One of the most anticipated performers on Irish Ropes’ Erin Go Brawl II undercard will be light welterweight Dean “Irish Lightning” Byrne (10-0, 4 KOs), who will be making his New York debut on March 16 at the WaMu Theater in Madison Square Garden.
With marquee names Andy Lee (16-1, 13 KOs) taking on Antwun Echols (31-9-4, 27 KOs) in the headliner and Wayne McCullough (27-7, 18 KOs) taking on Mexican super bantamweight Alex “El Diablo” Becerra (19-7, 18 KOs) in the 10 round co-feature, many fans will be keen to see the Freddie Roach–trained Byrne in the squared circle for the scheduled eight-round contest a catchweight of 142 pounds.
The Crumlin, Co. Dublin native, whose opponent has yet to be named, has had a short but extremely varied professional boxing career. After a successful amateur career during which he won the intermediate light welterweight title and represented Ireland, Byrne was spotted by respected Aussie trainer Johnny Lewis fighting for an Irish selection against an Australian selection.
Byrne, who is a cousin of Australia-based Irish pro Paul Griffin, subsequently moved to Sydney to train with Lewis (who in his career has trained Kostya Tszyu and Jeff Fenech) and made his pro debut in February 2006. Just four fights later he became Australian light welterweight champion after soundly beating the then undefeated Chris McMullen over ten rounds. After defending the title once he decided that he had gone as far as he could Down Under and upped sticks to Hollywood. Byrne had what amounted to a trial in Roach’s Wild Card Gym where he sparred, ironically enough, rugged Aussie lightweight Michael Katsidis.
The 24-year-old did enough to impress Roach and has been with the gym ever since, making his U.S. debut in May 2008 and rattling off three wins thereafter, his last coming on December 20 when he tko’ed Francisco Rios Gil in the fourth round.
“I came here to get more experience and to better myself,” Byrne told the Irish Voice Monday. Working with the three-time trainer of the year Roach (who has also trained Irish fighters Steve Collins and Wayne McCullough over the years) has had a huge effect on him.
“I have a lot more confidence now. I was in Australia and in my six fights there I had one knockout, but since I’ve come here (to the States) I’ve had a lot of knockouts. I have been sitting down on my shots and not looking for the big shot, but letting it come. It has worked out really well.”
Though there are not so many Irish in Hollywood as there were in Sydney, Byrne is relishing the chance to come fight in the Big Apple.
“I’ve been sparring with Amir (Khan) and Ray Beltran out of the gym so the camp has been going good. I’m in shape and I am looking forward to the fight,” said Byrne. “I’m looking forward to getting to New York because I love the Irish fans and I love their support.”
Roach is happy with how his charge is developing. “He’s a tough kid who is a really good fighter but doesn’t know it yet. He’s learning to sit-down on his punches and has had two knockouts since he’s been with me,” Roach said of Byrne. “Dean’s learned a lot sparring with Manny (Pacquiao), Amir (Khan) and the others. He’s a lot of fun to watch, very exciting and clever for a young man. Early in his career he fought 10 rounds for the Australian title, so he already has that experience. He’s one of my best prospects.”
Roach will be in Manchester with Amir Khan on March 14, but Byrne added the trainer hopes to get a flight to New York straight after the Khan/Barrera fight to be at the Garden on March 16.
Fellow Dubliner super featherweight Eddie Hyland (11-1, 3 KOs), who had a sound win over Gustavo Dailey on December 4, will take on Edward Valdez (3-6) from Brooklyn in a six rounder. Also in scheduled six round contests are Limerick Light heavyweight Jamie Power (4-0), who will fight Reggie la Crete (4-0-2) and Philadelphia-based Galweigan Simon O’Donnell (8-1,5 KOs).
Irish American super featherweight Danny McDermott, who beat Ricardo Rosas on February 19, is hoping to bolster his record with another win on St. Patrick’s Eve. “I’m looking forward to being back at the Garden in front of all of the Irish fans,” said the Jersey City native via e-mail.
McDermott (7-1-1), who traces his roots to counties Mayo and Donegal, will fight in a six rounder against a yet to be named opponent. Another Irish-American, light welterweight Danny O’Connor, moved to 4-0 when he won a majority decision over Jamar Saunders (2-2-1, 1 KO) on ESPN Friday Night Fights last week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida. O’Connor is also fighting on the Erin Go Brawl undercard in a four round contest and will hope to build up his fan base in New York with another good performance.
An Irish fighter from the past will be honored on the night. Galway native Sean Mannion (42-14-1, 14 KOs), who fought Mike McCallum at the Garden 25 years ago for the WBA light middleweight title, will receive a special mention.
Tickets for Erin Go Brawl II are available from all usual outlets, or visit www.ticketmaster.com or www.thegarden.com.
In other news, another Irish fighter will be in action in England this weekend. Darren Sutherland (1-0) will have his second pro fight in Wigan against Siarhei Navarka (6-22) in a scheduled six round fight.
In amateur news, a visiting team from the U.S. was defeated on both legs by their Irish counterparts 9-3 at the National Stadium and 8-2 in Athy, Co. Kildare.
However, the big story emanating from Ireland is that Olympic silver medalist Kenny Egan was a no-show at the Stadium last Friday and is believed to have left the country. IABA officials and his mother have no idea as to where he has gone.