2018 Preview – Flyweight, Super Fly, Bantamweight

Over the next few days, Irish-Boxing.com plan to go through all the divisions and take a look ahead for 2018.

What domestic dust-ups can be made? Who is set for a breakthrough? What’s next for the big stars? – All will be discussed in our preview series.

First up it’s a look at the little men – the flyweights, super flyweights, and bantamweights.

Flyweight – 112lbs (50.8kg)
Irish title – vacant
BUI Celtic title – vacant

At the Top
After winning two WBO rankings titles in 2017, double Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes [5(1)-0] now sits at #10 in the organisation’s rankings. The big money rematch with Zou Shiming may have passed following the Chinese star’s damaging stoppage title loss to Sho Kimura, however things still could be lining up well for Barnes.

Champion Kimura [16(9)-1-2(2)] defended his title last week versus veteran ex-champ Toshiyuki Igarashi. Unlike a lot of Japanese fighters, Kimura has shown a propensity to travel and the full-time delivery driver does not have big promotional backing. Should Frank Warren be able to exert his considerable influence over the WBO, and Kimura can manage to keep his belt, the scene could be set for a big world title fight in Belfast in the Autumn.

The major threat to this would be Kimura’s countryman and WBC champion Daigo Higa [14(14)-0] – with growing calls for an all-Japanese unification between the Cinderella Story and the Wonderkid.

Regan Buckley [2(0)-0] continues his rapid rise in February against BBBoC Central Area super fly champ Craig Derbyshire. The Bray 20 year old is hungry for belts, however there looks to be a lack of eligible opponents for the eight-round BUI Celtic title. An alternative could by the British Challenge belt that is regularly utilised by Kieran Farrell.

Later in the year, should all go to plan, Buckley will no doubt want to go for the Irish title and there is a potential for a crossroads clash against Belfast’s Luke Wilton [17(7)-5(1)-1] who is still hoping to give it one more roll of the dice following a quiet 2017.

Super Flyweight – 115lbs (52.2kg)
Irish title – vacant
BUI Cetic title – vacant

Passing the Torch
Jamie Conlan [19(11)-1(1)] saw his World title dream ended in November by IBF champ Jerwin Ancajas. What’s next for Conlan is unsure, and the Belfast man has taken a role outside the ring with management MTK Global – becoming their Professional Development Coordinator.

However, the 31 year old has hinted that he may have one more fight in him and wouldn’t it be brilliant to see ‘The Mexican’ go out with a win on his younger brother Michael’s homecoming card in Belfast during the Summer? In a way, this would see his career come full circle, having stepped aside in the final of the Ulsters in 2009 to allow Mick to break through, Conlan here would be passing the professional torch to the Top Rank prospect.

In terms of opponents, perhaps a defence of his Commonwealth title against Makazole Tete [17(12)-2(1)-2] – brother of WBO bantam champ Zolani – or maybe a fight for the vacant British belt against Sheffield’s Kyle Yousaf [12(5)-0].

Bantamweight – 118lbs (53.5kg)
Irish title – vacant
BUI Celtic title – vacant

At the Top
Belfast’s Ryan Burnett [18(9)-0] is the unified WBA and IBF champ and is currently taking a slightly extended break to recover from a ruptured tendon in his neck. Maddeningly, the IBF have ordered an Interim title fight between Emmanuel Rodriguez and Lee Haskins. With an IBF mandatory still due, the line of succession moves down to Matchroom stablemate Paul Butler [25(13)-1(1)].

While the English fighter had been linked with Jamie McDonnell, the latter’s pending move up in weight may now make Burnett-Butler an attractive fight for Eddie Hearn to put on a pay-per-view undercard such as Bellew v Haye 2 in May. Butler is currently linked with familiar name Liborio Solis for the pointless WBA ‘regular’ belt, and should this fight come first – and Butler wins – it could allow Burnett to kill two birds with one stone as the Ellesmere Port fighter would then be mandatory with both the IBF and WBA.

Looking to the later part of the year, expect Burnett to move up in weight. Already tight at bantam and with promoter Hearn ruling out a fight with WBO champ Zolani Tete, a jump to super bantam seems likely – as does a fight on the U.S. East Coast. Without getting ahead of ourselves, there is also a potential dream scenario if things fall into place. Should Portlaoise’s mandatory challenger TJ Doheny dethrone IBF super bantamweight champion Ryosuke Iwasa when they meet, it could pave the way for the first ever all-Irish world title fight. We live in hope…

With Dylan McDonagh [2(1)-0] making bantamweight with ease, and Carl McDonald not wanting to step down from 122lbs, an all-Jobstown battle looks unfortunately unlikely.

A potential clash could be made later in the year with confident Skerries fighter Prince Brady [1(0)-0]. The London-based Goodwin fighter was involved in a war on his debut and a homecoming fight with the high-energy McDonagh could be special.


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