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Draw For All-Irish Prizefighter


The Betfair Prizefighter series makes it’s way to Ireland for the first time this Saturday for an all Irish middleweight line up. With the tournament serving as support to the Paul McCloskey vs. DeMarcus Corley light welterweight clash, McCloskey along with rising Belfast star Carl Frampton performed the draw today at the Stormont Estate.

Quarter Final Brackets:
Eamonn O’Kane (4-0) vs. Anthony Fitzgerald (13-2)
Ciaran Healy (13-9-1) vs. Ryan Greene (5-0)

Darren Cruise (3-1) vs. JJ McDonagh (6-1)
Simon O’Donnell (11-1) vs. Joe Rea (7-7-1)

O’Kane and Fitzgerald meeting in the first round really opens up the draw for some of the other fighters. They are my two pre-tournament favourites, but we have often seen tough opening bouts take their toll in the one night tournament format.

O’Kane is the type of guy Prizefighter was made for. He comes with good amateur pedigree having taken gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but was a late turn over to the paid ranks. At 30, he really needs to be moved along quite quickly and a win here would help to fast track him.

Dublin’s Anthony Fitzgerald had a rough start to his career going 1-2 in his first three fights, including being badly starched by a journeyman opponent on the undercard of Bernard Dunne’s WBA title win over Ricardo Cordoba. Fitzgerald bounced back well however, notching up 12 straight wins since then against steadily improving competition. He’s the most accomplished pro in the field – his stoppage victory over the useful Affif Belghecham in City West last year being the best win of anyone in the tournament.

Healy and Greene are both massive betting underdogs, but will each fancy a shot at whoever scrapes through between O’Kane and Fitzgerald. If one of these guys can make it through fresh they might have a shot at springing a big upset.

The four men in the bottom half of the draw will probably feel they have the easier route to the final. Cruise and McDonagh share a common last opponent in Lee Murtagh. McDonagh beat him earlier this year to win the Irish super middleweight title, while Cruise lost to him late last year. McDonagh caries a decent form line into Prizefighter and will be expected to progress here. He’s big at the weight, rangy, with an effective jab, which combined with a reasonable draw, could make him a good outsider.

The big surprise in the betting puts Joe Rea as second favourite, only behind O’Kane. Rea has lost his last six straight, but they have all come against talented opposition, including a competitive decision defeat to O’Kane back in September. He’s definitely been matched hardest out of anyone in the line up, and is said to be looking rejuvenated after some good sparring sessions with British light heavyweight champion Tony Bellew. The bookmakers favour him to emerge from the lower bracket.

The favourite rarely wins in Prizefighter, but this time I find it hard to see past O’Kane. While he’s got a difficult first round match up, he will also have the longest recovery period between bouts should he make it past Fitzgerald. He’s the best ring technician of the eight fighters, and should prove to be just a skill level or two above the rest of the group.