Barry McGuigan: “The fighters have to be in exciting fights”

Barry McGuigan: “The fighters have to be in exciting fights”

By Dewi Powell: International Hall of Fame entrant Barry McGuigan has brought big time boxing back to Wales but he says it’s up to the fighters to keep it here.

The former featherweight world champion is the face of Cyclone Promotions, who are staging a show at the new multi-million Ice Arena Wales in Cardiff Bay on 14 May.

Six Welshmen, including Olympian Andrew Selby and Cruiserweight contender Craig Kennedy, are so far confirmed for the undercard but they have only fought in Cardiff a collective three times. It would take an exciting night in three weeks’ time to be sure of more dates in the capital city, according to McGuigan.

He said: “Everyone needs to play a part. The audience is a part of it, the fighters are and they have to be in exciting fights. If their opponents aren’t up for it, they have to go and get them in it. If they aren’t in exciting fights, the channel won’t come back.

“We have the ability to go many different places but there’s so much talent here, we want to come back on a regular basis. The game is thriving and I think Wales is right for the market again. It’s just about getting the right fights and putting them on.

“We haven’t had a big fight in Wales really since Nathan Cleverly lost to Sergey Kovalev and we need to have them. This place is a hot bed for talent. Wales is brimming with talent.”

The show will be headlined by IBF world bantamweight belt-holder Lee Haskins (32-3, 14KO), who faces once-beaten contender Ivan Morales (29-1, 17KO), brother of Mexican legend Erik. Bristol’s maverick switch-hitter has often been a victim of his unconventional style and snubbed by broadcasters.

However, Haskins produced an eye-catching sixth round knockout of Japan’s Ryosuke Iwasa to thrill viewers of Channel 5 in 2015 and capture the interim title. In the first defence of the belt won outside of the ring, when Randy Caballero failed to make weight in November, McGuigan has faith that the 32-year-old will be equally as electric in his next encounter as he was against Iwasa.

He said: “We believe Haskins is an undervalued fighter, we’ve not seen him enough. He’s a spectacular kid who, if you match him with the right opponents, can be in spectacular fights.

“Ivan Morales comes with that sort of Mexican boxing dynasty. He’s the brother of a legendary four-weight world champion and he [Erik] will be there and in his corner.”

Ireland’s McGuigan became a household name and cross over star during the 1980s, reaching the pinnacle of the sport with more than 18 million people watching on BBC. Knowing the importance of reaching the mass-market, McGuigan believes in Wales’ ability to retain the attention of casual sport fans with the backing of terrestrial broadcaster Channel 5.

He said: “A lot of these kids only need a nudge to get a bit of momentum and I really think this place has the potential to be massive. We want to come back here regularly. What we’re doing here, it’s all about building relationships. We’ve signed with Channel 5, we have a number of promotions by the end of the year and some of them can be here.

“We have to make 50/50 fights and give the audience what they’ll be excited about. This is a brilliant arena, it’s my first time here. My family came down to look at the place and we all think this is the start of a lot of shows here but people have to be excited to come back.”

Image by Huw Fairclough.

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