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Sweeney had a lengthy amateur boxing career – he represented Ireland and had a win over Andy Lee – and said: “I got bored with the amateurs.

“I was overweight and needed something to motivate me, so when I got the call from Jim (Freeman) about bare knuckIe boxing I thought: ‘Fuck it, I will give it a go.’

“I’m an Irish Traveller, so bare knuckle boxing is part of my culture.

“I grew up with it.”

Sweeney has won all 16 fights and though not entirely comfortable with the ‘Golden Boy’ tag he’s been given, he is the undoubted star of bareknuckle boxing with his unique counter-punching style that bamboozles opponents.

“I have come up with my own style,” he said. “I don’t just get in there and swing.

“I was always an aggressive counter puncher, but I’ve had to make changes.

“I wouldn’t get away with lots of feints in the amateurs and in bare knuckle boxing, you can’t afford to make any mistakes.

“One punch can change a fight. You can get cut or knocked out. The name of the game is hitting and not getting hit. I don’t take a lot of punishment.”

The worst injury Sweeney has picked up is a chipped bone on his left hand.

“You have to be careful with your own punches,” he said. “I won’t punch above the eyes. Anything above that is skull and if you hit that, your hands will go. I try to get the body shots in early and get them to crumble.”

Sweeney has made a pair of successful defences against UFC star Melvin Guillard and said: “By beating these well-known UFC fighters, I’m giving the sport credibility.

“The progress we have made in the last couple of years is amazing.

“We used to fight in front of 30 people for a few pounds.

“Now we’re pulling in thousands and fighters are getting paid properly.

“Imagine where we might be in another five or 10 years ?”


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