TALENTED boxer James Rooney has become the latest in a line of Hartlepool fighters to turn professional.

TALENTED boxer James Rooney has become the latest in a line of Hartlepool fighters to turn professional. The 21-year-old has left the amateur ranks, where he was a multi-title winner with the Catholic Club, to sign for up-and-coming trainer/manager/ promoter Michael Marsden from Leeds.

Rooney has followed in the ringsteps of fellow Hartlepool boxers Ian Cooper, Kevin Bennett and Mohammed Helel, who have all turned pro in 1999.

After 105 contests as an amateur 81 of those victories Rooney has decided to seek fame and fortune.

And there were no shortage of offers for the hard-hitting England international.

Hartlepool promoter Gus Robinson, Sunderland's Tommy Conroy and one of Britain's major forces in boxing, Frank Warren, all tried and failed to tie up a deal with the lightweight.

The winner was Marsden, who is one of the sport's lesser-known figures, but is connected to Prince Promotions the organisation run by Naseem Hamed and his brothers.

Marsden's leading star is Castleford's Noel Wilders who won the British bantamweight title at Peterlee Leisure Centre in October.

"I spoke to quite a few people," said Rooney. "But I was very impressed with Michael.

"He actually took the time to come up to Hartlepool to see me which was nice of him.

"If I had signed for Frank Warren, I would have been a small cog in a very big machine.

"With Michael I am still in a very good organisation. And he is a man who wants to go places and so do I."

The Hartlepool boxer had been one of England's brightest prospects as an amateur, winning six national titles in his teens.

Last season he reached the ABA semi-finals before losing to Liverpool's Stevie Burke, who will be Great Britain's lightweight representative at the2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Rather than jump back on the amateur grindstone for another season he has opted to go pro.


"I have been boxing for 11 years as an amateur and I've really enjoyed it," said Rooney, who has also captained his country.

"I would not say I have been thinking about going pro for a long time but things have started to develop over the last few months.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge. The amateur game has been very good to me and I'm very ambitious to do well as a pro."

Rooney's mentor in his 11 years at the Catholic Club, Paul Allen, has been guiding the lightweight in his move from amateur to professional ranks.

"It is a sad day to lose James," said Mr Allen. "But he will be getting looked after by a good promoter, manager and trainer.

"Not only is Michael a promoter who looks like he is going places, he is a man with a personal touch and I know he will discuss every move for James with James himself.

"He wants James to help him go forward as much as he can help James.

"I'm confident it can be a good association for both parties and I look forward to seeing James be a success."