However, before we go onto the domestics, let us take a look further afield at particular fights against foreign opponents which look perfect for some Irish boxers.
An all-Irish brawl can be great – nothing beats it, in fact – but sometimes, whether it be profile, style, or opportunity, a foreign foe is better suited.
First we look at THREE big fights which are almost certain to happen this year, FOUR rematches that there is already clamour for, and TWELVE fights which we think make sense but there has been no real talk of yet.
Jono Carroll v Tevin Farmer
It is hoped for an announcement soon that Dubliner Carroll [16(3)-0-1] will challenge the IBF champ, with Friday March 15th in Philadelphia being rumoured. Two outspoken characters who have been at each other the last six months, there will certainly be plenty of hype for the contest. Some feel Carroll, especially following his final eliminator draw with Guillaume Frenois, could do with some more seasoning before taking on the champ but he and his team are extremely confident that they have the style to unlock the tricky Farmer [28(6)-4(2)-1] in a battle of the southpaws.
Dennis Hogan WBO World Title fight
Champion Jaime Munguia [31(26)-0] defends his belt this month versus Takeshi Inoue and is expected to blow the Japanese fighter away. After that the next title fight must feature mandatory Hogan [28(7)-1(0)-1] but whether the massive Mexican stays at the weight remains to be seen. Hogan and his team certainly hope so and plan to bring Munguia to Brisbane but if it is to be a vacant title fight, English star Kell Brook [38(26)-2(2)] steps into the fray as the next available contender and who would say no to a world title fight at Wembley Stadium as an Anthony Joshua chief support?
Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano
While it’s probably not the toughest of all the match-ups being bandied about in relation to Taylor, this bout is sure to be the first super-fight of this new age of women’s boxing. Serrano [35(26)-1(0)-1] has signed a three-fight deal with Matchroom in which all roads lead to the WBA-IBF champ. First though she is sure to become a seven-weight world champion this month before a readjustment contest at lightweight then a mega fight with Taylor at the end of the year. Taylor [12(5)-0] embarrassed Serrano’s older sister Cindy back in October and the long-proposed fight has only been built further since following comments from Amanda and controversial coach Jordan Maldonado
Ray Moylette v Christian Uruzquieta
An absolute no brainer. The pair shared an epic in Castlebar last month, live on TG4, where Uruzquieta [18(6)-4(1)-1] floored Moylette [11(4)-1(0)] twice, withstood a spirited comeback, and finished strong to take a split-decision win and the WBC International Silver title. Both are up for doing it again – although Moylette may first box in Boston in March – and an even bigger night in Mayo could await. A fight which would surely entice the TG4 cameras back and an even bigger crowd, all roads point back to the West.
Tyrone McKenna v Lewis Benson
The Mighty Celt may personally prefer a big money fight with the likes of Ohara Davies or a shot at British champion Robbie Davies Jr but a repeat of his last contest would be a cracker. McKenna [17(6)-1(0)-1] edged Benson, controversially in some eyes, in Scotland back in November. The build-up was heated and Benson [10(2)-2(0)] was disgusted with the final result, retiring afterwards before going back on this. Crucially, this fight is the perfect headliner for a show at the Titanic Exhibition Centre and these are badly needed – hopefully with a belt on the line this time.
Ryan Burnett v Nonito Donaire
The Belfast man was winning the pair’s competitive clash in Glasgow before injury intervened. Burnett [19(9)-1(1)] now faces a prolonged recovery for his torn and detached oblique muscle while Donaire [39(25)-5(1)] goes into a WBA-WBO unification with Zolani Tete in the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals – with a spot in a three-belt unification final up for grabs. Win or lose, considering their first fight and his popularity, everyone wants to see Donaire face Burnett again. Whether it will be the Irishman’s comeback fight remains to be seen, however, with Burnett maybe needing a gentler reintroduction first.
Mick Conlan v Vladimir Nikitin
Conlan [10(6)-0] will get his chance at Olympic ‘revenge’ against the man who was adjudged to have beaten him in Rio. Promoter Top Rank have snapped up the Russian for this exact purpose and 2019 looks to be the time for it. With Conlan, who had a year head-start in the pros, moving along at a steady upward pace and Nikitin [2(0)-0] looking somewhat wild in his fights, the rematch needs to happen soon and the mooted Féile an Phobail headline slot in Belfast this August seems a good fit.
The Next Step
Gary Cully v Craig Evans
The rangy Naas southpaw is keen to step onto an extreme fast-track in 2019 following two stunning wins to end last year. 22-year-old Cully [7(4)-0] wants a belt and a world ranking and has been calling out all manner of names. WBO European champion and #15 in the ladder Evans [19(3)-2(1)-2] would certainly fit the bill and the Welshman is a more than familiar face having defeated Dubliner Stephen Ormond back in 2017. Cully has made statements so far as a pro but to beat Evans, who had a very good win over Boy Jones last time out, within ten fights would be something else.
Eric Donovan v Dennis Ceylan
‘Lilywhite Lightning’ is going all-or-nothing in 2019 and a fight with European champion Kiko Martinez is being mentioned. What better way to build towards this than picking up the EU title first? Denmark’s Ceylan fights Spanish champion Jesus Sanchez for the belt this month looking to avenge a shock early stoppage last year in what was his comeback bout from his loss to now-IBF champ Josh Warrington. Should Ceylan win, Donovan would surely fancy a lucrative trip abroad to Denmark to fight in the away corner against the Olympian – evoking memories of ‘The Dane-Killer’ Brian Magee.
Paddy Gallagher in America
The British title and champion Johnny Garton look to be on the horizon for Gallagher [15(9)-4(0)] but ‘The Pat Man’ recently hinted at heading back over to America. The Belfast fighter has the personality and the style to be a cult hero on the East Coast a-la John Duddy and there are any number of wars to be made with the likes of Mauricio Herrera [24(7)-8(0)], Erick Bone [21(9)-6(1)], or Cletus Seldin [22(18)-1(0)] if ‘The Hebrew Hammer’ were to step up in weight.
Luke Keeler v Martin Murray
#11 with the WBO following his win over Conrad Cummings last year, a fight with the Tyrone boxer’s gym-mate could be the next step for Dubliner Keeler [15(5)-2(1)-1]. Four-time world title challenger Murray [37(17)-5(1)-1] seemingly retired following his loss to Hassan N’Dam last month but has since went back on this, saying he will make a decision in his own time. If he stays, another crossroads clash with world-ranked managerial stablemate Keeler is a perfect fit especially considering the St Helen’s fighter’s come-forward style.
Niall Kennedy v Travis Kauffman
The Wexford heavyweight wants 2019 to be a major year and another Top 100 opponent is needed soon. Philly’s Kauffman [32(23)-3(2)] has a nice record and a good profile having recently put on a very brave performance against Cuban Luis Ortiz on the Wilder-Fury undercard – following other close losses to Amir Mansour and Chris Arreola (overturned). Promoted by Murphys Boxing – who look set to be a partner for Matchroom, Golden Boy, and PBC cards in Boston – this match-up would be a tough-but-winnable TV fight for Kennedy [11(7)-0-1] as he looks to build his U.S. profile and continue climbing the ladder
Tommy McCarthy v Isaac Chamberlain
Now with Mark Dunlop, McCarthy [12(6)-1(0)] is looking to make up for lost time. His new manager’s good relationship with Eddie Hearn could mean slots on Sky shows, and a fight with Chamberlain [10(4)-1(0)] is one which especially appeals. The Londoner defeated former McCarthy rival Luke Watkins last time out and a fight between ‘The Mac Attack’ would be licking his lips at the chance to reintroduce himself to the scene with a big win and potentially build toward a fight with uber-awkward British champ Lawrence Okolie.
Tyrone McCullagh v Jonathan Guzman
The Derry southpaw wants to fight TJ Doheny this year in the first ever all-Irish world title fight but needs a good few fights at a higher level having beaten both the English and Scottish champs in 2018. A high-risk, ultimate matador versus bull fight for McCullagh [12(6)-0] could be Dominican former champ Jonathan Guzman who boasts a 23(22)-1(0) record. The Caribbean fighter boxes on the Mick Conlan Madison Square Garden card on St Patrick’s Day but McCullagh probably wouldn’t fit here though as he looks set to headline a bill in Derry that weekend. Who knows, though.
Carl McDonald v Sean McGoldrick
On just a few days notice, Dylan McDonagh gave Matchroom starlet McGoldrick [7(2)-0] all sort of trouble in August before being edged on the card. McDonald [5(0)-2(0)] beat McDonagh afterwards to claim the Irish super bantam title, weighing in at the contracted 120lbs and looking well able to go down two pounds more to make bantamweight. The fight between the Dubliner and the Welshman with deep Donegal roots would be a nice little undercard title fight if Matchroom and Sky Sports return to Ireland this year with either Ryan Burnett or Katie Taylor.
John Joe Nevin v Ryan Garcia
It’s now or never for one of Ireland’s most gifted fighters. The Mullingar Shuffler’s pro career has stopped and started over the past five years and momentum seems impossible to build so jumping several levels into a big fight looking to cause a shock may be his only option. 20-year-old Garcia [17(14)-0] is undoubtedly talented and is already Golden Boy’s #2 ‘name’ after Canelo. Nevin [11(4)-0] would fit the bill in Golden Boy’s eyes too – an Olympic medallist is a sellable trait in an opponent and they could be tempted considering Nevin’s inactivity and may think that he’s ripe for the picking. Is he? We’d love to see him get the opportunity to prove people wrong.
Craig O’Brien v Greg Vendetti
Irish champion O’Brien [9(1)-1(1)] looks set to follow the well-worn Celtic Warrior path and begin fighting in America on Murphys Boxing shows. This Boston-based stable features tough guy Vendetti [20(12)-3(1)-1] who sent Yoshihiro Kamegai into retirement with a shock win last year before being stopped by top Frenchman Michel Soro in December. Maybe not next, but both could feature on the mooted St Patrick’s Weekend show in Boston to build a big fight during the summer.
Jason Quigley v Gabe Rosado
2019 is the Donegal boxer’s Masters Day 3. Quigley [15(11)-0] will want to get moving and position himself for a shot at the major title but some more recognisable names on his ledger are required – as well as time to fully adjust to the Wincobank. The Ballyboffey man is keen on WBA regular trinket-holder Rob Brant but Rosado [24(14)-11(4)-1] stands out for us. After being edged out by Martin Murray, the Philly warrior would go on to stop Glen Tapia and draw with Luis Arias to ensure he remains relevant on the fringes of world level. Another option, or perhaps a fight for afterwards, is Bahamanian Tureano Johnson – defeater of Eamonn O’Kane.
James Tennyson v Lewis Ritson
There are still big fights at super featherweight for ‘The Assassin’ but his long-term future is at lightweight. When Tennyson [22(18)-3(3)] eventually gets there, a fight with Geordie Ritson would be a straight shoot-out and a chance to avenge his stablemate Paul Hyland’s defeat last year. That said, Ritson [17(11)-1(0)] himself is a massive lightweight and may be heading north soon too. What a fight, though.
What fights would you like to see for Irish boxers in 2019? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter.