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The 13th Round: Our light welters have the ‘X’ factor

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In the brilliant 12 Miles documentary, Gary Hyde explained how Guillermo Rigondeaux, despite being just 5’4″, would command the attention of every room he entered.

The past weekend saw two Irish light welterweights, with a further one in action tonight, that have a somewhat similar aura about them.

Phil Sutcliffe Jr, Darragh Foley, and Ray Moylette, all in different ways, have something of a boxing ‘X’ factor. An almost intangible quality, both inside and outside the ring, that just draws you in, enthralled.

For Sutcliffe, Saturday saw him make his comeback following his short-notice majority-decision loss to Anthony Yigit in May – a loss which men who possess a lot more boxing knowledge than me, such as Kevin Byrne and Ed Robinson, feel was harsh.

The Crumlin power-puncher took on Geiboord Omier, a durable Nicaraguan who had recently taken Carl Frampton sparring partner Jerobe Santana eight rounds. Within 15 seconds the Central American was on the floor.

Omier rose unsteadily and was allowed continue but, instead of rushing in for the kill, Sutcliffe toyed with him, slowly walking forward as the journeyman flicked out panicked jabs and ran around the ring. The menacing march of Sutcliffe was the boxing equivalent of the Jaws theme music, and one of Ireland’s Great White Hopes almost mercifully finished the fight off near the end of the round.

Sutcliffe is a man who enjoys inflicting pain, a venomous puncher with spite. Possibly one of the greatest Irish boxing photos of recent years comes from Sharon Flanagan, who captured the agony on Radoslav Mitev’s face following a ‘Succo’ punch, while the Dubliner grins in the background.

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However, it’s not just Sutcliffe’s power that evokes a fear-factor. Many fighters have intimidating power. Very few have an intimidating presence like Sutcliffe. The man is steely-eyed, softly-spoken, yet intensely focused – and must be terrifying to stare-down.

From across the city in Blanchardstown, but living on the opposite side of the World in Sydney, there is Darragh Foley, a man who has been wow-ing Aussie audiences this past year.

A scowling alien in the land of the happy-go-lucky, Foley doesn’t ‘fit’ Australia, and perhaps that’s why he has become such a success.

His first round win over Miles Zalewski for the Australian lightweight title last November was a thing of brutal beauty, battering the slickster around the ring – and at one stage physically throwing him into the corner.

On Saturday, following his loss to Brandon Ogilvie, Foley returned to 140lbs and took on Joebert Delos Reyes – the only other man to have beaten him. An unnecessarily tricky comeback fight perhaps, but one the Dubliner demanded. Most would have agreed beforehand that Foley was better than Reyes, despite the loss, but he himself needed to prove he was better than the Filipino gatekeeper in the ring.

Immensely confident, Foley has been likened to UFC star Conor McGregor, but it would be unfair to describe him has a boxing equivalent of ‘The Notorious.’ Uniquely brash, Foley has fought all-comers, chased fights, and shown no fear of Aussie stars such as George Kambosos Jr – whom he pelted with Pampers nappies from the crowd following one of his fights.

Unlike Moyette and Sutcliffe, location dictates that I’ve never met Foley in person, which makes it all the more incredible that his special aura can translate over 17,000 kilometers and through a computer screen.

Finally there is Ray Moylette, who has his first fight in the final Olympic qualifier tonight in Venezuela (21:30 Irish time).

Probably the most unique fighter I have ever come across in the ‘amateurs,’ the Westerner is just pure star quality. While decorated soon-to-be legends like Paddy Barnes and Mick Conlan are down-to-earth, Moylette doesn’t even belong to this planet.

That’s not to say that Moylette is rude, or arrogant, or has ideas above his station, more that he just operates on a different wave-length to nearly every other Irish fighter.

Well-spoken and somewhat eccentric, the 26 year old has provided us with one of our favourite lines ever – “a man will see a lot more through a teardrop than a telescope.”

A near-God in his native Mayo, Moylette is worshiped by his followers, yet never seems to suffer from nerves. Instead, the Islandeady man invites pressure, and when news of his attendance at this week’s qualifier emerged, he boldly stated that the hope of a Nation relies on me, I won’t let you down!”

And it is not just his persona outside of the ring which makes Moylette different. Inside the squared circle he brings something unique. What could be described as a ‘form’ fighter, when Moylette blows hot he is a force to be reckoned with, with an aggressive attacking style which is breathtaking to watch.

With all eyes on Venezuela, we could be about to see something special from StingRay – and he won’t mind us raising expectations like that at all.

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