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Bittersweet success for kickboxers

As Galway Black Dragon Kickboxers fought for world and European titles in the Black Box theatre, the city and county’s fire crews fought the flames at the Riverside Commercial Park, where the club is based.
The Black Dragons, including athletes from Gort, were holding a special event to celebrate 15 years in Galway when news of the fire filtered through to the audience, fighters and club founder. Pete Foley is resilient however, proud of his fighters and optimistic about the future.  
“With all the commotion going on last weekend about the big fire in the Riverside Commercial Park in which the Galway Black Dragon Kickboxing Gym was burned to the ground, the core element of the club, the people who made it great and who will do so again, were involved in their biggest and most prestigious night of kickboxing,” he said.
“The fire, which made headlines on all the newspapers, the radio stations and the TV channels, overshadowed the achievements of these gladiators of the ring and kickboxing was, for a brief moment in time, and for all the wrong reasons, suddenly mainstream,” he recalled.
Mr Foley was eager to acknowledge the achievements of his fighters and their opponents from across the country and overseas and the support teams of coaches and clubmates “who are the unsung heroes of that Saturday night”.
Gort’s Eric Daly did well but it was Cathal Manning who stole the show.
The fight for the vacant IKF European Superlightweight title saw Galway’s All-Ireland and Five Nations champion, Eric Daly take on current IKF British champion Howard Hogg, from Cardiff in Wales. Hogg got a warm welcome from the sporting Irish fight fans but when Daly entered the ring it was nothing short of deafening and after instructions from the referee both men went to war and maintained a blistering pace throughout the entire five rounds, after which one judge went for Daly, one for Hogg and another was undecided, which resulted in a majority draw.
“It has to be said that these two young men came to the ring in incredible condition and they both showcased their sport at the highest possible level and it now looks as though it will have to happen all over again – there should be no problem selling tickets for the rematch,” Mr Foley commented.
The last fight of the night was a battle for the vacant IKF World Light Heavyweight Title between current European champion and Gort resident, Cathal Manning and two-time IKF World Classic Tournament champion, Joseph Corneroli from South Carolina in the USA.
“Referee Paul Cummins called the two fighters to the centre of the ring for final instructions and at the bell all hell broke loose and both men were on a mission to destroy. Manning used his reach well but Corneroli was always dangerous with those big swinging hooks and this fight went the full championship distance, with a short pause for the doctor to check Corneroli’s left eye after Manning opened a cut with a thunderous roundhouse kick, much to the satisfaction of the cheering fight fans.
As the blood was not flowing into Corneroli’s eye, the ringside doctor allowed him to fight on and he made one last-ditch effort to take Manning out but Manning was in charge now and landed some big punches to Corneroli’s head and body and the American did well to remain vertical,” Mr Foley stated.
“The bell sounded to end the contest and the referee collected the scorecards and then came the moment when yet another young man from the West of Ireland was crowned champion of the world by unanimous decision – the Mean Machine had done it and the roof almost came off the Black Box, such was the roar from fight fans,” he went on.
Mr Foley had high praise for all his athletes, adding that it was unfortunate that the fire took from their night.
“Some of these athletes train twice a day for these big events in a manner that would match most professional fighters in other combat sports but yet they don’t get near the recognition they deserve.
“The big television deals go to boxing promotions and the newspapers are full of pictures and reports before and after these events, regardless of the outcome but yet when a kickboxing club from the West of Ireland try to pull out all the stops and bring in elite and top-ranked fighters from all across the globe and actually win genuine world titles, they are overshadowed by a fire that destroyed the very building where they trained to become the best in their field of sport,” he commented.
“We have lost all our equipment. We have lost all our memorabilia. We have lost bags, rings, machines everything. It is like we never existed. But we are positive now and while it will be slow, we are going to build back up from here,” Mr Foley concluded.
The Galway Black Dragon Kickboxing Club reopened on Wednesday night close to their old premises in the Riverside Commercial Park, this time above Expert Electric.

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