Now it’s time for light welterweight, a class which has the potential to ignite a series of domestic dust-ups.
Light Welterweight – 140lbs (63.5kg)
Darragh Foley [15(8)-3(0)-1] hit heady heights in 2018, reaching #5 in the world with the WBA but has been bumped down following his loss to Akeem Ennis Brown last month. The charismatic Blanchardstown banger will still be involved in big fights this year – and we could see a clash with Ohara Davies – but they will most likely be a step or two down the ladder. That said, there are any number of domestic rivals gunning for the outspoken Dublin southpaw.
Having returned from injury, Crumlin’s Phil Sutcliffe [15(9)-2(1)] is keen on a Foley fight, as is Lenadoon’s Tyrone McKenna [17(6)-1(0)-1]. A fight between these two themselves has also twice been agreed only for Sutcliffe to suffer injury and it is another match-up which could happen in 2019.
McKenna, though, following his win over Lewis Benson, may have his immediate sights set on the likes of British champion Robbie Davies Jr and European champion Joe Hughes as well as the Commonwealth belt set to be contested by Philip Bowes and Benson Nyilawila – and so would need something tasty to keep him in Ireland.
How about a mini-tournament? A semi-finals and final – on one side Sutcliffe and McKenna finally trade leather, then a fight between Foley and Anto Upton [17(6)-2(0)] with the winners facing off for a big cash prize.
Upton has hinted at a move down to lightweight but seems to have a real dislike of Foley and also has a desire to rematch McKenna. Indeed, any combination of these four will make for good fights and, with all of them under the same management banner, it would look easy to make.
Sean McComb [5(3)-0] has been mightily impressive since turning pro, racing through the wins and making a big statement versus Zoltan Szabo. The Turf Lodge southpaw is aiming for the British title in 2019 and to continue on this fast-track he will need to quickly move into eights and tens – something which should not be a problem for one of Ireland’s top prospects.
A challenge of BUI Celtic light welterweight champion Victor Rabei [6(2)-0] has been suggested but McComb’s management’s policy and the chance that the Dubliner will be built on TG4 would rule this out. Rabei may now look for a fight with long-time verbal sparring partner Martin Quinn as the Crumlin lightweight has seen his rematch with Karl Kelly delayed.
The American Dream
Larry Fryers [9(3)-1(1)] has bounced back admirably from his loss to Nikolay Buzolin, winning three on the spin, and this rematch may appeal to him. A match-up with fellow New York-based pro Noely Murphy [12(2)-1(0)-1] was put to the Monaghan man but he argued that it was a down-the-line type of match-up. However, this was before Murphy’s surprise draw with Andre Byrd – on a card where Fryers won so the framing of the fight might now have changed.
It definitely was a year to forget for Murphy who also lost to Mikkel LesPierre in a WBC rankings title fight but the massively popular Cork fighter is still young and can rebuild. Both he and Fryers would also be extremely well-received were they to squeeze in a homecoming during the year.
Galway’s Gearoid Clancy [9(2)-6(1)] became a two-weight New South Wales champion in 2018 but failed in an Australian title challenge. The Oughterard man though will hopefully be back this year in more title fights, giving it his all every time.
Also abroad, Donegal veteran Shaun McShane [8(0)-4(0)-1] racked up three wins in Scotland in 2018 and, as he is linked with Prospect Boxing, there could finally be a nice domestic fight back home for the Rosses man during the expected Belfast small hall boom.
In Belfast, Dan McShane [10(3)-1(1)] had a comeback revenge win over Zoltan Horvath in February but hasn’t fought since. There are plenty of domestics about, though, should he want them.
Finally, talented Dubliner Jake Hanney [5(4)-1(1)] looks set to finally return in 2019. If he can get his head down and string a few wins together who knows what could happen.