SOUTHILL'S boxing supremo Willie 'Big Bang' Casey has been named the Limerick Person of the Month for his magnificent dedication to his sport which culminated in him winning the European super bantamweight title at the UL Arena.
The O'Malley Park resident now has his sights set firmly on a world title and his lifelong dream could come true in March when he takes on Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux at Dublin's CityWest complex.
"It would be great to bring it back to Limerick," said Willie on accepting his Limerick Person of the Month award at the Clarion Hotel.
"The reception I have been getting with this European title has been huge and to have a world champion in Limerick would be a great start to the year in 2011.
"The more the younger people see me being honoured and getting a civic reception from the mayor and now the Limerick Person of the Month award, maybe it will encourage them to want that award, try harder and to do something better with their lives."
Willie became a household name this year after his rip-roaring display at the UL Arena in November when he overcame Dubliner Paul Hyland in what was only his 11th professional bout – only two years after he left the amateur ranks.
Following the Christmas break, the southpaw will engage in a 10-week training camp ahead of his world title encounter in March.
"The bigger these occasions get, the more excited I get and the more I want it. I'm out there trying to do the best I can. I'm 29 now and I don't want to be waiting around too long. I have a chance now and I want to take it.
"I'm going to go into camp and we are going to train to beat this lad. We know how good he is and we know how hard it's going to be to beat him but if we work out a gameplan to beat him, we'll be confident of doing it."
The support of his family, Willie says, has played a major part in his success.
His 22 brothers and sisters – his brother Paddy passed away two years ago – are ringside at almost every encounter and his parents Terry and Kathleen are hugely proud of their son's accomplishments.
"It's a big boost for my family. They are all delighted for me, every one of them. They follow me everywhere. Especially being a member of the travelling community – my father and my mother are delighted for me because it's not often that you see a member of the travelling community doing so well," said Willie.
His wife Mary and four children – Myles, 9, Willie, 6, Terry, 4, and Ellie May, 22 months – are equally proud. "Mary is delighted – I have her 100 per cent support and it's great for the kids as well."
A former student of St Kieran's Boys National School in Galvone, Willie also paid tribute to his former teacher Kevin Haugh, who has advised him since his school days. "After school we remained friends. If ever I am looking for advice now I would always give him a ring and we would have a chat".
As for the support from the people of Limerick – he says he couldn't do it without them. "It's a huge boost, especially in these times. It's not easy for people to follow me in fights now especially with the downturn but they are doing it – they are still turning out in their thousands to see me fight."
"I'm very grateful for it all and I would like to wish them a peaceful New Year."
The Limerick Person of the Month Award is sponsored by the Limerick Leader, Southern Advertising and the Clarion Hotel.