Monthly Archives: September 2008
24 September 2008 – by Mark Doyle
John Duddys hopes of a shot at IBF light-middleweight champion Verno Phillips have been dashed for the time being at least.
It was initially hoped that Duddy would tackle Phillips at the Kings Hall in Belfast in November but that bout was scrapped due to the lack of suitable TV date.
As a result, the Derry native will now fight in New York on November 6 against an as yet to be confirmed opponent.
The plan after that is a mouthwatering showdown with another undefeated fighter in the shape of Ronald Hearns, son of ring legend Thomas.
According to Duddys manager, Eddie McLoughlin, if Duddy were to defeat Hearns, the Phillips fight would be back on.
“The reason it [the November bout with Phillips] collapsed is that the TV networks have all their schedules worked out in advance and they couldn’t fit in our fight in time,” he explained to the Irish Independent.
“But John will still get his chance, most likely early in the New Year, probably in April.
“If John beats Hearns, and I’m confident he will, then the world title fight is on. A win over such an established contender would certainly boost John’s ratings.”
Meanwhile, Pat Burns remains utterly convinced that Duddy dropping down to 154lbs to pursue his world title dream is the right decision.
“The more I saw of Duddy, the more convinced I became that the lighter weight would suit him best,” he said of the Irishman, who has campaigned at middleweight for almost all of his career.
“That is where our target lies, the world light-middleweight championship, and his fight in November will be at catchweights, between light-middle and middle.”
Posted September 24th, 2008 in News
23 September 2008 – by Cormac Campbell Boom! When Belfasts Martin Lindsay threw what was undoubtedly the sweetest left hook of his career against the much-touted Derry Matthews on September 20 he sent shockwaves through the domestic game. Behind on points and a big underdog from the get-go it seemed the Belfast mans gamble had not reaped dividends. However, from the middle of the scheduled 10 rounder the Mac Man had been landing an increasing number of meaty left hooks to the chops of the talented Liverpudlian. With just a minute left in the penultimate round Lindsay pounced, relieving Matthews of his senses and securing a British title tilt against champion Paul Appleby. Having previously notched only four stoppages from 12 successful contests the conclusive nature of the KO left many fans shocked but speaking to irish-boxing.com Lindsay said he knew he had power. I have a few knockouts on my card and I suppose it is there but you have to land it right, he said. Taking the fight was certainly a risk, but the University of Ulster graduate is adamant that the traditional route of tough opponents is the only way to be all that he can be. It was a step up for me. I went in to those last two rounds knowing I needed to do something because I was talking to the ref afterwards and he said I was a few rounds down. Were now working towards a title fight. Thats why I accepted the fight. There is no point in hanging about. I just wanted to go in and see how far I can go. He was ranked number two in the latest EBU rankings so I suppose that will put me up in the top ten anyway. I just dont know whereabouts. If Lindsays participation in the contest was viewed as an afterthought by the British media, future appearances will no doubt garner the attention and respect that wasnt apparent in Sheffield. I knew I was going in to the fight as an underdog and I knew a lot of commentators would be like that (pro Matthews). Im Irish going over to fight in England with English referees and commentators. I just expected it. It doesnt annoy me. Given the severity of the KO there will be little appetite for a rematch. Despite the fact that Matthews was well ahead on points two KO defeats in three fights will force the 25-year-old to get to the back of the queue in an intriguing domestic scene. When Lindsays title shot takes place remains to be seen, but the unbeaten 26-year-old will return to action in November on the undercard of David Hayes O2 Arena show in November. Im going on holidays now but Im on the O2 Arena show in November, he said. I dont know what they have planned for me but it probably wont be the title shot then. Theyll probably give me a six rounder. I just leave it up to my management and let them sort it out.
23 September 2008 – by Cormac Campbell
The Irish Champion – Peter Maher
The story of Irish boxers crossing the Atlantic to further their careers is nothing new. In fact it is something akin to the flow of footballing talent headed for England and Scotland.
At present prospects such as John Duddy, Andy Lee, James Moore and Henry Coyle are all based stateside. That the US is the land of opportunity for the fighting Irish has never been in question, and the story of Peter Maher is testament to this.
However, although he was top of the food chain in the late 1800s, his legend has diminished greatly from the time when he topped fight cards on both sides of the Atlantic.
This is what author Matt Donnellon, a member of the International Boxing Research Organisation (IBRO) has ably addressed in The Irish Champion.
Over 360 pages Donnellon pieces together Mahers story from a host of crumbling sources. By the end we know much about the man, from his birth in rural Galway in 1869, his time working in Dublins Pheonix Brewery and his rise to fame.
Mahers rise to fame proves that the adage that if you are rich and famous everyone wants a piece of you is true regardless of era.
One passage, a reproduced interview with Maher wonderfully highlights this phenomenon.
When I was 16 I got a job in a brewery. Since I came to America I have met not less than a thousand men who said they used to know me when I worked in Guinness brewery. That is a real curious thing. I have never worked there in my life, and on more than one occasion I have been forced to tell these newfound friends of their mistake I worked in the Phoenix brewery.
On paper, Maher had everything a prizefighter needed to make it to the top. Ability, power, charisma and looks, he was a fan favourite win, lose or draw. This made him a celebrity. As his fame grew so did the iconic nature of his company from presidents Roosevelt and McKinley to Wild West legend Wyatt Earp.
However, he had a major flaw and that was his love of booze. On more than one occasion Donnellon explains how alcohol played a part in Mahers apparent lack of conditioning in contests. But despite this he rose to the top of his sport in November 1895 with a KO1 victory over Steve O’Donnell. His glory was to be short lived when the legendary Bob Fitzsimmons (allegedly but without proof the great-great grandfather of footballer Wayne Rooney) relieved him of the crown early the following year.
What Donnellon has put together in the Irish Champion is thoroughly enjoyable both as a historical reference point and indeed as an account of a remarkable individual who overcame (self-made) hurdles to lift the biggest prize in sport.
The depth of research Donnellon has gone to is both impressive and worthwhile. Included in the book are the complete records of many of the men that Maher fought. No mean feat considering online databases such as boxrec were 100 years away when Maher was thrilling the crowds.
Comes highly recommended.
23 September 2008 – by Cormac Campbell
It is now 28 years since Hugh Little Red Russell cemented his legacy in the annals of Irish boxing.
Winning bronze at the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980, the North Belfast native had set himself on a course for not one but two careers. It all started when a young Russell made the decision to follow his brother Sean in to Gerry Storeys Holy Family Gym.
My brother Sean boxed for Ireland and he was two years older than me, he told irish-boxing.com.
Dad didnt box but he played football. My uncles Johnny and Jimmy boxed. So I sort of fell in to it. I was probably very fortunate as regards where I lived. Gerrys gym was very close to our house. Then he ended up being National coach when I went to the Olympics. So I was just extremely fortunate to have such good coaching from a young age.
Russells first taste of the big time came in 1978 when he won bronze whilst representing Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton, Canada. But in the eyes of the general public and indeed an ambitious young boxer it is the Olympics that matter most and two years later Russell saw his hard work put off when he won bronze for Ireland in the heart of the Soviet Union.
Unbeknownst to him at the time was that as a result of Communist policy he would not be allowed to take local currency, in addition to the more valuable metal already in his pocket, home with him.
So rather than see good money go to waste Russell went shopping, picking up his first camera in a local shop.
On his return home as a hero, Russell embarked on a career as a professional boxer. And having won two British titles at two weights his decision to enter the paid ranks certainly proved worthwhile. But all the while he was snapping away, honing his skills as a photographer.
His fighting days long behind him, Russell now makes his living as a shutterbug for the Irish News ironically a newspaper that is more than generous in terms of boxing coverage.
Following the successes of Darren Sutherland, Ken Egan and fellow Holy Family starlet Paddy Barnes, Russell cant help but reminise on his own experience.
I dont think anybody actually realises how big a thing the Olympics is when they are taking part in it, he said.
It is only now that I can realise how much of an honour it is to do the Olympics and to win a medal. Its 28 years since I fought in the Olympics and I still get mentions of it everyday in life. I turned pro and won two British titles and won the Lonsdale belt outright and I still get letters sent to me from all around the world but it is always to do with the Olympics. People want autographs from Olympians. So there is a magic that captures everybodys imagination.
Aged just 20 at the time of his Olympic adventure, Russell acknowledges that the worlds premier festival of sport can change someones life in weeks.
What it is like getting on the plane you are getting on the plane with superstars. I remember getting on the plane with Eamonn Coghlan. Now Eamonn was the biggest thing that I had ever seen in sport. He is also probably the most unlucky man alive. Fourth place in the Olympic Games its the loneliest place to finish. I remember coming home on the plane and he asked me if he could see my medal.
Here was my superstar and he was asking to see something I had that he didnt get. And it was only then that I started to realise how big a feat it was. Whether Barnes, Egan and Sutherland are aware of the magnitude of their achievements remains to be seen, but Russell is delighted to invite them into the winners circle.
They are now part of a very small club. A couple of handfuls of us in it, so they are very lucky. I think when you have been there, you are very proud of anyone who makes it there. You have the three boys who picked up medals. It is always going to be a very special part of their lives.
19 September 2008 – by Mark Doyle
John Duddys proposed homecoming bout in Belfast on November 29 is off.
It had been hoped that the Derry native, who is now campaigning at light-middleweight, would challenge Verno Phillips for his IBF title at the Kings Hall on that date.
However, that fight now appears to have been scrapped completely, with Duddys manager, Eddie McLoughlin, confirming that the undefeated Irishmans next outing will be on November 6 at the Westbury County Centre in Long Island.
We should confirm an opponent shortly, McLoughlin is quoted as saying by The Irish Sun.
It is a key date as a lot of journalists will be in town for the Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones fight. We should get a lot of exposure.
And McLoughlin revealed that the goal after that bout will be arranging a match-up with Ronald Hearns, son of ringing legend Thomas, in Madison Square Garden.
If John and Ronald Hearns keep their unbeaten records, they will be a step closer to meeting on January 21,” he enthused.
19 September 2008 – by Cormac Campbell
The 2008 Olympics proved to be the most successful ever for an Irish boxing team.
Five entrants and three medals were a more than satisfactory return for the moderate funding the sport receives from the Government.
Yet there is little doubt that another Irish boxer was more than deserving of a berth in Beijing. Its just Darren ONeills misfortune then that over the past three years he has had to face Ken Egan and Darren Sutherland in the National Senior finals.
On the occasions the Kilkenny native has received prolonged international experience, notably during Sutherlands rehabilitation period following an eye injury in May 2006, he has excelled. Establishing himself as one of the top ten middleweights in Europe and holding victoroies over Egans conqueror Xiaoping Zhang and bronze medalist Yerkebulan Shynaliyev it seems ludicrous that ONeill was not in China. But such is life on the amateur circuit.
Speaking to irish-boxing.com, ONeill said that in hindsight he believes a move to an unnatural division could have secured him a passage to the greatest show on earth.
Looking back now I should have gone to heavyweight as I would have had a great chance to qualify there, he said over the phone. Despite this the Paulstown star remains pragmatic preferring to look forward with optimism rather than back with disappointment.
When Darren (Sutherland) came back from his eye injury I broke my thumb and that put me out for a while. Then when I came back it was only weeks when I broke it again. He had misfortune and so did I, and it set me back a long way. So he got to take part in top level competitions while I was at home hitting a bag with one hand.
But now is the time to look ahead.
With Sutherland intent on a move to the professional ranks it seems ONeill is in prime position to replace the bronze medallist as both the senior champion and first choice for international duty in the classic division. However, as a natural light-heavy this is not necessarily the ideal situation.
Im not going to cross that bridge (on what weight to fight at) until the time comes. At the minute Im weighing over 81KG. I can fill out quite a bit but if I pushed myself I can make middleweight as well. Either way I can hurt people.
What ONeill is sure of is that, as a result of Beijing, there will be more public interest in amateur boxing in Ireland in the run-up to London 2012.
Different athletes from different sports have always got the coverage and the boxers have maybe been a little bit shunned upon. So hopefully well get more support from everybody and recognised a bit more for what we do.
Last year I boxed against Poland at the Stadium and we were outnumbered by Polish supporters at the Stadium. It was ridiculous when you think about it – imagine that at an Irish soccer game.
Ive boxed at the seniors for years. Two years I boxed against Egan and then I broke the hand and as long as Ive been there it hasnt even been completely full. It was only this year with all the talk of myself fighting Sutherland that it was packed and even after that fight which was halfway through the programme a lot of people left again. So it really is a case of just making the boxers household names.
I dont think the papers are too keen to have it in but hopefully because of the Olympics things will change.
Irish boxers of course have their part to play in extending the medias love affair with amateur boxing – that challenge begins with the European Championships in Liverpool in November. Four years is a long commitment and undoubtedly ONeill will be offered big money should he excel at events such as the Euros and the World Championships but for now he is resolute in his desire to reach the pinnacle of his sport.
Ive no thoughts of going pro. I would like to have an Olympic medal behind me and Ill keep plugging away until I get one.
19 September 2008 – by Conor Ward
The Cork public are well known for supporting and lauding their own when it comes to sporting endeavours.
The north side of the city in particular is a place where every self-respecting barstool has reverberated over the years with tales of how the great Christy Ring brushed aside the hardest of hard opponents, and of how Mayfields famed boy in green set the tone for World Cup qualification by giving Dutchman Marc Overmars a chilling early welcome to Lansdowne Road. Its hardly pushing the boundaries of reasonable observation to surmise that they take pride in their sporting heroes on Leeside.
But it is a place where standards are high and you need to earn your stripes by demonstrating either a big heart for battle or ability which goes far above and beyond the mediocre, preferably both. So what happens when three unknown Cuban guys land themselves into that very environment looking to embark on their professional boxing careers?
Well for one thing, Cork people are not slow to recognise sporting pedigree when they see it, and when all three boasting world junior championships, that box is well and truly ticked. And so last Saturday night at Neptune Stadium, Cork succumbed to a three-pronged Cuban invasion, welcomed these boys as their own, and maybe even dreamt a little of bigger things to come.
Young featherweight Alexi Acosta was the first of the Cuban trio to step into the ring on the show which local promoter Gary Hyde billed as Celtic Crossing. Making his professional debut on territory foreign to him, having only recently arrived on these shores, Acosta may have been a touch apprehensive about the reception which awaited him. But sure enough, cries of Go on Lexi Kid echoed around the arena as the silky-smooth youngster locked horns with his Bugarian opponent Krastan Krastanov. Two sweet Acosta left hooks ended the bout in the second round and his pro career was up and running with the minimum of fuss.
Super middleweight Luis Garcia showed he was the real deal by overcoming a spirited challenge from Latvian Martins Kukuls. Garcia, a supremely conditioned athlete and an astute ring operator, drew oohs and ahs from his new legion of followers before unloading a sustained attack and compelling referee David Irving to call a halt to the action in the third round.
And finally it was the turn of the star attraction, 22-year-old heavyweight Mike The Rebel Perez, whose power and quality were already known to the expectant crowd, having made light work of four previous opponents since his pro debut at the same venue in January. Unfortunately, his bulky Brazilian opponent Claudemir Diaz offered about as much resistance as an umbrella from Pound City in the face of Hurricane Katrinas mighty onslaught, and promptly fell to a vicious Perez left uppercut after all of 22 seconds and was counted out.
All the Cubans were good tonight, said Gary Hyde afterwards. They have everything.
“We have three exciting young fighters on our hands, on our own patch in Cork and it is just beautiful to watch them.
Beautiful indeed, to witness three serious boxing prospects show off their immaculate skills right here in Cork. Having been welcomed with open arms, these boys have long-term world title ambitions, and are bound to cause quite a stir along the way. Watch this space.
19 September 2008 – by Mark Doyle
James Moore has expressed his disappointment at having been forced to pull out of his latest bout.
The 30-year-old light-middleweight, who has lost just one of his 17 bouts since turning professional three years ago, had been scheduled to fight on a card in Philadelphia on October 4.
However, Moore injured his right hand in training during the week and now, agonisingly, is facing a three-month lay-off.
Im terribly disappointed I was hoping to have this and three more fights before the end of the year, he is quoted as saying in Gerry Callans column in The Star.
There are as many Irish fans in Philadelphia as there are in New York, so I was really excited about fighting there.
I hope the hand will heal up as quickly as possible and I look forward to making my Philadelphia debut very soon.
06 September 2008 – by Mark Doyle
John Duddy’s proposed bout with IBF light-middleweight champion Verno Phillips is in danger of collapse due to the lack of interest from the major American TV networks.
It had initially been expected that the fight would go ahead in late September or early October but the failure to secure a suitable TV date stalled matters.
That scheduling issue has not yet been resolved, according to Duddy’s manager and promoter, Eddie McLoughlin, but he is adamant that whatever the outcome, the Derry fighter will have a major fight at the Kings Hall in Belfast on November 29.
“Phillips is not getting a response from the TV networks,” McLoughlin is quoted as saying by The Irish Sun. “That is partly because they have their schedules worked out in advance.
“We have the Kings Hall in Belfast booked for November 29. Hopefully, that will be the date when John meets Phillips, and maybe some of the TV networks over there would be interested.
“But if a fight with Phillips doesn’t happen, when we will line up a world-class opponent for John, probably at light-middle.
“It will be a statement fight for him,” he declared.
Posted September 16th, 2008 in News
06 September 2008 – by Cormac Cambell
Despite one or two setbacks in the past 12 months, the glass is beginning to overflow for Irish boxing.
A blossoming professional scene can only be bolstered by the Beijing success of Messrs Barnes, Egan and Sutherland – and that is a supposition that holds firm whether or not our Olympians elect to ditch their vests and headguards.
The coverage the sport has received from the mainstream press in recent weeks has been nothing short of unprecedented. But laurels are not for resting on and as such much hard work has to be done if the amateur and professional codes are to retain this support.
The IABA is at a point where their High Performance Unit is among the most envied in the entire amateur boxing world. We have it right in the ring – however, there is a real need for the amateur sport to be promoted out of it with more vigour and to use a rather crude wordprofessionalism.
There is no excuse for empty seats at the National Stadium for internationals or major championships and one can only assume that so many exist because nobody has been appointed to push tickets to clubs and the general public. A simple task providing pricing is flexible.
Full houses attract the attention of the media – newspapers, radio and TV. Moreover, the spread of internationals around the country is less than equitable. Yes the Stadium is a wonderful venue but surely Belfast, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Derry are deserving of regular opportunity to host senior international events?
One can only imagine that this would prove to be a profitable experience both in terms of revenue and exposure?
Moreover, following Beijing the time is right for the IABA to lobby RTE and the Government if necessary to force the State Broadcaster in to a deal that would ensure live coverage of the sport on our screens for all major competitions. In a nutshell – we need more professionalism outside the ring. In it, it would a little more complicated.
After all, the possibility of the amateur code engaging in any sort of bidding war with professional promoters for the services of boxers should be frowned upon. If a boxer wants to make money, the IABA or Sports Council should not be stretching budgets to enable him to do so. Certainly, fostering talent with financial means is desirable and commendable – but to go down the road of six figure salaries makes a mockery of the ethos of amateur sport.
If a boxer is costing too much he should be given his cards, lest his demands interfere with the development of other boxers.
But wait. There seems to be a third way emerging.
Apparently the AIBA are planning to introduce a World League, which would offer prizemoney rather than pay packets by 2010 and boxers would still be allowed to enter the Olympics.
AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu has said that this can change the sport forever.
“The World League of Boxing will revolutionise the sport of boxing like never before, providing a universal form of entertainment which will capture the imagination of boxing fans around the world,” he said.
Whatever way these plans pan out the IABA should be planning for making the most of the current system – bad judging and all.
And that includes abandoning the viewpoint that stopping the best amateurs from turning professional is so important.
The situation between the amateurs and professionals is like that of the GAA and the AFL. At the end of the day, an athlete is always going to go for the money if it is on the table.
So it may be best for the sport if amateur authorities looked at the next hungry generation such as Darren O’Neill and Tommy McCarthy rather than stretching budgets trying to retain established stars such as Sutherland and Egan.