The 13th Round: Ireland’s most Underrated Boxer?

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Have you ever tried to do out an Irish pound-for-pound Top 10? It starts off easy with two-weight World champ Carl Frampton taking top spot, then Limerick’s recent WBO middleweight titlist Andy Lee invariably comes in second. However, past this, debate begins, and it can certainly be argued that, in terms of resumé, Kildare’s Dennis Hogan deserves a place on the podium.

Hurricane Hogan is possibly the most under-rated of the current crop of Irish boxers for a multitude of reasons. First of all, he hails from Kilcullen, Kildare, rather than a bigger city. His amateur career was undistinguished in comparison to others, with the 2009 Intermediate title being his major achievement. He’s not a big highlight-reel knockout puncher. He’s not brash. Most importantly though, he’s based far far away. Out of sight, out of mind.

Hogan’s decision in 2010 to move Down Under to Brisbane has however been a hugely beneficial decision. Many scoff at the perceived lack of quality in Australia, but the Aussies have something that Ireland is sadly lacking – a self-sufficient fight scene based largely on domestic clashes. Yes, the talent pool in Australia is obviously less than in Britain or America, but the matchmaking is much more positive, prospects are pitted against each other, and fighters are moved along very quickly – and Hogan has repeatedly prevailed in domestic match-ups. The former Grangecon amateur’s ratio of competitive opponents to journeymen is far superior to most.

Aside from being a genuinely nice guy, it is the determination, dedication, and ambition that Hogan has shown throughout his career which is perhaps most endearing. The Lilywhite made the choice to leave home and relocate to Australia to better his boxing career, he has repeatedly fought all-comers, the notably hard worker has come down from light heavyweight all the way to light middleweight, and recently he has left his adopted home and relocated again to America to further enhance his career.

On Saturday Hogan scored a competitive ten-round points [98-92, 97-94, 96-92] win over the very-awkward and dangerous Samuel Colomban to take the WBO Oriental title. It was the seventh belt of Hogan’s 26-fight career but, more importantly, it should give him a World ranking with the organisation. Since turning pro he has claimed minor honours including the Queensland middle and super middle belts as well as the Celtic Nations title. In 2013 he grabbed the highly-competitive Australian middleweight title and defended it twice before setting his sights on World honours.

A move down to 154lbs saw him narrowly defeat Steve Moxon for the WBA Oceania belt and a spot in the rankings. Hogan then added and defended the WBA-NABA title with very impressive wins over Tyrone Brunson and Kenny Abril in America. Ranked highly, a shot at the WBA interim belt held by Jack Culcay was next. The initial date in September of last year was postponed due to television issues, much to the detriment of the hard-training Hogan who found himself overcooked when the fight eventually came round in Hamburg in December. Culcay emerged victorious here on a unanimous decision, although the scorecards (111-117, 109-119, 112-116) perhaps didn’t give enough to the busier Hogan. The Kildare puncher admitted afterwards that he was somewhat naive in the bout, losing rounds where he was the more dominant fighter, and he viewed the experience gained as a positive rather than a missed opportunity.

While the loss was disappointing for Hogan, it proved that he belongs at World level and only served to motivate him. Relocation to Miami at the age of 31 was seen as a necessary, albeit ambitious, step for a man who is aiming for glory rather than a pay-day.

The bad news for Hogan is the division that he finds himself in. On Saturday night, Paulie Malignaggi explained that light-middleweight, although not a glamour division, is one of the most talented weight classes in boxing, with top names such as Erislandy Lara, Demetrius Andrade, the Charlo twins, and the impending arrival of Kell Brook.

Focusing on the WBO, Hogan will be an interested observer this Saturday when Liam Smith defends his title against Mexican behemoth Canelo Alvarez. The flame-haired Latino is expected to win at the AT&T Stadium in Texas, but a move up to middleweight in the near future is also on the cards.

Should Smith pull off the shock, it could be great news for the Irishman. Smith’s promoter, Frank Warren’s, well-documented affinity with the WBO could help see the belt continue to stay on this side of the Atlantic and an in-house fight between Smith and Liam Williams would be a near-certainty at some stage. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Hogan could squeeze himself into the mix and that we could finally see the Hurricane at full speed close to home.

Regardless of who it is, Hogan wants a big fight, and there is a feeling that Ireland’s most underrated boxer could have a massive performance up his sleeve.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie