho­gan faced the chal­lenge of his life against Kenny Egan in his light-heavy­weight semi-fi­nal.

It was Egan’s first com­pet­i­tive out­ing since he took sil­ver for Ire­land at the Bei­jing Olympics when many felt he had a right to the gold.

Ho­gan made a valiant stab at it and least trou­bled the score­board - Egan had con­fi­dently stated his hope to go through the Cham­pi­onships with an un­blem­ished record.

But un­for­tu­nately for the na­tional 81Kg in­ter­me­di­ate champ, he could not fol­low best friend Hickey’s lead as the Neil­stown man earned a 16-3 win on Fri­day.

The fol­low­ing evening, Ark­low star Fer­gal Red­mond could not deny an all-Done­gal wel­ter­weight fi­nal as he fell to Cathal McCauley of Dun­gloe.

He goes through to meet Wil­lie McLough­lin of Il­lies GG - who caused the big­gest up­set of the week­end, beat­ing Roy Shea­han of Athy on Fri­day night 7-5.

Hickey told of the pride he took from Ho­gan’s per­for­mance against Egan, who could be­come the first man ev­ery to win nine se­nior ti­tles in a row in the IABA’s his­tory if he wins on Fri­day.

Hickey said: ‘It was the first time we’ve had two lads in the se­niors, it’s great for the club. He did bril­liant in against Kenny Egan tonight, re­ally well - he put it up to him. We’re best friends and al­ways train­ing to­gether so I’m de­lighted for him. He won the In­ter­me­di­ates this year and he did so well against Egan - and you can’t get any bet­ter than him.’

Ross Hickey, Grange­con Box­ing Club (red) in action against Ciarán Bates, St. Mary’s Dublin in the 57kgs semi-fi­nal at the Na­tional Sta­dium.

De­nis Ho­gan of Grange­con Box­ing Club (blue) in action against Kenneth Egan, Neil­stown Box­ing Club in the 75 kg semi-fi­nal.

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