With world title fights, debuts, and plenty of all-Irish clashes in between, it promises to be a big year.
Super Featherweight – 130lbs (59kg)
At The Top
James Tennyson [22(18)-3(3)] was unsuccessful in his shot at world honours versus Tevin Farmer in October and his continued future at the weight is in doubt. Manager Mark Dunlop predicts he will permanently move up to lightweight this year and he takes a temporary step up next month versus Garry Neale at the Ulster Hall.
There are potentially huge fights at super feather though before he makes his move. Should Ronnie Clark defeat Sam Bowen to claim the British title next month, Dunlop plans for an in-house domestic unification in Belfast on March 30th.
There’s also a possible big rematch on Sky versus Martin J Ward and ‘The Assassin’ may even be perceived as a ‘handy’ defence for one of the other champions.
One man who looks certain to have a world title shot is Jono Carroll [16(3)-0-1] with the Dubliner seemingly set to take on IBF champ Farmer in Philadelphia on March 16th.
There has been plenty of trash-talk between the pair in recent months online and, while Carroll stuttered slightly when he stepped up versus Guillaume Frenois, he and his team are arguing that styles make fights and that ‘King Kong’s’ relentless, body-focused approach will break down Farmer.
Fighting in America is a major opportunity for the immensely marketable and charismatic Carroll and he is sure to make an impression on the East Coast.
One More Chance
Having not fought at all in 2018, Belfast’s Anto Cacace [16(7)-1(0)] is apparently close to having a substantial contest confirmed in the coming days, a potentially final chance for ‘The Apache’ to make good on his undoubted talents.
Another Belfast man, Marco McCullough [21(10)-4(3)] scored a reinvigorating win over Ruddy Encarnacion last time out and it looks likely that he is going to be matched with Dublin stablemate Deco Geraghty [17(4)-3(2)] – who he was initially due to face instead of Encarnacion.
Both have enjoyed careers with plenty of good wins alongside tough losses and the victor would go forward towards bigger domestic clashes. For the loser, it could be the end, or they could look to face other Irish fighters.
Davey Oliver Joyce [9(7)-0] saw potential step-ups shelved throughout 2018 and will be itching for big fights this year. As the British and Irish domestic route did not work out for him, America could be a better option this year. Considering his amateur pedigree and his age, a big fight on a DAZN show against a fellow prospect may appeal.
Joyce’s position somewhat mirrors that of fellow Olympian and Mullingar man John Joe Nevin [11(4)-0]. While Nevin’s time in the pros has been far more frustrating and, with momentum proving extremely hard to find, he too is perhaps needing to be thrown into a big fight in America.
Maybe they could fight each other?
The Irish Title
Sallynoggin’s Stephen McAfee [5(2)-0-1] holds the BUI Celtic title and is mandatory for the Irish belt. A proposed, and agreed, fight with Feargal McCrory fell by the wayside and the Tyrone fighter has since stepped up to lightweight to box Karl Kelly for the Irish title there.
In terms of opponents for McAfee, options are thin at present but there are opportunities. Eric Donovan may fancy a step up in weight to try claim the green belt he craves although featherweight is the preferred route for him.
One of the number of 130lbs prospects gaining Irish title eligibility and enabling a McAfee fight looks likelier. Kildare’s Allan Phelan [9(6)-3(1)-1] and Ballybrack puncher Niall O’Connor [5(4)-0] have both boxed over six before and are ready for eights that would put them in line for McAfee.
Here’s an idea, how about an agreement between all parties where McAfee vacates his BUI Celtic title to allow Phelan and O’Connor box for it – with the winner being bound to face ‘Showtime’ for the Irish belt afterwards.
An Irish Boxing First
With today’s news that Irish titles for women will be fought over eight rounds and BUI Celtic titles over six makes big domestic fights all the more likely in 2019 and a clash between Ireland’s two female super featherweights could be something to look forward to.
Monaghan’s Elaine Greenan [2(0)-2(0)] has proven herself a warrior already, fighting regularly out of the away corner and she could surely be tempted home from Livingston for a big title clash with Kerry KO artist Siobhan O’Leary [1(1)-0].
Ciaran McVarnock [9(3)-0-1] and Liam Gaynor [2(0)-0] both found themselves out of action for the entirety of 2018 but returns this year look to be on the cards. Then there is Aiden Metcalfe [2(0)-0] who is desperate to show his real talent in the ring following some ropey moments so far. Both he and McVarnock especially are looking to get on the fast-track following their frustrations.
Larne’s Kelvin McDonald [1(0)-0] had a very impressive debut win in November and the teenager is keen for a big 2019. ‘Boom Boom’ has already stated his desire to face former semi-pro rival and current Boxing Ireland stablemate Jamie Douglas [0-0] but that may not be one for this year.