It’s just after midnight and I’m on a rickety bus home from Belfast so what better time to finally get to writing up my picks for all-Irish fights I want to see in 2019.
My colleague Jonny started us off a few days ago with his NINE which featured big ones, small ones, and a few ‘out there’ shouts.
To keep things fresh, I’m not going to include any of the 18 fighters selected by Stapleton meaning I have had to rack my brains this week.
Of course, there are dozens upon dozens of domestic derbies out there but, ever the perfectionist, I wanted some fights that I have trouble calling, match-ups that give you the ‘oooh’ feeling when you hear about them for the first time.
Considering a lot of the more high-profile Irish fighters were covered in Jonny’s list, my picks are a bit more earthy, a bit ore small hall, and I hope you enjoy them.
Fights listed in order of weight class
Luke Wilton v Dylan McDonagh
Belfast’s Wilton [18(7)-5(1)-1] is looking to make one last title charge at the age of 30 and looked very impressive in his comeback win over Georgi Georgiev. ‘Winky’ has his eye on British and Commonwealth titles but there should not be a major rush to jump into the away corner.
Why not attempt to build his value for such fights by taking on Dubliner McDonagh [3(1)-2(0)] for the inaugural BBBoC Celtic super fly title?
‘The Firecracker’ came out of his Irish super bantamweight title loss to Carl McDonald with his stock massively raised and, at a more appropriate weight, the equal parts clever and relentless fighter could be a real force.
Such a match-up would provide a ‘headliner’ for a Team Wilton show – something the last few cards at the Shorts have been desperately lacking.
Marco McCullough v Declan Geraghty
Probably the likeliest fight on this list – although I am hoping for at least three of them to be made in 2019! Already agreed for the Titanic Exhibition Centre show last October, Geraghty would withdraw and the Dubliner wants to finally meet McCullough this year.
Two talented fighters with a number of impressive wins to their names, they are, however, perhaps more known for their losses and their vulnerabilities.
Facing each other allows one the chance to pick up a relatively high-profile win and go into another big fight with a bit of weight behind them while the loser, should they want to continue, would be veering into away corner/gatekeeper territory.
Two gutsy fighters with careers on the line, it couldn’t not entertain.
John Joe Nevin v Anto Cacace
Belfast’s Cacace [16(7)-1(0)] is said to have a very big fight in the pipeline but, until this is confirmed, we can postulate.
‘The Apache’ has been stop-start for a number of reasons for over three years now and didn’t fight in 2018 at all. As time goes by, the time Cacace has to ‘build’ becomes less and less and he is going into fights with little momentum. It’s far from ideal – as could be seen in his loss to Martin J Ward – but it’s the only real option.
From an Irish boxing point of view, Cacace’s plight has been frustrating and disappointing to watch and it has certain similarities to Mullingar’s Nevin [11(4)-0] who has been unable to secure the momentum or the fights to show his undoubted talents
Why not put the two together? Of course, it would be preferable if both had big opportunities in which they were the A-side but this just hasn’t happened over the years so maybe it’s time to go with the ‘two birds’ approach and a fight from which one of them will soar, at least.
Siobhán O’Leary v Elaine Greenan
There have been 58 professional boxing contests involving Irishwomen but only one of these, the first ever, was an all-Irish affair. Not since Deirdre Gogarty and Anne Marie Griffin did battle as debutants in Limerick back in 1991 have two Irish female pro fighters shared the same ring but this could change in 2019.
Powerful Limerick-based Kerry puncher O’Leary [1(1)-0] and rangy Livingston-based Monaghan boxer Greenan [2(0)-2(0)] are perfect for each other. Greenan boxes out of the away corner in Britain so would jump at the chance of a fight at home while O’Leary is keen to progress quickly.
The BUI’s recent announcement that BUI Celtic titles will be fought over six rounds and Irish titles over eight rounds means that such fights are already within touching distance for the pair who only debuted in the second half of last year.
And why not make more history too? Boxing in more regional centres outside Belfast and Dublin proved a massive success in 2018 so why couldn’t O’Leary, a massive ticket-seller, headline a ‘Celtic Clash’ bill in Limerick towards the end of the year versus the always game and gutsy Greenan who has upset the odds on the road before?
Victor Rabei v Jake Hanney
The Irish-Boxing.com Prospect of the Year as voted for by our readers, Dubliner Rabei [6(2)-0] has set himself up for a big year having built a nice profile in 2019. There have been plenty of fights suggested for the BUI Celtic light welter champion but I’m going to plump for one I haven’t heard mentioned.
I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for Jake Hanney [5(4)-1(1)]. The inner-city Dub has a bit of flair and undoubtedly has talent but has not fought since his loss to Tyrone McKenna for the belt now held by Rabei. Commitment has always been ‘The Wizard’s’ problem but, if he can be kept on the straight and narrow, there’s a great fight to be had here.
Indeed, if Assassin Promotions do secure more TV dates with TG4, this would be a perfect match-up for broadcast. Rabei, of course, has more options, including a long-suggested move to lightweight but a Dublin Derby with Hanney – maybe even for the Irish title – is the fight I want to see.
Pauly Upton v Steven Donnelly
Upton [15(3)-1(1)] was stopped on short notice by Ted Cheeseman last summer but there is little shame in that. Now, with his 0 gone, it is hoped that we will see the eldest of the boxing brothers in all sorts of domestics.
One man that is especially keen to face him is Ballymena’s Donnelly [4(0)-0]. The Rio Olympian would have fought Upton in his debut if he was given the opportunity and he will be itching to step into competitive fights having racked up a few journeymen wins
Donnelly is a talented boxer although one who enjoys a war while Upton has proven his heart on a number of occasions meaning that the fight would likely be toe-to-toe for however long it lasted.
Not to mention, the build-up to a big fight is perhaps when we’ll see ‘The Donn’ come into his own – we imagine he could be some trash-talker.
Caoimhin Agyarko v Sean McGlinchey
The weight, the short notice, and the long hiatus means one can’t read too much into McGlinchey’s loss to Padraig McCrory in October – bar acknowledging his bravery and fight-anyone attitude. If, and it’s a relatively large if, he is given a run of fights, the Derry puncher can still have plenty of success, and Agyarko [2(0)-0] could be a nice match-up to build toward.
The young Belfast puncher is being built well in London by Frank Warren and a fight date at home is eagerly awaited, looking likely for the end of the year. Already with two six rounders in the bag, Agyarko is set to move up the rounds in 2019 and a fight with McGlinchey [2(0)-1(0)] for the BUI Celtic title over eight rounds could appeal, or, even, the ten-round BBBoC Celtic title, both of which are vacant.
Away from it making sense career-wise for both, it would look to be a lovely mesh with two explosive punchers who had good amateur careers but always seemed destined for the pros. Another one for the Féile, perhaps? Or even a Derry headliner if and when a Foyleside card takes place.
Vladimir Belujsky v Padraig McCrory
A fight I have been harping on about for a long time. This would be a bombs away battle plain and simple, with little chance of it going the distance.
Both have proven to be punchers over the last 18 months and the pair are of the ‘fight anyone’ persuasion – with a fight between the two being he perfect way to determine who is Ireland’s top super middle.
Cork’s Belujsky [6(6)-1(0)-1] has other plans in the meantime, though, and looks set to face James Kraft in Germany for the WBO Youth title. Win this and he could defend versus Belfast’s McCrory [6(3)-0] – indeed, even if he were to lose, an Irish title fight between the pair would still appeal should ‘The Hammer’ secure eligibility.
Conor Cooke v Johnny Corcoran
Antrim MMA re-convert Cooke [2(1)-0] has a bit of swagger about him and, while he claims he wants to build slowly, I can imagine him getting itchy feet and wanting to jump into big fights this year.
Dubliner Corcoran [2(2)-0] doesn’t sell tickets, simple as, and looks set to go on the road this year. Described by most as a fearsome puncher, it’s hard to imagine many British promoters falling over themselves to have him in the away corner.
Among the swathes of new pros that have joined the scene since 2017, there are certain early-career fights that seem to ‘fit’ and this clash between two noted knockout punchers is the prime example.