If there is one place in Northern Ireland where the community takes great pride in its boxing traditions, it is North Belfast.

British, Commonwealth, European and World titles are among the professional honours won by local fighters, but in just over three weeks’ time, the constituency will see a fight like no other.

Political heavyweights will go head-to-head in the battle of the election – vying for a seat held by the DUP’s Nigel Dodds since 2001.

DUP candidate Nigel Dodds. Credit: UTV

Last time around, Sinn Féin’s John Finucane lost out by just over 2,000 votes.

So is the DUP deputy leader worried about losing a seat that has never fallen out of unionist hands?

“No, I think the energy, the vibrancy that’s been displayed over the last few days - the reaction that we have got right across the community, from other parties, from other people - has been fantastic,” Mr Dodds said.

“We’re really energised and looking forward to the campaign, and I think people will turn out in their droves because they don’t want a Corbyn government and they want to keep Northern Ireland moving forward.”

Sinn Féin candidate John Finucane. Credit: UTV

The Sinn Féin lord mayor is equally confident.

“Our track record over the past two years shows that Sinn Féin has taken the voice of those who voted Remain and went to the places where it matters,” Mr Finucane said.

“We’ve went to Brussels, we’ve went to Dublin, we’ve went to Downing Street, and we’ve went to Washington …

“And this election, particularly in North Belfast, has the opportunity to remove an arch-Brexiteer – somebody who was part of the Leave campaign, somebody who’s squarely behind Brexit and the disaster that is for everybody here.”

Alliance Party candidate Nuala McAllister. Credit: UTV

The Alliance Party’s Nuala McAllister is also not afraid of the fight ahead.

“We’re always outlined as the underdog in elections right across Northern Ireland, but does that put me off? No. Does that make me want to step down? Absolutely not,” she said.

“We have to deal with Brexit and Alliance want to remain part of the European Union. We make no apologies about that - we know that that’s best for our future, for Northern Ireland, for the peace process and for stability here.”

One thing is sure, this will be a battle right to the final count.

Election 2019 Candidates

  • Nigel Dodds (DUP)

  • John Finucane (Sinn Féin)

  • Nuala McAllister (Alliance)