In a throwback to past years when boxing’s most famous arena would occasionally be decked in Irish green, two of Ireland’s top prospects descend on Madison Square Garden this Thursday night for a card dubbed “Hollywood Fight Nights.” “King” Callum Walsh and “Fearless” Feargal McCrory, both undefeated, both southpaws, bring their unique skills to New York in separate bouts.
One of the biggest punching super welterweights in the paid ranks, the 22-year-old Walsh, who’s 8-0 with seven KOs, defends his WBC US Silver 154-pound title against the “Bronx Beast” Ismael Villarreal in the 10-round main event.
A warning for the young Cork native is that with a 13-1 ledger, and nine stoppages to his name, Villarreal can bang, too.
In the co-feature, McCrory, 14-0 with seven KOs, tackles Russian-born Brooklyn resident Nikolai Buzolin [9-6-1, 5 KOs] in a scheduled six-round lightweight contest. It will be the Tyrone product’s first fight in New York and fourth straight in the U.S.
Ranked #16 by the World Boxing Council (WBC), the Hollywood, California-based Walsh will be making the second defense of his WBC US belt. He won the title with a fourth round KO of Carson Jones in Commerce, Calif., last June and retained it with another a fourth round stoppage, of veteran Juan Jose Velasco, in Los Angeles two months later.
Villarreal is coming off an impressive outing last September, as well. That’s when he ended John Martinez’ four-year, eight-fight winning streak [19-3, 16 KOs]. He scored three knockdowns in round two, forcing the referee to end the fight with two seconds remaining in the round. The combined record of Villarreal’s last six opponents when he fought them was 93-19 – a winning percentage of 83%.
“Every fighter aspires to fight at Madison Square Garden,” said Walsh, a six-footer trained by the noted Freddie Roach. “It’s a big combat sports week and a dream come true to fight at ‘The Mecca of Boxing’ in New York City ahead of UFC 295. I can’t wait to put on a great show for the fans and my Irish compatriots.
“I feel like this is what I'm supposed to. I feel like this is what I'm here for,” he pointed out. “I find that MSG is where people dream of fighting and I'm very grateful that I can do it at such a young age, and I feel like this is just the beginning of something.”
“For Callum to be making his Garden debut is a testament to his hard work and talent,” said Roach a Hall of Famer. “But to be the headliner, in just his ninth pro fight, that is a ringing endorsement from The Garden executives. Villarreal is another big test for Callum. Callum wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“My dream is to be a world boxing champion and to achieve it I have to eliminate all the obstacles that come my way and Callum Walsh will be no exception,” said Villarreal. “I will be happy to do it in New York in front of my fans, in the city where I was born and have lived all my life. I know that this victory will open the doors for me to compete in a world championship no later than 2024. On November 9, the boxing world will know who Ismael "Maelo" Villarreal is.”
“Ready and raring to go!” McCrory declared on Monday, ahead of his clash with the Russian Nikolai Buzolin.
“He's very game, he hits hard [and] I expect a tricky night,” he’d earlier sized up the 5-foot-seven Buzolin, who at age 36 is five years his senior. “But we're preparing for whatever he has. he's good.”
Buzolin turned pro in 2010 in Russia and holds a TKO win over Clones native Larry Fryers at the Barclays Center in April 2018.
He’s been training hard under Colin Morgan at the latter’s Bout Fight Club on Fulton St. in lower Manhattan.
He said as memorable as fighting at the famous Garden will be, “it's important that I perform and I don't get too caught up in where the fight is taking place or anything like that because you know at the end of the day, I have a job to do.”
In his last fight, last April, McCrory decked hard-hitting Eduardo Pereira Dos Reis four times in the opening three rounds before referee Harvey Dock stopped the beatdown at 2:06 of the third stanza in Philadelphia.
McCrory was a four-division Irish national amateur champion with titles in the bantamweight, super bantamweight, featherweight and light welterweight divisions. He represented Ireland internationally, fighting in tournaments in Ukraine, Germany and Greece among other nations.
He made his pro debut in Nov. 2015, stopping Hungarian Zsolt Schmidt in the first round at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. Nine of McCory’s next 10 fights would be in Belfast and one in Tallaght.
Tickets priced at $205, $155, $55, and $35, are available from Legends Bar at 6 West 33rd St. in Manhattan [212.967.7792]; online at www.msg.com or at the Madison Square Garden box office and via Ticketmaster locations. Accessible and companion seats are available via the Accessibility Department at 888.609.7599.
The title fight will be broadcast globally on UFC FIGHT PASS.