FeaturesHeadline NewsLists

2018 Preview: Middleweights

We return to our previews of a year ahead with a look at the packed Irish middleweight division which has representation at all levels.

Read our preview of the flyweight, super flyweight, and bantamweight divisions HERE.

Read our preview of the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions HERE.

Read our preview of the super featherweights HERE.

Read our preview of the lightweights HERE.

Read our preview of the light welterweights HERE.

Read our preview of the welterweights HERE.

Read our preview of the light middleweights HERE.

Middleweight – 160lbs (72.6kg)
Irish champion – Luke Keeler
BUI Celtic champion – vacant

At The Top
At present, both Andy Lee [35(24)-3(2)-1] and Gary O’Sullivan [26(18)-2(1)] are in talks to face American Danny Jacobs. Spike is the New York fighter’s promoter Eddie Hearn’s preference, however we will need to wait and see what comes of the ongoing negotiations.

Away from this particular fight, there are options for both. Limerick’s Lee remains a big name in the division and wants a big fight to throw himself back into title contention. However, the former WBO middleweight champ admits that, if such a clash is not forthcoming by summertime, he may retire content with his stellar achievements in the game.

O’Sullivan is one fight into a four-fight deal with Golden Boy and there are a number of attractive looking options. These include a Boston headline appearance against Gabe Rosado, an all-Irish clash with Jason Quigley, a shoot-out with a rebuilt David Lemieux, or even a drop down to light middleweight to chase Golden Boy’s WBO champion Sadam Ali.

Of course there is also an all-Munster battle with Lee, however this seems unlikely at this juncture.

Quigley [13(10)-0] is currently settling into life under new coach Brendan Ingle will return to the ring after a year out injured soon. The Donegal fighter can be expected to have one fight to shed the rust before looking to situate himself for a title shot. Quigley is adamant that his first Irish fight will be a headline appearance on a Golden Boy card, however we could perhaps see him on Sky Sports shows before this. Brian Rose would be a good starting point on this side of the Atlantic, while Curtis Stevens and Luis Arias are attractive stateside options.

To our great pleasure, the Carl Frampton v Nonito Donaire undercard will feature an all-Irish middleweight clash between WBO European titleholder Conrad Cummings [12(5)-1(0)-1] and National champ Luke Keeler [13(5)-2(1)]. The winner of this fight on April 21st, live on BT Sport, will do wonders for their career, most likely jumping into the WBO Top Ten and setting themselves up for potentially massive fights – with Frank Warren’s Tommy Langford or even a supposed keep-busy in-house title defence for champion Billy Joe Saunders becoming possible.

Over in Florida, Derryman Connor Coyle [7(2)-0] continues to chug along under the radar. Following two good wins in his past two fights and a successful step up to eight rounds, expect ‘The Kid’ to be kicked on in 2018. Coyle has mentioned titles, and a Florida State belt or a minor strap from one of the governing bodies looks to be a good target for the year.

Ireland’s Last Man Standing
Following the withdrawals of Henry Coyle [19(12)-2(2)] along with Thomas Finnegan [2(0)-0] and Padraig McCrory [2(1)-0] – who themselves want to fight each other on the Frampton-Donaire bill – the Ireland’s Last Man Standing competition in Dublin is in need of three replacements.

Gerard Healy [6(0)-4(1)-1], Darren Cruise [8(2)-6(0)], and Dublin-based Scot John McCallum [10(0)-1(1)] all have put their names forward, so the tournament on March 3rd should be saved and, aside from at least €25,000, it offers a huge reward to the winner.

Amateur star Roy Sheahan, Alfredo Meli [14(3)-0-1], Sean McGlinchey [2(0)-0], Bernard Roe [6(1)-0], and Chris Blaney [8(3)-0] all have realistic hopes of a career if not life-changing win in the single-elimination Prizefighter-style competition.

The winner on the night will be rewarded with the mandatory challenger status for the Irish title held by Keeler. With ‘Cool Hand’ Luke facing Cummings next, an Irish title rematch between the two Last Man Standing finalists – should the deciding bout be in any way close or controversial – could be a logical fight, or even a battle for the belt between the Last Man Standing winner and the Cummings-Keeler loser.


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