Photos: Russell Pritchard — As life changing opportunities go, they don’t come much bigger then the one on offer to Anthony Fitzgerald next Saturday night at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast when the “Pride” of Dublin takes on Limericks Andy Lee.
Lee is the established world level pugilist, fresh off an unsuccessful Texas tussle against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Fitzgerald is the little know no nonsense tough nut from Dublin’s North Inner City. “No contest” is what the experts shout. It requires more then potluck to secure yourself a shot at the big-time and Fitzgerald just doesn’t hear the doubters, he is focused, he is determined and believes that on the 9th of February the city under-dog becomes Irelands top-dog.
“This is a massive opportunity for me; it’s the stuff you dream of as a kid when you start boxing, your chance to topple the big guy. I know a lot of people don’t fancy me against Lee but that’s ok, I know what I am capable of and that’s all that matters”
Known in the past for reprimanding his doubters with fiery venom, it’s a fighter of altered temperament that has developed over the last three months. This more mature and focused Fitzgerald first came to the attention of his inner circle. Now so persuasive is his confidence and inner certainty that one of Ireland’s top fight hacks asked his manage last week had Anthony found God.
“I had a good laugh the other day when I heard a journalist had asked had I found God, that’s a compliment, but no I haven’t found him yet” laughed the Dubliner.
“But yes a lot of people are telling me they notice a difference in me. I feel great I really do. I am in the best shape of my life I really am. I cancelled my life for the last three months and it’s paid off. I’m not stupid I know what a big opportunity this is for me”
Shadowed by fellow Crumlin teammates Noel O Brien and Philip Sutcliffe Jr the “Pride” has had to endure some added additions to the “Team Fitzer” training camp. There have been some changes in personnel since his questionable Prizefighter loss to Eamonn O Kane nine months ago and this has manifested in his training camp.
The 6.00am runs in the Phoenix Park are rotated with a new strength and conditioning regime served up by the ruthless Ritchie Moore at the Victory Gym which is located on the outskirts of the Dublin suburb of Ballyfermot.
Former two times Olympian Phil Sutcliffe awaits at the Crumlin Boxing Club for the mid-day session and evening time sees regular trips to the Bikram Yoga studio in Dublin’s Harolds Cross. The thinking behind the Yoga aspect which is carried out in 40 degree heat according to Sutcliffe is to compliment all aspects of Anthony’s preparation.
“We have added personnel to our team, guys who have certain expertise and one part of this input has been to make Bikram Yoga a part of our training camp. It’s been a great addition and has helped Anthony in so many ways including overall recovery rate, focus and weight management. It seems to have a calming effect. Anthony is in the best shape of his life both physically and emotionally and the yoga is certainly one ingredient to this”.
With over 300 Fitzgerald fans having already purchased tickets to roar on the Sean McDermott Street icon next Saturday night, it promises to be an emotionally charged occasion. The experts or the bookies don’t see past Lee but those close to Fitzgerald seem convinced their guy can pull this one off.
There from the start has been coach/trainer Phil Sutcliffe and next Saturday night the Crumlin tactician will again send his boy into battle. Should Fitzgerald pull off one of Irish boxing’s biggest shocks in quite some time, it certainly won’t be Sutcliffe’s first time to orchestrate the likes and probably not the last.