Boxing: America awaits Neary's progress
Saturday 24 October 1998
As usual when Neary fights in his home town, the arena - albeit a modest 1,500-seater - was sold out weeks ago. Neary, 30, is a rarety in this sport: a man who has the capability of packing houses irrespective of his opposition. That tonight's challenger is a little known Argentinian, Juan Carlos Villareal, is neither here nor there. A Neary fight has long been recognised as an opportunity for Liverpool's fight fans to turn up in force.
Tonight will be a homecoming of sorts for the champion, his last defence - a stirring 12-round win over South Africa's Naas Scheepers in July - having taken place in Widnes, due to the scant availability of suitable sized venues in Liverpool. When Neary faced his home-town rival Andy Holligan in March, his promoters were forced to erect a marquee on Stanley Park, famously situated in the "no man's land" between Anfield and Goodison, in order to accommodate a raucous crowd of 5,000.
But now the celebrations are set to go global. While tonight's fight will be screened live by ITV, the first time that the network has gone head-to-head with Match of the Day for almost four years, the interest expressed in Neary by the American subscription TV channel Home Box Office looks set to move the Scouse success story on to another level entirely.
HBO have made stars of Lennox Lewis and Naseem Hamed in the United States, and the all-action style of "Shamrock Express" Neary has further impressed the American TV moguls. But a convincing performance against Villareal is imperative to transforming HBO's interest into the kind of agreement that has made Lewis and Hamed into multi-millionaires.
Neary's commitment is unquestionable; he is as ferocious a trainer as he is an opponent and his conditioning is beyond reproach. And the chances are that he will need all his stamina this evening as Villareal, 28, has a reputation for durability earned in more than twice as many fights as the champion - 36 wins, five losses and one draw. But the unbeaten Neary, in search of his 21st career victory, is favoured to win on points.
Integral to the success enjoyed by Neary's Liverpool promoters, Munro- Hyland, are their links with the Norfolk-based World Boxing Union. While it is rated as the fifth most important of world boxing's sanctioning bodies, the WBU's commitment to competitive match-making has provided Munro-Hyland with the consistently exciting bouts with which to attract worldwide TV interest.
Also on tonight's card, Peter Culshaw aims to become Munro-Hyland's third WBU champion - Neary aside, stablemate Colin Dunne holds the organisation's lightweight title - when he meets South Africa's Mzukisi Marali for the WBU flyweight title. Culshaw, with a 13-1-1 record, has the class to stop the former World Boxing Council title challenger.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a rare opportunity for ...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Fee Earner/Techn...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This law firm is seeking a happy, helpful and ...
£26000 - £29000 per annum + Holidays & Pension: The Jenrick Group: Production ...