20 Big Irish Boxing Predictions for 2020

Happy new year to all our readers!

We hope that 2020 will be a good year for you, us, and all of Irish boxing.

With things quiet at the minute, we’ve taken a look into our crystal ball and picked out some things – good and bad – we believe may happen over the next 12 months.

The following are 20 BIG predictions – no sure things here – and if even a few of them come through, we’re in for an interesting year.

No shows in Dublin
A rather grim place to start, it is hard to imagine any cards in the capital considering the higher cost of venues, sanctioning, and insurance compared to Belfast. A Katie Taylor homecoming is seemingly off the table, MTK Global will not be running shows here, Conor Slater has taken out a German licence, and Boxing Ireland are focused on Belfast – although a regional show in Sligo is a possibility

Record amount of Irish boxers compete at Olympics
With qualification for Tokyo simplified [no WSB or APB routes], Ireland could surpass the tally of seven competing boxers set at the Rio Olympics. Just two tournaments, relatively ‘local’ in London and Paris, it is set up well for Irish boxing – especially in the five female weight categories.

IABA selection policy to become a MAJOR issue
Expect debates over who goes to the Olympic qualifiers to come to the forefront even more so than in 2019. With the High Performance Unit having complete control over selection – and a seeming unwillingness for public box-offs – there could be some very ugly spats brewing, especially at women’s lightweight and men’s flyweight, middleweight, and light heavyweight.

‘Just’ one Olympic medal – and lots of change
We’ve plenty of contenders and possibilities but the fact of the matter is that there were no medals won at either World Championships last year. Expecting a 2008 or 2012 haul from Tokyo is illogical and unreasonable. However, a low or non-existent return, coupled with the selection controversies also predicted could lead to big changes – maybe even an attempt to bring back a certain coach from America.

Amanda Serrano to bottle Katie Taylor fight
It is apparently happening in April but this writer is finding it hard to imagine Taylor in the ring with the controversial Puerto Rican. From talk of contracts, moving back into mixed martial arts, VADA, not ‘needing’ Taylor, blah, blah, blah, this could be one fight that just keeps being delayed and delayed.

Tyson Fury’s Irishness to be emphasised
Two Irish parents, boxed for Ireland, lived in Ireland, no-one is debating Fury’s ‘Irishness’ but expect this portion of his identity to come to the fore in 2020. With Andy Lee (and hopefully Paddy Donovan and Jason Quigley) as part of his team now, it would be only natural. How the more general Irish sporting public reacts to this is another question.

Mick Conlan will get a ‘handy’ world title
Not a criticism or a slur – heck, we wish it would happen more often – but the chips could be falling in Conlan’s favour. WBO 126lbs champ Shakur Stevenson will be out of the division soon and, with the promotional weight of Top Rank behind him, one can picture a coronation at the Féile where Conlan is the heavy favourite in a vacant title fight.

Jono Carroll to dominate Scott Quigg
Having missed out on a spot on the Ruiz-Joshua II bill, the pair will finally lock horns in March and this writer is predicting a wide Carroll win – potentially even a stoppage. Quigg, with his brawling style, is moving up in weight, again, and has had injury hell over the last few years. Against the rough ‘n’ tumble Carroll, this could spell disaster for the Englishman.

Dennis Hogan v Spike O’Sullivan to happen
With Hogan dropping back to light middle and O’Sullivan set to follow him – win, lose, or draw versus Jaime Munguia next month – this all-Irish brawl has a better chance than ever to happen in the summer on the U.S. East Coast.

Gary Cully v Joe Fitzpatrick to have a rematch
One of the best Irish title fights in a long while, we may not get a definitive result in the Ulster Hall on February 1st. Whether it be a draw, a close result, a controversial score, or just a plain barnburner, we can envision this bout playing out again in 2020 – maybe even at the Féile.

Eric Donovan gets a big fight
It’s make-or-break time for the Irish featherweight champion and 2020 will, hopefully, be the year of a big fight. The Kildare southpaw’s team have struck up a relationship with Spanish giant MGZ – whose fighter, Andoni Gago, holds the European title – and money is starting to pour into Spain via Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom expansion. It could all be coming together for the Lilywhite Lightning.

Two more British champions
The BBBoC’s top prize is rarely won by Irish fighters, with Anto Cacace, Ryan Burnett, and Martin Lindsay the only boxers from these shores to win a Lonsdale belt in the 2010s. That said, with James Tennyson, Tommy McCarthy, Paddy Gallagher, Alfredo Meli, Steven Donnelly, and Sean McComb within realistic striking distance, 2020 could see multiple winners.

The BBBoC Northern Ireland Area title to be revived
With nine shows in Belfast last year, potentially more this year, and the growing trend of all-Irish bouts, this belt – only contested thrice this century, the last instance being 2012 – would certainly offer promoters and managers options.

Belfast to host a NXTGEN card
With James Tennyson primed for a British title fight having opened two successive Sky PPV bills and Tommy McCarthy coming off the biggest win of his career in Italy, also on a Sky show, a Matchroom show alongside MHD at the Ulster Hall seems logical – if not wholly warranted.

James Tennyson to get a World Title shot
The lightweight world title scene is getting messier by the day but Tennyson, with his aggressive style, nice record (including an attractive-to-promoters KO losses tally) and decent profile, means he is always only a phonecall away from getting a big away-corner opportunity.

One of our top prospects will lose
Joe Ward’s pro debut proved that anything can happen in a pro boxing ring and, with a number of boxers set to step up this year, it would be massive if all of them come through unscathed. Sean McComb, Aaron McKenna, Caoimhin Agyarko, Lewis Crocker and more will be in competitive fights in 2020 and there could be a setback somewhere along the line.

Clarity in the domestic light middleweight division
We truly believe that, by the end of 2020, Ireland’s best ‘domestic’ 154lber will be known. We’re talking about the likes of Eddie Treacy, Cillian Reardon, Graham McCormack, Owen Duffy, Dominic Donegan, and Owen O’Neill. Hopefully there are at least three fights among this pool, if not more, and a small hall king can be crowned.

Increasing flow to Australia
Fighting under Steve Deller, Conor Wallace became Australian champion in 2019 and has been joined recently by Conor Quinn and Nathan Watson. With Darragh Foley now back in Sydney, Danny Keating returning from injury, and a thousands more emigrating all the time, Down Under will be busy for Irish boxing and back to what it was like in the mid 2010s.

Notably less pro debuts
There have been over 20 debuts in each of the last three years but we can’t imagine that this year. With Dublin becoming increasingly barren and the realities of pro boxing more apparent than ever, there could be less than 10 new fighters on the scene in 2020.

Kieran Molloy turns pro
One fighter who will turn over, we think, is Kieron Molloy. The EU bronze medallist now seemingly has Aidan Walsh ahead of him in the Olympic pecking order and, despite only being 22, he may make the move. The Galway welter has already caught the eye of promoters and managers at home and abroad and would be a big addition to the pro game.

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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