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Back to Back Boxing Jewels in Southern California This Weekend




Once again summer means the Southern California landscape will be sizzling with fight cards from Montebello to Inglewood.

Perhaps the most curious of the cluster of fights takes place at the Forum in Inglewood on Saturday July 15. HBO will televise but only a few. It would be better to watch in person with two world title fights and an elimination light heavyweight clash in place.

But first let’s look at Friday night.

It’s been several years now since Golden Boy Promotions began staging regular fight cards at Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles. It’s been the jewel of all fight cards in Southern California.

Not since the glory days of the Olympic Auditorium from the 1930s to the 1980s has a regular boxing series taken hold like the Belasco series.

During the glory days the Olympic had a weekly series of boxing cards that brought everyone from Henry Armstrong to Danny “Li’l Red” Lopez headlining the old boxing palace.

The late Bennie Georgino, who managed Lopez and Alberto Davila, used to lament the loss of the weekly boxing series at the Olympic. Back in the 50s and 60s Georgino had a sandwich shop located right across the street from the now defunct Herald-Examiner newspaper. Ironically, the old newspaper building is across the street from the Belasco Theater.

During boxing’s heyday when newspapers actually had beat reporters covering the sport and competing for headlines, there were more than five daily newspapers battling in Los Angeles. It was in the 1960s that the Times and Mirror merged along with the Herald and Examiner merging too.

“Boxing will never return to Los Angeles,” Georgino would tell me often. But it has returned.

On Friday, another roster of talented youngsters are showcased at the old downtown theater.


A co-main event features Edgar Valerio (10-0, 6 KOs) a tall featherweight from Los Angeles meeting Torreon, Mexico’s Jairo Ochoa (18-11, 9 KOs) in an eight round bout.

Valerio, 22, is managed by Joel De La Hoya and at first was fighting at bantamweight but now at 126 pounds and has gained power with the extra weight. He’s fearless and has lofty goals.

“I’ve never seen anyone work harder,” said De La Hoya of Valerio. “I know you need that kind of work ethic to go far. I watched my brother (Oscar De La Hoya) during his entire career and that’s what it takes to go to the top. Nobody worked harder.”

Another to watch on the card is Joshua Franco (11-0, 6 Kos) who began at bantamweight but has lately fought as a super flyweight and faces Antonio Rodriguez (11-16-1).

Franco, 21, a San Antonio, Texas native, trains in Riverside under the guidance of Robert Garcia. Every time he enters the boxing ring he seems to get better and better. He kind of reminds me of a smaller version of Mikey Garcia with his ability to set up punches and opponents. I’m sure being around Mikey Garcia has influenced more than a few of Franco’s moves.


On Saturday a fight card co-promoted by various major promoters opens up the Forum for a heavy duty-affair.

Back in the 70s when it was called the Fabulous Forum, some of the best boxing cards took place including my own favorite Mexican versus Mexican clash, Carlos Zarate (45-0, 44 KOs) versus Alfonso Zamora (29-0, 29 KOs). It was called the Battle of the ZZZ Boys. The two Mexican bantamweight champions were undefeated and had a combined  73 knockouts in 74 pro fights. It was a ridiculous percentage of knockouts. That day on April 23, 1977, Zarate put Zamora to sleep in the fourth round. Riots erupted, cherry bombs were lit, a wrestler entered the ring to challenge anyone and both trainers of Zarate and Zamora ended up throwing blows with each other.

Hopefully we don’t repeat the riot but see the knockouts. Expect several knockouts on Saturday.

One surefire firecracker of a fight will be WBC super featherweight titlist Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs) defending against the former titleholder Japan’s Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs) in the main event.

If you follow boxing than you must know about the intense rivalry Japan and Mexico have had in the boxing ring for decades. The first boxing match I ever attended at the Olympic was a Japan vs Mexico rivalry when Sho Saijo defeated Jose Pimentel on March 21, 1968. They fought each other three times with Saijo winning the world title on their third encounter.

Once again we have a Japanese warrior in Miura. This guy has been involved in two all-time classics. The first was in August 2013 when he and Sergio “Yeyo” Thompson met in 100 degree heat inside a bull ring in Cancun. It was stifling in that arena and both Miura and Thompson fought to near death. Each floored the other and the fight changed momentum several times. Finally, Miura emerged the winner by unanimous decision after an incredible 12 rounds. In November 2015, Mexico’s Francisco Vargas challenged Miura and both clashed like two pit bulls. Miura nearly knocked out Vargas in the fourth round and then was near a knockout win when Vargas surprised him and stopped the Japanese champion in the ninth round. In his last fight, Miura dazed another  Mexican warrior, Miguel Roman, with a paralyzing body shot and then mercilessly bombed him with blows for a knockout.

Miura is one hard man.

“This will be my third fight in the United States, and I feel comfortable in getting myself acclimated to the time difference. I am looking forward to being on HBO again and putting on an exciting fight for the boxing fans,” said Miura. “If I am able to get the belt back Saturday, and the opportunity is there, I would want to unify the belts in the super featherweight division.”

Now we have Berchelt whose fight against Francisco Vargas last January could be the Fight of the Year for 2017. Both exchanged blows that left the audience dumbfounded by the sheer violence. It’s one of the reasons that Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz recently won an award for his talented pairings. The Berchelt-Miura fight just might bump off the January affair. It’s a fight you have to see in person to appreciate.

“This by no means will be an easy fight – Miura has gone to war many times in his career and I am expecting nothing less in this fight,” said Mexico’s Berchelt. “I want to prove that winning this belt was no fluke, and defending it against a warrior like Miura is the perfect opportunity to do that.”

Heavy Construction

Regular Joe Smith (23-1, 19 KOs) the construction worker comes to town once again and this time he faces Cuban dandy Sullivan Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) in defense of the WBC International light heavyweight title. It’s sort of an elimination contest. Usually when you win the WBC International title you get to the front of the line to face the champion which is Adonis Stevenson. But so far it hasn’t happened for Mr. Smith.

“We were looking for a title fight. Looking to get Stevenson but that didn’t work out,” said Smith a dues paying member of Local 66 as a construction worker.

Now “regular” Joe by day and “Killer” Joe by night is poised to face another ranked light heavyweight in Barrera.

Smith says L.A. has been good to him so far. The last time he stepped in the ring he knocked Bernard Hopkins out of the ring. No one ever had stopped the great Hopkins in a fight in his entire career until last December at the same Forum.

“That fight got my name out there,” said Smith. “Everybody knows who Hopkins is.”

Despite knocking out Andrzei Fonfara, who had previously knocked out Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the New York construction worker was stuck in limbo. Now he’s stuck on the “must avoid list” and meets Barrera whose win over Ukraine’s Vlacheslav Shabranskyy earned him a place on this card.

Barrera’s attempt to gain recognition came against Andre Ward last year. The Cuban native was unable to defeat Ward but then no one else has either. No shame in losing to Oakland’s Ward.

“Smith beat a legend in Bernard Hopkins, but [Hopkins] had been out of the ring for a long time before their fight,” said Barrera.

Killer Joe Smith has his hands full with Barrera and vice versa. It appears to be a firecracker of a fight looming on Saturday.


In one year the 18-year-old Ryan “KingRy” Garcia has blazed through nine opponents with a semblance of speed, power and guile not seen since 1992. He doesn’t turn 19 until the first week of August but one would swear they’ve seen him for years.

Garcia fights out of the desert community of Victorville, Calif. and you may think because of its small town locale the lanky lightweight is a secret waiting to happen. But the boxing world already knows Garcia, especially with 15 US National titles as an amateur hanging on his walls.

Now the pro world is witnessing what many have predicted for the kid with the best left hook since Oscar De La Hoya. Best right too. He has all of the tools and is still getting his professional style polished to perfection.

In his last fight that left hook was like an apparition. You think you might have seen it but the suddenness and finality of its impact left his opponent that night at T-Mobile immobile and helpless.

Garcia is a gym rat and is known to travel to various gyms in search of polishing up his growing skills. At this point his quick reflexes are his primary defense. There are a few openings and cracks on his defensive shield but no one has been able to pierce the barrier. This is a chance for fans to see for themselves another Southern California jewel in the tradition of De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas. They don’t come that often. Take advantage of it. His fight will not be televised so the best advice would be to purchase a ticket to take a look at this young phenom.

Garcia (9-0, 8 KOs) faces Mexico’s Mario Antonio Macias (28-21, 14 KOs) in a lightweight clash set for four rounds. Macias has fought nothing but contenders in his last three fights including Gervonta Davis the current IBF super featherweight titlist. It’s a matchup meant to test the abilities of Garcia. He is on a fast track.

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Feature Articles

Lemieux vs. O’Sullivan: There Will Be Blood



There is not much to dislike about Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan. The bald and mustachioed O’Sullivan looks like his name and fights like an Irishman named “Spike.” He rarely backs up and just keeps coming and coming until he wears out his opponent. And he is willing to take two to give one as he did against Antoine Douglass (22-0-1 coming in) in December 2017. The Douglass win, a KO, gave Spike a regional title, but more importantly put him squarely in the mix of top contenders. In fact, he has joined the growing chorus of those who want to fight Gennady Golovkin—and the early retirement payday that could follow. If he beats David Lemieux on the undercard of the Canelo -GGG mega fight on September 15 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, he just might get his chance, but that’s a big “if.”

Thus far, Spike’s only two losses have been to Chris Eubank Jr in 2015 and slick and tough Billy Joe Saunders in 2013. Since the Eubank loss, Spike (28-2) has won six straight, the last five by stoppage. When he KOd Melvin Betancourt in May 2015 in Boston, MA, the Dominican middleweight was 29-1. Today he is 29-6. Pleasing local Irish fans (and this writer), O’Sullivan has fought nine times in the Greater Boston area, bringing back memories of another tough Irish fighter by the name of Stevie Collins.


David Lemieux was also outboxed and shut down by Billy Joe Saunders in a clash of styles that favored Saunders. This time, the styles virtually guarantee a thriller for as long as it lasts. Lemieux (39-4) has 33 stoppage wins compared to Spike’s 20. His KO of Curtis Stevens still resonates as one of the more chilling one’s ever seen.

Unlike the globetrotting O’Sullivan, The popular Canadian fighter has done most of his work in Montreal but is 4-1 outside Canada losing his title to GGG at Madison Square Garden in October 2015. At stake in this one were the IBF, WBA, and interim WBC World Middleweight Titles. David was badly bloodied by Golovkin (then 33-0) but did not disgrace himself as he fought to win.

David is a tremendously powerful puncher with either hand and begins the stalk as soon as the bell rings. But Spike also generally moves forward at the opening bell. Something has to give here and it just might give early on. Spike is no BJS and moving away and slipping punches is not his strong suit. But it’s not in Lemieux’s DNA either. This is almost guaranteed to be a spine tingling, all action thriller. Fans had better stay glued to the telecast.


In addition to Lemieux-O’Sullivan, it appears that all-action fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-2) will also appear on the GGG/Canelo undercard, opposing Moises Fuentes (25-5-1). If so, this one will be over sooner rather than later. In fact, the promoters better have some solid fill-in fights on tap before the main event.

This is about as good as it gets; this is a boxing fan’s dream. Don’t miss it!

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters and recently won the Maine State Champions in his class. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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Why Fury’s Bout with Pianeta is Bigger than Ever Imagined



Artur Szpilka

Back in January of 2016, Tyson Fury got into the ring and upstaged him on live TV after he struggled with and eventually stopped Artur Szpilka in the ninth round. Now it’s being conveyed that WBC titlist Deontay Wilder will be ringside for Tyson Fury’s second comeback fight against Francesco Pianeta in Belfast Saturday night, and it’s expected that he’ll pay Fury back and get in the ring and upstage him and call him out.

Wilder quickly accepted Fury’s challenge on that night in Brooklyn, but Fury went away and in his own words overindulged with food, alcohol and drugs. And with that, the talk of Wilder vs. Fury died.

Since then, Wilder has established himself more as a title holder and, in the opinion of most, is thought to be the second best heavyweight in the world, ranking behind only Anthony Joshua. Two months ago in June, Fury made his awaited ring return and stopped a non-entity in Sefer Seferi. Throughout the spring and summer the talk of a showdown between Joshua and Wilder remained one of the foremost stories in boxing. Every time it looked close to becoming a reality it fell through, due mostly to how the purse split should be divided with each side blaming the other and avid fans of both fighters siding with their man. While arrows were being slung back and forth between Team Joshua and Team Wilder, the shrewd Fury slung arrows at both of them.

Tyson Fury is one of the greatest salesmen in boxing history and nobody uses social media better than he does. Seeing how hard Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is to deal with, a light went off in Fury’s head and he began to shy away from AJ and began turning his attention towards Wilder, who has been riding a high since stopping Luis Ortiz in his last fight. Tyson, fully understanding that Wilder has never earned huge money for any of his bouts, understood that a match between him and Wilder could rival nearly any bout Hearn/Joshua could make, excluding one involving himself or Wilder. With that, someone must’ve got in Wilder’s ear and outlined the monumental upside it would be for him to face Fury and what beating him would do as far as helping him negotiate the anticipated fight with Joshua. Not to mention he wouldn’t be facing Fury at his best.

With Fury having lost a lot of the weight he gained during his exile, an impressive showing this weekend versus Franceso Pianeta would go a long way to help boost the interest in a Wilder-Fury bout. The Fury-Pianeta clash has been picked up by Showtime and that says a lot in regards to the way Fury can attract attention. With Wilder having committed to attend the bout, is there a morsel of doubt that he’ll be a big part of the broadcast?

The mere fact that Wilder will be there has increased the credibility among fans in that Wilder-Fury is no longer a press grab and it very well might just come to fruition. And to help increase the profile of a future bout between Wilder and Fury, it’s impossible not to believe Wilder won’t get into the ring after Fury wins and publicly challenge him. If Wilder does that, hopefully he’ll script what he says and not adlib because exchanging adlibs with Fury would be a losing battle for Deontay….even Muhammad Ali might be the underdog doing so because Fury is such a good talker and so quick-witted.

And if there’s any doubt about Fury being able to sling verbally and hype a fight between he and Wilder, I present his recent words….

“I’m just sat here thinking, isn’t it marvelous that the world’s biggest fight, Fury vs Wilder is going to happen and that smug little t****r Eddie Hearn has nothing to do with it at all.”

“He has nothing to do with the world’s biggest fight — or his little puppet on the string the fighter he’s got [Joshua].”

“They’re not involved in the biggest fight the world has ever seen, between the two biggest heavyweights on the planet.”

“The two most controversial — most outspoken heavyweights out there — both over 6ft 6, both talkers, one Brit. one American.”

“Isn’t it marvelous that this fight is going to happen and little Eddie ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

At the moment Fury is killing Hearn and Joshua on social media while at the same time convincing everyone within earshot that he and Wilder is the biggest fight in boxing and the authentic heavyweight championship. Along with that, Wilder and Fury are both going to earn their blockbuster payday facing each other and without fighting Joshua. The winner will easily be able to get a 50-50 purse split when he meets AJ, and there will be nothing Hearn can do about it….because Team Joshua knows that for AJ to be recognized as the true undisputed champ, he must beat the winner of Wilder versus Fury.

Another testament to the Fury factor is found in the odds. Earlier this week, a friend emailed me the pending Vegas odds on Wilder vs. Joshua and Fury vs. Joshua. In a proposed fight with Wilder, Joshua was listed a 2-1 favorite. However, if he were to face Fury, he’d only be an 8-5 favorite, signifying that Fury, with only two fights under his belt after a nearly two-and-a-half year layoff, is considered by the betting public to be the bigger threat to Joshua.

At this time it looks as though only a loss to Pianeta 35-4-1 (21), who’s never ranked among the top-10, can derail Wilder-Fury from becoming a reality, and even against a rusty Fury that looks doubtful. In Pianeta’s only title shot he entered the bout undefeated and was still bounced around the ring by Wladimir Klitschko as if he were a Spalding basketball. He had the advantage of being one of Klitschko’s sparring partners for a year prior to them meeting and yet he still couldn’t make it out of the sixth round.

Since losing to Wladimir in 2013, Pianeta has gone 7-3 (6) and in his last bout lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Petar Milas, who was fighting for only the 12th time as a pro. Fury looks in good shape based on his recent pictures on social media, and is one of the most difficult heavyweights to fight and look good against since Vitali Klitschko was at his best. True, Fury isn’t a devastating puncher and sometimes fighters who aren’t in his league can go rounds with him, but with so much on the line and Wilder observing from ringside, it’s nearly impossible to envision him losing.

The prospect of a Wilder-Fury confrontation has escalated the interest in Fury’s second comeback fight this weekend. It’s unlikely the actual fight between Fury and Pianeta will be fan-friendly, but the thought of Wilder being there to help launch their fight makes it worthwhile to see. Don’t be surprised if Wilder vs. Fury is announced in the ring after Fury’s bout concludes. And if that’s the case, or when it is announced, for the first time as the alpha heavyweight in the world, Anthony Joshua won’t own the headlines nor will he be the sole focus pertaining to the heavyweight division.

Like him or loathe him, Tyson Fury’s return has provided the division with an infusion of anticipation. And Joshua will ultimately benefit financially as a fight between him and the Fury-Wilder winner becomes that much bigger and lucrative for all the parties involved.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at

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What Are You Up To, Paddy Barnes?



Paddy Barnes

For all the hullabaloo about Tyson Fury and his victim elect Francesco Pianeta in Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend; for all the “Irish Eyes Are Smiling” rhetoric surrounding the return of Carl Frampton to Windsor Park, where he, too, will defeat an overmatched opponent in Luke Jackson; for all that and the barely concealed excitement with which writers and promoters crane their necks at the futures of both these men – for all that, the most intriguing and competitive fight on this Saturday Night’s big “Norn Iron” card is the rampantly ambitious attempt by Paddy Barnes to win a title-strap against Cristofer Rosales (27-3) in just his sixth contest.

This might not be quite Vasily Lomachenko taking on Orlando Salido in his second fight but Rosales, just twenty-three years old and fighting out of Nicaragua, will not be visiting Northern Irish shores to lose. In fact, the TBRB rank him as the worlds #2 flyweight, second only to veteran Donnie Nietes. Flyweight’s radiance may be on the wane but becoming the second best fighter at 112lbs is no small matter, no matter the drain being inflicted upon the division by super-flyweight, the new home of the fashionable small man. Rosales earned the right, and Barnes will have to take it from him.

Like Lomachenko, Barnes is a storied amateur, a two-time Commonwealth gold medalist and two-time Olympic bronze medalist.  Prior to his third swipe at Olympic glory, Barnes turned in a sterling performance in the World Series of Boxing, once controversial for straddling the amateur and professional codes so comfortably, now  seen as nothing more (nor less) than a nursery for top-class amateurs who are ready to mount an assault on the professional ranks.

Barnes began his assault on the professional ranks in the traditional way, beating up overmatched, underfed opposition with losing records.  In 2017 he staged his fifth fight, his fourth in Belfast, against Elie Quezada (21-6-3) who represented something of a step up, though to nothing like world-level where many were sure Barnes was headed.

Even against his taller, heavier, more experienced, switch-hitting opponent, Barnes looked good that night, feinting with the jab behind organized pressure-footwork, opening up shots to the body with jabs, outs-squabbling his rangy opponent when Quezada decided to throw. In the second, investment in the body paid early dividends as a withering short right-hand to the torso married earlier work done with the left hook to achieve a knockdown and nine-count. A ten count at the very end of the sixth was earned with a left-uppercut to the by then tenderized body of an overmatched opponent.

In between the two knockdowns there were naturally issues, the kind experienced by all raw prospects. For that’s what Barnes is, at thirty-one years of age and carrying an armful of amateur medals; professional fighting is different.

So it should be noted that Barnes repeatedly strayed low, and was so paranoid about his inability to keep his punches north of the borderline he apologized to the referee on one occasion without being warned. He hit Quezada when he was down after the first knockdown. He has issues with temperament that need fights to iron out.

More pertinently he was hit, often, by an opponent who was not afraid to trade with him.  Barnes is not a puncher. Quick and accurate, he’s very capable of hurting his opponents but not of turning them away or, as a rule, concussing them. This is problematic and demands careful attention by style, but Barnes does not box like a man who can seek but cannot destroy. He brings speedy pressure, using his quickness and natural balance to unseat an opponent and turn him, all while throwing fast combinations which tantalize between slickness and indeterminate.   Like Rocky Marciano, Barnes has a “land and it’ll do” rule of combat, unlike Rocky Marciano he’s not breaking any bones while he does it.

How is Rosales, a legitimately world class opponent, going to handle all this?

A possible clue lies in another fight Quezada lost. Also a Nicaraguan, last March he met Rosales over ten rounds in their shared hometown of Managua. Rosales won in a fun, bruising fight but was unable to stop his countryman despite throwing and landing a large volume of punches; the judges, a little unkindly I thought, awarded only a split decision but it was interesting that Barnes was able to get Quezada out of there and Rosales was not.

Nevertheless, Rosales was at a more advanced stage of his career and was rewarded (only after defeating the unbeaten Italian Mohammed Obbadi in Italy) with a shot at the strap held by the latest Japanese wonderkid, Daigo Higa. 15-0 with fifteen consecutive knockouts, Higa was favored to win that fight but after struggling with the weight was badly beaten by a vicious Rosales.

Much of this was put off on to Higa’s indiscipline on the scales, but Rosales was exceptional that night in Yokohama. Aggressive and direct, he is a big, big flyweight, pushing 5’7 and sporting a reach of nearly 71” by BoxRec. Rosales does little to favor this reach advantage. He is loose with his selected leads, booming over trailing right hands from outside and sometimes shortening up his own jab by stepping in; on the other hand he loves and administers serious punishment on the inside. Rosales is delightfully old-fashioned in his attitude to his physical advantages and is adapt with both hook and uppercut.

He used both of these to his advantage against Higa, positively bullying him in the eighth, before brutalizing him with his left hand in the ninth.  His corner pulled him after little more than a minute of that round.

Reviewing this footage, the right pick is absolutely clear: it’s Rosales. Bigger, he is probably the puncher in the fight, certainly the more experienced of the two, and he was equal to the relentless body assault Higa mounted early in their fight; but there’s more.

Rosales does not have a spotless record in the UK. One year before his defeat of Higa, he was being out-boxed by the less talented of the two Selby brothers, Andrew. Andrew Selby weathered a dramatic and forceful storm from the Nicaraguan late, but my impression was that he was good for his points win. Two years previous to this, Khalid Yafai, who holds a strap up at 115lbs, defeated him over eight rounds in another tough scrap.

Rosales travels well but not to the UK, and my impression while checking in with friends who follow the smaller men was that his reputation was firmer abroad than upon these shores.

What to make of this web of intrigue?  Has Barnes overstepped in agreeing to fight Rosales so soon based upon a week British rep? Or has Rosales falsely enhanced his status by beating up a weight-drained, crestfallen Higa? Is Rosales too big for Barnes? Or is his propensity for letting wasp-like, whip-crack fighters like Barnes inside a disaster of a style-matchup and one which Barnes, who has slightly faster hands, is primed to take advantage of?

Here’s the truth: I don’t know. I’ve had this fight under the microscope all last week and can’t pick a winner. Just when I think some crucial aspect has been revealed to me it is counter-balanced by some snippet of information from the other camp, or spied on the often single-camera video that spills out of Nicaragua.

I suspect the fight itself will be a thriller though. Both are busy, both have proven punch resistance, both come to fight, both want to mix it up close. The hand that is raised may be the one that is most tempered, the one most ready to shy away from what is natural. Can Rosales spear Barnes on the outside, making him pay for every step? Can Barnes resist the temptation to rush and use his superior speed to close the reach and height gap by staging a sometime counter-punching offense?

With all due love and respect to Tyson Fury, perhaps my favorite active fighter, and Carl Frampton, the man of the moment for the rampant Belfast fans, finding the answer to the above questions is the main reason I’ll be tuning in.

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