Lightweight – 135lbs (61.2kg)
Irish title – vacant
BUI Celtic title – vacant
At the Top
WBA lightweight world champion Katie Taylor [8(4)-0] won and defended her belt within seven weeks at the tail-end of last year and the big fights – achievement-wise – look set to keep coming.
Next up is most likely a unification with IBF champion Victoria Noelia Bustos [18(0)-4(0)] of Argentina, a bout which will hopefully headline a homecoming card at the 3Arena in Dublin. Should she, as expected, pass this test, the big test in the division remains Belgium’s WBC champ Delfine Persoon [39(16)-1(1).
While Persoon is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, the real big fights for Taylor look to be against fellow top amateurs who also recently made the move – Natasha Jonas, Mikaela Mayer, and Chantelle Cameron. Whether any of these will be ready for a clash with Taylor in 2018 remains to be seen – however Cyclone’s Cameron has looked especially impressive recently and is already a big fight.
Last November saw the most controversial all-Irish fight of recent years when Paul Hyland Jr [17(6)-0] successfully defended his IBF East/West Europe title against Stephen Ormond [23(12)-4(1)] – with the final result overshadowing a pendular potential Fight of the Year.
Belfast’s Hyland dropped Dubliner Ormond in the third, but ‘The Rock’ came back strong and seemed to deserve the win – however Hylo took the verdict on a split-decision. There was plenty of criticism of the decision and, despite both fighters initially seeming somewhat reluctant, the rematch now looks likely for the Katie Taylor homecoming card in Dublin in April.
Lagmore’s Hyland may have his eyes on domestic titleholders Sean Dodd [Commonwealth] and Lewis Ritson [British], however perhaps needs more seasoning, and another championship-level fight with Ormond would serve him well. On the other side, the rematch would provide the veteran Clondalkin fighter a belated opportunity to fulfill his dream and fight in front of a large Dublin crowd at a venue he was once earmarked to take over from Bernard Dunne
A trio of former top amateur talents are set to make breakthroughs in 2018.
2011 European gold medalist Ray Moylette [8(3)-0] had a stunning first year as a pro and will be eager to move on to the next level now. A regional title fight with Irish-American Matt Doherty seems a logical choice in the near future before maybe an Irish title fight later in the year. Potential opponents for the Mayo man include game Belfast puncher Mark Morris or possibly even the next fighter discussed here.
Belfast’s Joe Fitzpatrick [8(6)-0] has unfortunately been forced out of his fight with Scottish champion Marek Laskowski next month due to injury, however this shows the level that the Commonwealth silver medalist is being primed for. Once recovered, hopefully Fitzpatrick can get this fight again and move toward titles in the latter half of the year – with Moylette for the Irish title, Morris for the BBBoC Northern Irish Area belt, or even one of the numerous Scottish or Welsh prospects for the BBBoC Celtic title.
Gary Cully [3(2)-0] underlined his status as one of Ireland’s top prospects last Autumn with three quick wins and the Naas southpaw is set to make a quick step up to six rounds and beyond. 22 this month, the European Youth gold medalist has time on his side, however Cully is being moved along briskly and an eight round fight with a game Area level opponent such as Ben Wager or Jordan Ellison seems like a good target for 2018.
As mentioned above, there are potential good scraps in the away corner for the Kieran Farrell-managed Mark Morris [3(1)-1(1)], and there are a number of other Irish fighters coming through that can be matched together.
A potential match-up which has been stuck in our head recently is an all-Dublin battle between Victor Rabei [3(0)-0] and Niall O’Connor [2(1)-0]. Two tidy fighters with a bit of swagger, the pair stood out in their debut year, and a BUI Celtic title clash – or even a six-round eliminator for a shot at the belt – would be a perfect support bout for a National Stadium card.
Of course there is also Galway’s Gearoid Clancy [8(1)-5(0)], who continues to plug away Down Under and the Sydney-based pro will no doubt be involved in some domestic dust-ups in Australia.
Finally there is Martin Quinn [2(1)-0]. The big-punching Crumlin character will be in exciting fights no matter who he faces this year. A rematch with game Spaniard Iago Barros appeals – however seems unlikely. The 30 year old wants big fights soon too, and with a couple more wins in the bag he could also be thrown in the mix with the likes of O’Connor and Rabei.