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2019 Preview – Bantamweight & Super Bantam

We continue our look through the divisions and what could be in store for Irish boxers, this time focusing on the bantamweight and super bantamweight classes.

While the classes house relatively few Irish fighters, the amount of talent here is frightening.

READ: Light Flyweight, Flyweight, Super Flyweight PREVIEW

Bantamweight – 118lbs (53.5kg)

Setbacks to Comebacks
Ryan Burnett [19(9)-1(1)] lost his WBA title and saw his World Boxing Super Series hopes extinguished in November when a freak injury forced him to be pulled out after the fourth round of his clash with Nonito Donaire. The torn and detached oblique muscle is a serious injury but not a career-ending one for the Belfast fighter who is set for a return to the ring in the second half of 2019 when he will hopefully bring the Sky Sports cameras back to Ireland after a year off. A fight with the winner of the WBSS – Naoya Inoue being the heavy favourite – has been proposed but this may be some way down the line if at all. A rematch with Donaire, whether he wins the tournament or not, also appeals while a step up in weight has long been mooted is also an option – especially if TJ Doheny can hold onto the IBF super bantam title.

London-based Skerries puncher Prince Brady [1(0)-1(1)] hit a speedbump in September when he was stopped in the opening round by Bulgarian dangerman Georgi Georgiev. ‘Dreamhills’ is keen to continue and go again, and a return to the ring as soon as possible is hoped for.

Super Bantamweight – 122lbs (55.3kg)

The King
TJ Doheny [20(14)-0] scored one of Ireland’s biggest sporting achievements in 2018 when he went to Japan to dethrone Ryosuke Iwasa. The Laois fighter broke his thumb during the win in Tokyo back in August but is back in camp now in Boston and an announcement is due imminently. A return to the Land of the Rising Sun looks likely, and a rematch with Iwasa that could double as a mandatory defence may fit the bill. Should he get through this it could be big unifications with the trio of Mexican champions – Rey Vargas, Emanuel Navarrete, and Daniel Roman – in America or even the dream all-Irish title fight with Burnett or Tyrone McCullagh.

The Chasers
Tyrone McCullagh [12(6)-0] claimed the WBO European belt and is now ranked #13 with the body. The Derry puncher is hopeful of a shot at managerial stablemate Doheny over the next twelve months – something which would be easy to do, in theory, should both come through their respective next fights. First up, though, looks to be a defence of his rankings title – and perhaps his BBBoC Celtic title – on a mooted show in Derry in March. The team of Irish champion Carl McDonald [5(0)-2(0)] are keen on the fight but McCullagh is less so, believing himself to be to far ahead of the Dubliner. A move down to bantamweight is also a possibility for ‘The Cobra’ who now wants to move past Irish title level.

Still There?
Belfast’s Sean Magee [2(1)-0] has been extremely impressive but extremely inactive since turning pro in the summer of 2017. Hopefully, like Brady, he can be kept busy in 2019 and the increasing number of small hall shows in the Titanic City bodes well.

Another Breen Team member, Ruadhan Farrell, was due to debut last month but saw this fall through. Hopefully the youngster makes his bow soon.


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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