There will be a Battle of the Atlantic tonight (Friday) in the Titanic Ballroom as nine young fighters from Northern Ireland take on opponents from ‘across the pond’.
The Belfast Beltway Boxing project, now in its ninth year, has given young boxers from the east coast of the USA and Northern Ireland the opportunity to test their pugilistic skills and this latest boxing classic promises to entertain the ballroom which will be packed with local sports stars, politicians and dignitaries.
The Belfast-Beltway Boxing Project offers an annual exchange programme that bridges the gaps between cultures and provides a unique opportunity for children and teenagers, many of whom have never left their own neighbourhoods, to develop self-respect and respect for others, expand their horizons, experience international athletic competition and learn about the lives of their peers in other cultures.
Every spring a cross-community team of youth boxers from Northern Ireland travels to Washington D.C. for a week, participating in cultural and educational tours, training at local gyms, culminating in The Belfast-Beltway Boxing Classic, a sit-down dinner with ten rounds of amateur boxing.
In November the D.C. team come to Belfast for an equivalent program.
Since arriving in Northern Ireland on Tuesday the American boxers have enjoyed a training session with Barry McGuigan as well as sessions at Holy Trinity, Belfast and Scorpion boxing Club, Ballymoney as they aim to reverse the defeat they suffered at the hands of the Northern Ireland fighters last year.
Alan ‘Spike’ Martin, who mentors the Northern Irish fighters along with Brendan Lowe commented about Friday’s fight night.
“There’s a really competitive atmosphere amongst the lads and there is no doubt there will be some great bouts on the cards,” he said.
“We have lads from both sides of the community - from Coleraine, Belfast, Gilford, Downpatrick and Bangor and every year we try to use boxers from different clubs across the Province.
“The USA team is quite a strong one. A few of the Americans have changed as some of their lads are going through Olympic trials for Rio 2016, so Brendan and myself had to go back to the drawing board to re-match.
“On our team we have Sean Duffy who boxed at the Commonwealth Games and got a bronze medal. Sean is our team Captain. We also have a light heavyweight Tom Kearney from Crumlin.
“He just won the Ulster Intermediate Championship so his fight will be another one well worth watching.
“We have young Matty Boreland from Coleraine fighting. Matty has improved big time and this will be a good test for him.
“We also have a young lad Barry McReynolds from Holy Trinity and he is very, very good. He boxed in Belfast last year and was very impressive.
“Dylan Duffy from Pegasus, Downpatrick is Irish champion and I think he is an outstanding prospect. He is Irish Under-18 champion and an exceptional talent.
“There will definitely be some good bouts tonight and anyone coming along certainly won’t be disappointed.
“The first fight of the night will be female bout with the girls coming from Emerald ABC and Eastside BC, Belfast and then the main contest will get underway.”
After a tough training session at Scorpion Boxing Club in Ballymoney earlier this week, Matty Boreland had the opportunity to weight up his opposition.
“Their team look very good but we have trained hard and we are well prepared,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to getting into the ring tonight. It’s great to be part of the Belfast Beltway Project.
“Getting the chance to fight in the Titanic Ballroom and the chance to travel to America next year is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
The Belfast Beltway Classic gets underway at the Titanic Ballroom at 7pm