The all-Irish fight was back vogue in 2018.
Indeed, domestic derby dances delighted to an extent they played a huge part in a mini fight revival that saw Irish boxing take some positive steps toward a real revival.
With so many pros now on the circuit it appears 2019 will see more derbies than ever and with more and more novice pr’s progressing to title level, we may see a record number of Irish title fights over the next 12 months – particularly if TG4 maintain an interest in broadcasting boxing.
It would be amazing to further glamourize the domestic gong and to get every Irish title in play and on TV could play a part in making that possible.
With Irish boxing becoming more ‘sexy’ with promoters, particularly around St Patrick’s Day over the last few years, we expect there to be a number Irish fighters who fight abroad this March.
However, the most exciting domestic aspect of 2019 could be more all-Irish fights between big name fighters. Indeed, we may see the first ever all Irish world title fight over the next 12 months.
Regardless of what might be I have taken time to pick some domestic dust-ups I would like to see. Not all match-ups were made on the basis they have Gatti-Ward potential, some of the fights just seem like they would be good for the sport.
Check out my nine below:
Dennis Hogan versus Spike O’Sullivan
It’s not quite Spike versus Fitzy. This one hasn’t been simmering in a pot of bad blood for years but, if for no other reason, this meeting would mean the Australian based Kildare fighter had become a world champion.
Hogan is odds on to challenge WBO light middleweight champion Jaime Munguia in March unless the Mexican moves up in weight or falls to Japanese voluntary Takeshi Inoue. If Hogan can defeat Munguia, he wants his first defence to be Ireland – and what better way to return home than in the first ever all Irish world title fight against a Cork fighter with a worldwide profile.
It would be an intriguing battle between two tough and dedicated veterans of the sport that would whet the pallet.
It could also tempt Golden Boy to play a part in a big show on these shores with the likes of Jason Quigley and Aaron McKenna involved.
Team Hogan have expressed a desire to do the fight and have dropped the 3Arena as a potential venue. Some may suggest Katie Taylor is the only one capable of selling out such a venue in Dublin, but ‘The Hurricane’ is hoping to have his world title challenge in an out doorstadium in Brisbane and his promoters DDP certainly back themselves when it comes to puting on big shows.
Rohan Daté versus Dylan Moran
Pull two 147lbs domestic names out of a hat and your all but guaranteed a fan-friendly and somewhat highprofile fight.
The Irish welterweight ranks are stacked with progressing talents at a similar stage of their careers and is a division that should provide some mouth watering derbies in 2019.
BUI Celtic champion at the weight Jay Byrne, who has most recently won the BBBofC Celtic title at light middle, in a title fight with any of the emerging names is a good scrap.
Keane McMahon has already for called for a fight with John Joyce and even name dropped Lewis Crocker, a fighter tipped to reach world level. Joyce himself wants a St Patrick’s Weekend fight with Noel Murphy in New York, while young Golden Boy prospect Aaron McKenna may want a domestic clash if as rumoured Oscar De La Hoya and co come to Ireland in 2019.
However, the one fight in the division that we hope to see is an all-Waterford clash between Dylan Moran and Rohan Daté.
The Déise duo have have been nothing but respectful toward each other since Daté mentioned the clash late in 2018, but one suspects there is a bit of niggle between the former club mates.
Some may argue there are better welterweight match ups to be made and they may be right, but the reaction we have gotten to any story linking the pair dwarfs any other 147lbs call out.
That, in turn, suggests it’s a scrap that would garner massive attention in Waterford and going by how the city reacted to a show at the WIT last February the atmosphere for a Déise derby could be worth the ticket price alone.
Assassin Promotions haven’t been shy in telling people how excited they are about Moran and prelimanary plans are in place for the ticket seller to fight on TG4 in his hometown later in 2019.
A clash with big punching Daté, who is currently building a record in London, could be an ideal headliner for any proposed Waterford TV show.
Karl Kelly versus Martin Quinn 2
Not the two biggest names in Irish boxing by a long shot but two who served up the Irish-Boxing.com Fight of the Year – as voted for by the fans.
Watch the first instalement back and you will understand why we have to see it again – and this time over longer than six rounds.
The fact Team Kelly and the majority of the watching audience in an atmospheric Good Counsel GAA club disagreed with the scoring referee on the night and gave Quinn the nod adds a bit of spice and narrative.
Indeed, the rematch looked odds of for a Celtic Clash headliner in 2019 until Kelly secured an Irish title fight and his third intriguing all-Irish fight in a five contests.
On February 9th in the Ulster Hall, Kelly faces Feargal McCrory for the green strap, but has promised to remain true to his word and give his fellow Dub a return.
Win in Belfast on the MHD show and we could see Kelly v Quinn for an Irish title emerging talent Gary Cully wants. What a victory that would be for two early risk takers and for the small hall scene.
Philip Sutcliffe Jr versus Darragh Foley
Imagine the build up! The Conor McGregor-style talk of Foley met by the only fighter in Irish boxing that could gain a press conference advantage win with just a stare.
It’s not a fight that ever really looked on the cards and may be a bit of a left field choice, but it’s one that would no doubt entertain.
‘Succo’ has twice had to pull out of fights with Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna and that is another exciting possibility, but ‘The Mighty Celt’ may want to build on his recent win over Lewis Benson and go in search of a title shot.
That would open the door for an exciting all Dublin clash between the man noted as Ireland’s pound -for-pound biggest puncher, Sutcliffe and a fighter who has decided important fights by producing one-punch KO moments.
Considering the pair are managerial stablemates, it’s an easy one to make and it’s one that would sell.
Crumlin graduate Sutcliffe has stated he is keen and having overcome a serious injury is in a hurry for high profile fights.
Foley, despite losing to Akeem Ennis Brown last time out, has been linked to Ohara Davies. Indeed, in risking his world ranking against the ultra awkard Brown – a fighter no one wants a piece of – the Blanch banger showed he is anything but afraid of a challenge or a risk.
Tommy McCarthy versus Luke Watkins
Since claiming the Irish title by stopping Ian Tims on the undercard of Ryan Burnett versus Lee Haskins Luke Watkins has gone on to make a name for himself in a red hot British cruiserweight scene.
While Tommy McCarthy, who was penciled in to fight Mike Perez on the same night, has yet to reach the levels most suggest he is capable of.
With ‘The Duke’ having lost to both Issac Chamberlain and Laurence Okolie and ‘The Mac Attack’ ready to put a period of inactivity behind him after teaming up with Mark Dunlop the time looks right to make this one.
With Watkins’ new-found Sky profile and Dunlop’s close working relationship with Eddie Hearn, it could certainly be a Sky Sports undercard bout and intriguing TV fight.
The winner would also be in a good position to call for clashes with the domestic big guns Hearn is looking for opponents for.
Whether or not it could be for an Irish title considering the pair are BBBofC licenced remains to be seen, but the first Irish title fight between two black boxers would prove a welcome piece of history.
TJ Doheny versus Tyrone McCullagh
This is another with the potential to be the first ever all–Irish world title fight. Although he may yet have the profile of some of the bigger names in Irish boxing, Doheny is the only reigning male Irish world champion at present.
He claimed the IBF super bantamweight world title by becoming only the second every Irish or British fighter to win a world title fight on Japanese soil, producing a performance that was voted 2018’s best by Irish boxing fans.
Doheny defends his belt for the first time this Friday in New York versus Ryohei Takahasi and a unification with WBA champ Daniel Roman has been mooted as well as a clash with Ryan Burnett.
However, his name has also been dropped by Derry’s McCullagh. ‘White Chocolate’ enjoyed somewhat of a break out year himself in 2018 with impressive wins over unbeaten British duo Joe Ham and Josh Kennedy.
The Derry fighter, who hopes to bring boxing back to his home city come March time, may need a win or two of note before becoming eligible to fight Doheny, but considering they are managerial stablemates it would be an easy one to make.
Joe Fitzpatrick versus Gary Cully
Gary Cully has recently hit out at the fact an Irish lightweight title fight has been made between a super featherweight and the #9 in the division.
The rangy Kildare native is all Irish keen, but claims he is finding it difficult to find willing domestic dance partners.
One man possibly willing could be the returning Joe Fitzpatrick. Granted ‘The Dragon’ may want to wait until he shakes off some ring rust, but the ultra confident Belfast southpaw is another who has been vocal about trading leather with his fellow Irish lightweights.
It’s not one with roots in bad blood and neither have even mentioned each other previously, but it would prove to be a meeting of skillful former amateurs of note and could prove a skill fest.
Also two noteworthy prospects meeting early enough in their careers could open the door for a rematch when both or either reach a higher level.
Jason Quigley versus Conrad Cummings
Jason Quigley has talked about coming home in 2019. Indeed, he predicts his promoters Golden Boy will run a show on these shores sometime this year – and a fight with Conrad Cummings would make sense.
Luke Keeler may feel disappointed not to be mentioned, but the beef and amateur previous between the Donegal and Tyrone fighter leads to a potentially entertaining build up.
It’s one of the less likely ones – a Keeler rematch for Cummings seems likelier while it is also a bout Quigley has talked down of late.
However, it’s an intriguing match up, one that may allow us see the more nasty side to both fighters and considering Quigley’s profile with mainstream media would be provide a real boost to the game down south.
Niall Kennedy vs Patrick Nevin
18 months ago it looked like we might be set for a mouth watering Irish title fight between Sean Turner and Con Sheehan.
The two former amateur rivals had started to make pro progress and it looked the would battle it out to be the first Irish heavyweight titleholder since Tyson Fury.
However, Tipp talent Sheehan hasn’t fought since mid 2017. while Sean Turner has been out of the ring since he lost to Nathan Gorman last summer.
Wexford’s Kennedy has overtaken both to become Ireland’s leading heavyweight. ‘Boom Boom’ has been impressing Stateside and progressing up the heavyweight ladder.
Nevin on the other hand is just two fights into his career, but is adamant he wants to fight for an Irish title in 2019 – and believes he can win it too.
Considering he is closing in on big fights, Nevin may not appeal to Kennedy, but if the Gorey Garda wants to fight at home a fight with the Swords fighter may appeal.
Nevin could provide access to the Irish title and may bring TV to the table via his links to Assassin and their relationship with TG4.
It might not have barnstormer written all over it, but a clash between the pair would generate interest at a time when heavyweight boxing is booming.
It would be great during this period to have a reigning Irish heavyweight champion and certainly would be a massive marketing tool for the winner.