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hopeful Meet the boxer following in the footsteps of Kenneth Egan and Joe Ward at the World Championships

Cassidy still plays football with his local GAA team St Saviours, but boxing is now prioritised

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Kelyn Cassidy of Saviours Crystal Boxing Club has learnt a lot from sparring with boxing professional Joe Ward .

Kelyn Cassidy of Saviours Crystal Boxing Club has learnt a lot from sparring with boxing professional Joe Ward .

Kelyn Cassidy of Saviours Crystal Boxing Club has learnt a lot from sparring with boxing professional Joe Ward .

Waterford boxer Kelyn Cassidy has big boots to fill.

He will be following in the footsteps of legendary Irish light heavyweights Kenneth Egan and Joe Ward when he makes his debut at the World Championships in Belgrade on Saturday..

But in a classic example of sporting serendipity, Ward - the only Irish male boxer to medal in three World championships - has played a key role in the development of Cassidy's career.

Now a professional fighter, Ward still spends a lot of time in Waterford where his coach Jimmy Payne is based. The Moate fighter trains in St Saviours Crystal Boxing Club in Ballybeg, where Cassidy learned his trade under the guidance of the Simpson brothers Joey and Paul.

"I have done a lot of sparring with Joe Ward (inset) and this has brought me on in leaps and bounds. He's a world-class athlete and to be the best you have got to be in with the best," explained the 24-year-old.

"He is a multiple medal winner at World and European level and being able to hold my own against him has built my confidence, and he has encouraged me all the way."

A qualified toolmaker, Cassidy has been given leave by his employer Jabil Healthcare in order to pursue his boxing ambitions, which he hopes will culminate at the Paris Olympics in less than three years' time.

Growing up in Ballybeg he sampled every sport being played in the area. "When I was ten, I spent two weeks in the boxing club and had one uncontested fight. I left but returned when I was 16 - and have been there since."

Cassidy still plays football with his local GAA team St Saviours, but boxing is now prioritised. He acknowledges he lacked ambition at the start of his boxing journey.

"I just wanted to be an ordinary club boxer, but my coaches Joey and Paul saw that I had a talent and made me work hard and be disciplined," he states.

So, getting up at dawn to train before going to work and staying away from the takeaway treats he loves became the norm as he made his way through the ranks. He won two All-Ireland U-22 titles and represented Ireland at the European Championship at this level.

Earlier this month he became the first Waterford boxer in two decades to secure an Elite Irish title, when he stopped Tommy Hyde in the first round of the 81kg final in the National Stadium, on what he described as "a very special night".

Now he is seeking more glory and after surpising himself at how comfortable he felt during the Irish squad's training camp alongside boxers from the UK, France and Germany in Sheffield last week, stepping into the ring at a World Championship represents a different kind of challenge.

"Like all the boxers I am going out there with a winning mentality. I know it will be all about performing - and if I perform, I know the results will look after themselves," he added.

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All eyes will be on him when he steps into the ring for his shot at glory this weekend.

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