When Patrick Hyland left his home country of Ireland and signed with a reality-television star, nobody thought he’d be getting anywhere in his boxing career particularly soon.
But with his career idling, the featherweight contender decided he might as well roll the dice.
Though boxing is held in much higher regard in Ireland than it is in America, domestic enthusiasm wasn’t translating into career chances for Hyland.
Family friend Brian Burke of Final Round Promotions told him about a partnership he had with Andy Polizzi and daughter Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi in the United States, and that they were interested in bringing him over.
As the Irish Proverb goes, “a cabin with plenty of food is better than a hungry castle.”
“I wasn’t getting offered any big fights in Europe, so I just decided why not give it a crack,” Hyland told RingTV.com. “At the time when I got offered (the contract), the boxing scene (had) kinda died down after Bernard Dunne lost his world title. There was a lot of buzz and a lot of boxing shows when Bernard was ahead of the pack. Since then, there hasn’t been much boxing in Ireland.”
Since Dunne lost his WBA junior featherweight strap to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in September of 2009, there have been just 20 shows total in Ireland. By comparison, there were 35 just in New York (where Team Snooki Boxing is based) in 2012.
So Hyland (27-0, 12 knockouts) and his two fighting brothers, Paul and Eddie, bunkered up with the start-up outfit, and within days started getting more attention than they could imagine. Granted, plenty of that attention was snickering from the boxing media about the validity of the “Jersey Shore” star’s new project, but it was publicity nonetheless.
“We had a fight down in Atlantic City and the paparazzi was crazy and the same again when we had one locally in Poughkeepsie. It was great to get your name out there. If it’s bad news, good news, any news, it’s always good for a fighter to be known,” said Hyland, 29.
After dominating gatekeepers Emmanuel Lucero, Frankie Archuleta and Carlos Fulgencio in succession this year, Hyland was working in the gym with trainer Tracy Harris Patterson when Burke and Polizzi contacted him about a much bigger fight. Top Rank was inquiring about matching him with Javier Fortuna on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez undercard in Las Vegas.
Needless to say, there were no hesitations. And Team Snooki, thought by many to be a circus act, turned out to be the real deal.
“With the kind of money and effort we have invested in this, we’re going to be in this for the long, long haul,” Andy Polizzi told RingTV.com in an interview earlier this year. “We have three champions who are working their way toward a world title. This is not going to be a reality show, I’ll tell you that.”
As “real” as the operation may be, there’s no question that Hyland’s script for Saturday night has been written by boxing experts.
Fortuna (20-0, 15 KOs) has turned in back-to-back scintillating performances on ESPN against Yuandale Evans and Cristobal Cruz, flattening both opponents in less than two rounds apiece. The Dominican is perceived to be a prodigal talent, who could quickly clear out the 126-pound division if he captures the interim WBA trinket over the weekend.
“The Punisher” was among those ESPN viewers, of course, and insists that he must be mindful of that explosive power in the early going.
But if he can make Fortuna go rounds? Well, what the heck, he’s had the luck of the Irish so far in 2012.
“I like being the underdog. Everyone knows Fortuna because he’s been shown on TV and he’s supposed to be the next big wave of boxing over here in the States. I accept all that. But I’ve been hungry for this. I’m just gonna give’r all on Saturday and leave it all in the ring,” said Hyland.
Photo / thehylandbrothers.com
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman