AHEAD OF THIS WEEKEND’S HIGHLY ANTICIPATED WBO World Lightweight Championship eliminator between Dublin’s Stephen Ormond and Manchester’s Terry Flanagan, boxing writer Glynn Evans reflects on ten of the biggest Anglo-Irish ring battles since the last war.
Check out Boxnation’s breakdown of their top ten Ireland v English clashes.
‘Rinty’ Monaghan vs Terry Allen, Belfast, September 1949
Belfast’s Monaghan – named after a flighty dog from the silent movies – rose from a heavy second round knockdown to retain his British, Empire, European and undisputed World Flyweight titles with a contentious 15 round draw at the hallowed King’s Hall. Then he blasted out a rendition of ‘When Irish Eyes Are Smiling’ from centre ring!
An incorrigible showman, ‘Rinty’ retired as undefeated champion shortly after, aged just 29, following recurring bouts of bronchitis.
It was the diminutive rivals’ third set-to, following one victory each apiece. Islington’s Allen collected the vacant world title seven months later with a 15 round points win over Frenchman Honore Pratesi at Haringey Arena.
Jim McDonnell vs Barry McGuigan, Manchester, May 1989
Irish legend McGuigan declared his retirement from the ring, aged 28, just minutes after conceding to Camden’s McDonnell by way of a fourth round cuts stoppage.
The hugely popular ex-WBA Featherweight king was sliced by a looping left hook in the second session, and the wound was aggravated by a stray elbow a round later. The roaring fire of his prime had doused.
The ‘Clones Cyclone’ was later inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, while McDonnell made a gallant but abortive world title challenge to Ghana’s brilliant Azumah Nelson later in the year.
Both remain active in the game today – McGuigan as a manager-promoter and McDonnell as a leading coach.
Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley vs Duke McKenzie, London, June 1989
Larne chef McAuley caused a minor upset by out-hustling weight-drained IBF Flyweight boss McKenzie over 12 rounds at Wembley Arena.
It was the tenacious Ulsterman’s third tilt at a world title after a brace of noble failures against Columbia’s Fidel Bassa for the WBA crown.
He successfully retained his claim five times – four in Belfast – before conceding contentiously to another Columbian Rodolfo Blanco over in Bilbao.
McKenzie regrouped and later captured WBO titles in the bantam and super-bantam divisions. Both enjoyed future careers as boxing commentators.
Steve Collins vs Chris Eubank I, Millstreet, March 1995
After 43 fights unbeaten, the man self-styled as ‘Simply the Best’ finally came second best and how the 8,000 crammed into the Green Glens Arena rejoiced on St Pat’s weekend.
Just three and a half years after his fists had sent Michael Watson into a coma, Eubank was seriously spooked by Collins’ assertion that he’d deployed a hypnotist who could render him immune to pain. He even threatened to withdraw on the eve of the fight.
He reneged and even cruised to ringside on a Harley Davidson but proved listless and was clubbed to the canvas in round eight.
Though he rallied to topple the Dubliner in round ten, he resorted to preening when he needed to be punching and the moment to redeem was lost.
Collins was crowned by unanimous decision and forever cemented his place in Irish ring folklore.
Steve Collins vs Chris Eubank II, Cork, September 1995
Having outfought Eubank in their initial encounter, Collins outfought him in the re-sit at Pairc Ui Chaoimh gaelic football stadium six months later.
This time the Lord of Brighton landed for battle in pristine fighting fettle, but Collins was hell bent on dispelling whispers that his Millstreet win was a ‘fluke’ and stormed into Eubank with insane intensity.
The replay might have lacked the drama and incident of their prior spat but it was grippingly tense and tight from first bell to final.
Eubank simply couldn’t stave off the relentless barrages and conceded a split decision. Collins may have won ugly but few contested that he won.
Steve Collins vs Nigel Benn I, Manchester, July 1996
‘Just… Getting… Warmed… Up’ said a dejected Benn who was forced to withdraw from this clash of titans late in round four, after severely spraining his ankle.
Prior to the unsatisfactory conclusion, the Celtic Warrior and Dark Destroyer had enthralled a 20,000 assembly at the Nynex Arena with some truly savage exchanges.
The anvil chinned Irishman held a marginal edge when the cards were totted but the score was far from settled in what was aptly billed ‘Who is the Ultimate Warrior?’
Inevitably, the gladiators reconvened hostilities at the same venue just four months after.
Steve Collins vs Nigel Benn II, Manchester, November 1996
In what proved big bad Benn’s final ring appearance, Collins confirmed hegemony and again embarrassed the many detractors who mocked his primitive ring manner with a seventh successive world title win over English opposition.
After one of the frostiest pre-fight stare-outs in memory, Benn, engaging in his 16th world championship, gave every ounce but could no longer rekindle the explosive savagery of his prime.
After bouncing bombs off Collins’ concrete head for four rounds, he gassed out and endured disturbing punishment in rounds five and six, before his corner lifted the white flag.
Naseem Hamed v Wayne McCullough, Atlantic City, October 1998
After 28 brutal stoppage wins in 30 pro gigs, the Sheffield show-off’s ego had started to rage out of control. He entered the cavernous Convention Center through a ‘graveyard’ in which the tombstones carried the names of his previous victims.
Despite bragging that he’d terminate his 11th defence of his WBO Featherweight title at 2:28 of round three, he never came close to delivering. The cement chinned but overtly cautious ‘Pocket Rocket’ fiddled through the 12 rounds with relative ease.
In his last start under Svengali Brendan Ingle, Prince Naz bagged a landslide decision but little else. His truculence throughout the build-up proved to be a PR disaster.
Ricky Hatton v Eamonn Magee, Manchester, June 2002
Both principals emerged with reputations enhanced after this gripping 12 round tussle before an 18,000 sellout at the MEN Arena.
Hatton, then just 23, had made short work of his previous 28 paid opponents (22 stoppages) and entered as a commanding favourite. However, the fearless Ardoyne southpaw – resplendent in Tricolour shades as he stormed to the ring – paid him no respect and dumped the ‘Hitman’ on his rump in round two. His slashing fists then ripped Hatton’s cheek open in round four.
The Mancunian recalculated, took flight and utilised his undervalued technical skills to see his way through the fog and triumph unanimously after 12 in a riveting tactical encounter.
Nevertheless, he wanted no part of ‘The Terminator’ thereafter.
Amir Khan vs Paul McCloskey, Manchester, April 2011
A raucous 6,000 Irish contingent bolstered the 18,000 audience at the MEN to champion the cause of unbeaten Dungiven southpaw McCloskey against the homecoming Khan.
They left feeling frustrated and short changed when, following an accidental head bump, the notoriously strong McCloskey was pulled out by referee Luis Pabon whilst still very much in the fight.
The judges’ cards were called and Khan triumphed on a ‘shutout’.
The 31-year-old Ulsterman entered as British and European champion but was never to receive another break at world level.
King Khan, defending his WBA Light-Welter strap for the fourth time, regained for another eight months before conceding his title in suspicious circumstances to Lamont Peterson in Washington DC.