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Darragh Foley vs. Hunter Ioane, Nikita Tszyu vs. Ben Horn undercard, preview, latest news

The last time Darragh Foley stepped into the ring, it ended in the fight of the year.

His battle with Ty Telford at CommBank Stadium had every fan inside the venue off their seats, off their couches at home and off their barstools at the pubs.

The Battle Of The Brothers: Watch as unbeaten Nikita Tszyu faces Ben Horn live on Wednesday 20 July from 7pm AEST on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

‘ISN’T A RIVALRY’: Tim, Nikita Tszyu take down Horn brothers with brutal truth bomb

Darragh Foley and Ty Telford in their 2020 ‘fight of the year’Source: Getty Images

Australian boxing legend Jeff Fenech declared Foley’s battle with Telford as the “fight of the year”, only to rebrand it as the “fight of the decade” seconds later.

The Irishman secured a victory over Telford via unanimous decision and had the momentum of a thundering steam train behind him on the back of the victory.

There’s just one small problem with all of this: that fight took place in December 2020.

What has followed since has been nothing short of a nightmare: broken promises, a raft of promotional issues and a stint in a sling thanks to shoulder surgery.

“I was promised a fight in March on the Tszyu and Hogan undercard,” Foley told foxsports.com.au over coffee in the Sydney suburb of Waterloo.

“Oh no, April. Oh no June. Oh no July. Usually the way you train, you ramp up for eight weeks. Then you’re still training, but on a lighter load to let the body recover a bit. Then I’d go again.

“I’d been told March, April, June, July. I’d been training consistently the whole way through. Some injuries flared up and hadn’t had time to heal. It just f***ed up basically.”

Just when Foley finally secured a fight, even though it was in a higher weight division, for the Australian title, he ended up needing to get surgery on his shoulder and was forced to pull out of a fight for the first and only time of his career to date.

It was the most frustrating period of Foley’s career.

The Telford fight, by the 33-year-old’s admission, “should have been the catalyst for great things” but instead he’d been forced to watch the rest of the super-lightweight division pass him by.

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Foley also conceded that losing the tidal wave of momentum he poured blood, sweat and tears into was “the real fight”, but so too was sitting on the couch and listening to his rivals steal the platform that he felt should have been his.

“It was hard, especially when you have all these little guys, these Steve Spark s***ebags, talking and saying s***,” Foley said.

“He’s coming out and saying Foley’s this, that and the other. I’m sitting at home with a busted shoulder watching TV and seeing this idiot talk crap about me and I can’t do anything. That’s frustrating.”

“It’s all well and good when I’m in a f*****g sling at home with a busted shoulder and watching you on TV and hearing you say everything on your platform that I should have.

“Now say it, I’m back now. Let’s see where all these people are now.”

There’s few fighters in Australia who know how to make best use of a platform quite like Foley.

When he briefly dropped down to the lightweight division, a decision made due to the “dead domestic scene” of his usual super-lightweight class, Foley had a certain man in his crosshairs and it was a man who recently headlined a card in front of 40,000 fans at Marvel Stadium.

Having won his first two bouts at lightweight in dominant fashion despite destroying himself to make the 135-pound weight limit, Foley had one man left to fight in the division: George Kambosos Jr.

Pondering how he would best capture Kambosos Jr.’s attention, a lightbulb immediately went off in Foley’s head.

“I’ve got to shame him into fighting me,” Foley said.

“We’re all proud, we’re all boxers, I’ve got to shame him into fighting me.”

The Battle Of The Brothers: Watch as unbeaten Nikita Tszyu faces Ben Horn live on Wednesday 20 July from 7pm AEST on Kayo Sports. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

‘History is repeating itself’ – Tszyu | 06:15

So, what did Foley do?

He rocked up to Kambosos’ fight against Joebert Delos Reyes at the Alexandria Basketball Stadium in 2015 to “spice things up” and was armed with a bag full of – yep, you guessed it – nappies.

“So, Kambosos wins and I’m thinking this is my opportunity,” Foley said.

“I’m sitting on one of those ringside tables.

“I opened them up and started launching them (nappies) into the ring.

“’Take this, you little s***bag! You’re never going to fight me, you little baby! Take this, you’re a baby! This is all you deserve, not titles!’

“I think at one stage his dad came over to the ring and one nappy landed on his head and was resting on his head for a couple of seconds on live TV. Then they got us in the ring together and they had this big check that the winner would take.

“But it never eventuated.”

Foley ultimately lasted one more fight at lightweight against Brandon Ogilvie in 2016, but by that stage he was “completely depleted” from the significant weight cut.

“I remember getting into the ring and never feeling so lifeless,” Foley said.

“I was literally a standing punching bag. I couldn’t move. I felt incapacitated. The weight cut was horrible and I just got beaten for 10 rounds. But I stuck in there and took my beating.”

Fast forward six years and things have changed significantly in Foley’s life.

I have moved back to super-lightweight, won 11 fights and lost twice.

He also became an Australian citizen in May, but perhaps more importantly, he and wife Lauren welcomed a baby girl, Olivia, into the world last August.

It’s also meant that Foley’s motivations for getting in the ring have shifted.

“Before, it was always on me,” Foley said.

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“I’m a dog, I’m always going to win the fight. But now, I’ve got to provide for a family. That’s really driving me.

“I’ve got to get this right because I’m 33. I can’t f*** up again in however long I’ve got left. I’ve got to be on point. Every decision I make, every fight I have has to be on point.

“I can’t f*** up again, it’s too far to come back from.”

What exactly does the Dublin native mean by “f*** up”?

“Lose,” Foley said.

“I can’t lose.”

“When I lose, it f***ing hits me. I’m at the bottom of the ocean. I hate losing more than I love winning. I f***ing hate losing.

“Maybe it’s the pride, maybe it’s everything in me. I just f***ing hate losing, really really bad.”

It’s not just in the ring that Foley can’t afford to lose either.

He was previously managed by MTK Global, the boxing promotion that heavyweight superstar Tyson Fury fought under, but the company shut down in April due to “unprecedented levels of unfair scrutiny and criticism” directed their way after founder Daniel Kinahan came under global sanctions by the United States government.

Foley and MTK parted ways when his contract ran out during the peak of the Covid pandemic and global was not permitted, meaning the promotion could do little for its fighters based in Australia.

It meant the 33-year-old has had to essentially “sail his own ship” since, even virtually securing his fight against Telford all by himself.

It is an approach that certainly comes with its pros and cons.

“I’ve been doing my own thing since then which is good in a sense that I know directly what’s being said and it doesn’t go through another vessel,” Foley said.

“But it’s also bad because sometimes I get a little bit emotional and I don’t keep my business hat on in times where I should.”

However, a dark memory in 2007 explains why Foley is “very firm and strict with getting a good deal for myself” in negotiations and offers a timely yet haunting reminder about the frighteningly real dangers of the sport that is easily forgotten.

“I was co-main event fighting for the NSW title against Michael Mlacic, I stopped him in the fourth,” Foley said.

“I walked out of the ring, I touched gloves with Davey Brown, who was fighting next. I said to him, ‘Good luck mate, God bless you.’

Brown never walked out of that ring.

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He was knocked out with just 30 seconds remaining in the final round against Carlo Magali and died in a coma three days after later due to brain injuries sustained in the fight.

“This can go bad, so you want to make sure you’re getting rewarded for when it does go bad, if it does go bad,” Foley said.

“This s*** is real life. You can die in the ring. I’ve seen it. I’ve watched it. I’ve been in the ring 10, 12 times after that.

“I don’t like talking about this, it’s very deep and dark.

“But if that’s going to happen to anyone, it’s not me. It’s you or me, so if it’s happening to anyone, I’m making sure it’s not me.

“It’s a hard, horrible way to look at it, but you need that mindset that it’s not going to be me.”

Foley worked hard to reach a two-fight deal with No Limit Boxing, with the first of those bouts to take place on Wednesday night at the Hordern Pavilion.

The Irishman (19-4-1, 9KO) takes on Hunter Ioane (8-4-1, 5KO) on the undercard of Nikita Tszyu vs. Ben Horn as he looks to chart a path to a world title.

Ioane is coming off the back of four consecutive losses, but Foley is sharp and alert given that Ioane will likely see the fight “as his World Cup” because a win over the 33-year-old could catapult him to bigger and better things.

While Foley openly admits he’s expected to win and is adamant he’ll get the job done, he’s not taking his eye off the ball for a second ahead of a fight that’s a “potential banana skin.”

After all, a grave mistake made five years ago on December 12 taught him a valuable lesson that he cannot overlook anyone.

“I remember once I fought this Filipino, Ernie Sanchez,” Foley said.

“I thought I’d get one out before Christmas. I’ve come out to Jingle Bells, had a Santa hat, walked out to the ring with a cane, all smiley, all well and good.

“The guy hit me with such a proper right hand in the first round and dropped me. I was like, ‘Woah, s***, ok, no more jingle bells.’”

In the same fight, Foley also copped a low-blow in the third round that landed on his crown jewels and cracked his cup in half, but it was somehow ruled a knockdown.

Foley eventually stormed back to win the fight on points, but it armed him with crucial experience and know-how when it comes to fighting less-facied opponents.

There’ll be no such Christmas in July shenanigans against Ioane on Wednesday in terms of his ring walk, but one present on Foley’s list is a victory via KO/TKO and if Ioane is still standing after six rounds, he’d be the “ toughest son of ab**** in Australia” and would shout him “a drink or 10” afterwards.

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Provided he emerges unscathed from his next fight, Foley expects to be back in the ring in September or October later this year.

And although he’s often reluctant to put the cart in front of the horse, he’s got two names on his hit list: Liam Paro and Stevie Spark.

Paro will be occupied in September as he fights fellow Aussie Brock Jarvis, leaving Spark to be the likelier opponent of the two.

Foley, the self-proclaimed “boogeyman” of the super-lightweights, his message for the former Tim Tszyu rival is clear: be a man of your word.

“Stevie Spark, come and see me,” Foley said.

“Let’s do this, what are you waiting on? Where’s your pen? You can say all this s*** in the media, say whatever you want but push comes to shove, I’ve got the Hordern Pavilion at the end of September. Do you want to be in the ring with me, yes or no?

“Don’t go on Instagram and say all this s*** and not back it up. We’ll see if he’s about it, if he can back up what he says.”

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