DUBLIN, Ireland — Swollen shut, Oisin Fagan's left eye was the approximate size and color of a 4-ball, and blood still trickled from his split lower lip when referee Mickey Vann summoned him and Eddie Hyland to the center of the ring for the reading of the verdict. When he heard ring announcer Harry McGavock say, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a majority decision…”, Oisin's first thought was “Here we go again.”
At that point a startled Mel Christle, the president of the Boxing Union of Ireland, seized the scorecards from McGavock before the malapropism-prone announcer could do any further damage. A quick glance was all he needed to know that it hadn't been a majority decision at all, but a unanimous one in Hyland's favor, and in short order the winner was being wrapped in a new belt signifying that he had just won one of those IBF intergalactic titles that don't mean much at all, even to the people who own them.
Saturday night was a coming-out party for the Hyland clan of the Dublin suburb of Tallaght. On an evening when any public gathering faced stiff competition from the sold-out U2 concert across town at 80,000-seat Croke Park, paterfamilias Paddy Hyland, who with his partners own Golden Cobra Management, the promoters of the show, put a respectable crowd into Ireland's National Basketball Arena. And Paddy's trio of fighting sons, owners of the Irish 122, 126, and 130-pound titles, went three for three on a night that saw two of them add IBF “International” (or, as McGavock put it, “the famous IBF International Championship of the world!”) titles to the family trophy case.
In the main event, 29 year-old Eddie Hyland probably spent the better part of 12 rounds wondering why Dad couldn't have found a softer touch than his Dublin neighbor Fagan for this exercise, which proved to be a nonstop war between two action fighters. Fagan, a onetime Oklahoma schoolteacher, had fought just once since breaking his leg in the course of last year's loss to Amir Khan in London. He brought a record of 23-6 to the fight, but a closer examination of his record would reveal that other than Khan, his only losses in the past five years were both split decisions — to Paul Spadafora, an undefeated former champion, and to Verquan Kimbrough.
Fagan's story: He came to the United States on a soccer scholarship, and was trying to earn enough money for a plane ticket home when he agreed to fight in a four-rounder at the AMC Flea Market in Oklahoma City, and surprised everyone, including himself, by knocking out his opponent. That was six years ago. He has engaged in 30 pro fights since, and while he won most of them, he never bothered with learning much in the way of defense along the way. His modus operandus is, rather, to throw a nonstop barrage of punches and hope for the best. Usually that's been good enough. Sometimes it isn't.
That the IBF would sanction a bout, even for an intergalactic title, between two boxers born in the same Dublin neighborhood, would have seemed curious enough. There was also the fact that Fagan had never — not once in 29 previous outings — ever fought as a junior lightweight, but the matchmaker's prescience was rewarded when this one turned out to be a truly terrific fight nonetheless.
Fagan had forecast going in, “I don't think Eddie will be able to stand up to constant pressure for 12 rounds.” He was only marginally correct. Eddie didn't like it much, but in the end he did stand up to it, and while Fagan was the aggressor all night, by the time the crowd-pleasing bout reached the last few rounds, Fagan's buzz-saw attack seemed to be dulling. Which is to say that Hyland was connecting with three punches going backwards to every one Fagan was able to land coming forward. And while the outcome was much closer than the scorecards of the three judges (Phil Edwards 118-110, Emile Tiedt 118-111, Howard Foster 116-112; The Sweet Science's 115-113 card was more in line with most of the ringside press), all one really needed was to look at the faces of the combatants to know who had won the fight.
In adding the IBF trinket to his Irish junior lightweight title, Eddie Hyland improved to 13-1.
The other fringe title went to 25 year-old Patrick Hyland (whom McGavock introduced as his brother Paul), who outpointed Abdu Tebezalwa, the former featherweight champion of Uganda, over 12 rounds. Tebezalwa, a late substitute for original opponent Hevinson Herrera, is now based in Stockholm, and numbered ten knockouts among his 11 pro wins. Abdu's power must have stayed in behind in Africa; after dropping a unanimous decision in Dublin, he is 11-0 with ten knockouts in Uganda, 1-6 with no knockouts outside it, and while he performed bravely at the Irish basketball arena, it's hard to imagine the fighter on display Saturday night knocking out anybody. Tiedt gave Tbazallwa a round, scoring it 119-109, while English judges Mickey Vann and Edwards returned identical 118-110 scorecards. The 25 year-old Hyland, who owns the Irish featherweight title, ran his unbeaten record to 17-0. Tebazalwa is now 12-7.
The only Hyland not fighting for a title of the IBF's creation was 24 year-old Paul Hyland. The youngest brother does hold the Irish junior featherweight title, which was not on the line in his eight-rounder against Yorkshireman Robert Nelson. Two hard lefts to the body caused Nelson to take a knee in the first round. The Englishman remained on his feet for the balance of the contest, but was hampered from the third round on by a cut around the corner of his left eye. By the sixth the wound was bleeding so copiously that Tiedt, the referee, led him back to his corner and summoned the ringside physician, Dr. Joe McKeever, who allowed it to continue to the bitter end. Nelson appeared fresher at the end than he did at the beginning of the bout, but didn't win a round on the card of the referee, who scored it 80-75. Paul Hyland upped his record to 15-1, while Nelson, now 7-3-2, has won just one of his last five.
Each of the three Hylands has boxed at least once in the States — Eddie at New York's Roseland Ballroom last December, Paul and Patrick fought in Philadelphia October, and Patrick fought on a couple of Boston cards as well — and the plan is that the three brothers could wind up on the same bill in Philadelphia this November.
Three other Irish boxers fighting on the undercard extended their unbeaten records against a trio of opponents from the Baltic States. All three designated victims were handled by Latvian boxing agent Roman Dabolinsh, who must deliver the same message each time he puts the latest batch of pugs on the 60-Euro RyanAir flight from Riga to Dublin, to wit: “Just remember, boys, don't get knocked out so you can go somewhere else and lose again next week.”
Jamie Power, a stablemate of Andy Lee's in his amateur days with Limerick's St. Francis Boxing club, was awarded a TKO when Lithuanian Kirill (Pit Bull) Pshonko could not answer the bell for the fourth. Ireland isn't exactly teeming with light heavyweights — BoxRec rates Power the best of three in the whole country — and Power has reason to be particularly grateful for the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Since turning pro a year ago he has gone 6-0 against three Latvians, two Slovakians, and a Lithuanian.
Power dealt out three rounds' worth of punishing body attack, and when the bell rang for the fourth, the Pit Bull had his back to the ring and was earnestly barfing into a bucket handed up by a helpful second, leaving Tiedt little choice but to stop the fight. Power is now 6-0, Pshonko 1-6.
Spike O'Sulllivan, a Cork middlweight trained by Pascal Collins, went to 9-0, outpointing Latvian Artur Jaskuls, as Vann returned a 59-56 scorecard. Jaskuls fell to 4-20-1 overall, 0-3 in Ireland.
And Dublin super middle Robbie Long improved to 4-0 after dominating virtually every minute of his four-rounder against another Latvian, Denis Sirjatovs (2-13). Tiedt scored it 40-36, as did TSS, though we wouldn't have argued with a 40-32 scorecard.
Dublin super-middle Anthony Fitzgerald (3-2) was awarded a TKO when referee David Irving rescued English opponent Peter Cannon (1-2) at 1:06 of the third.
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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ARENA
Tallaght, Dublin, Ireland
Golden Cobra Promotions
July 25, 2009
JUNIOR LLIGHTWEIGHTS: Edward Hyland, 130, Dublin dec. Oisin Fagan, 129 1/2, Dublin (12) (Wins vacant IBF International title)
FEATHERWEIGHTS: Patrick Hyland, 125 1/4, Dublin dec. Abdu Tebazalwa, 126, Kampala, Uganda (12) (Wins vacant IBF International title)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Jamie Power, 175 1/2, Limerick, Ireland TKO'd Kirill Pshonko, 174, Klaipeda, Lithuania (4)
SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Robert Long, 164, Dublin dec. Denis Sirjatovs, 163, Riga, Latvia (4)
Anthony Fitzgerald, 164 1/2, Dublin TKO'd Peter Cannon, 164, Bradford, England (3)
MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Gary O'Sullivan, 158, Cork, Ireland dec. Arturs Jaskuls, 156 1/2, Riga, Latvia (6)
JUNIOR FEATHERWEIGHTS: Paul Hyland, 120 1/2, Dublin dec, Robert Nelson, 121, Bradford, England (8)