30 from 30 – Ranking Ireland’s Top Boxers since 1990

Recently, friend of the site Steven Morton asked for people’s Top 10 Irish boxers of the last 30 years and it really got us thinking.

There has been an incredible amount of talent and achievement in the modern era and we couldn’t keep it to just 10.

Instead, for our sins, we’re going for a Top 30 since 1990 – amateur and pro.

Nevermind the final order, just whittling it down to 30 boxers was a nightmare.

Those who miss out include World medallist James Moore, outright British champions like Sam Storey, Derek Roche, Neil Sinclair, and Michael Gomez, European champions Willie Casey and James Tennyson, and fighters robbed of World titles in Dennis Hogan and Christina McMahon.

Then you have the absence of an abundance of Olympians and multi-major medallists like Steven Donnelly, John Joe Joyce, Davey Oliver Joyce, Eric Donovan, Michaela Walsh, Christina Desmond and Brendan Irvine – not to mention iconic figures such as Eamonn Magee, Martin Rogan, and Kevin McBride.

In actual fact, what started as a fun list quickly turned into a torturous process. It all means nothing but we still found ourselves agonising over decisions, comparing amateur with pro, generation with generation, titles and medals with quality of results.

We tried to keep as consistent as possible but, of course, personal preferences often came into play – not to mention judging that intangible ‘feeling’.

Anyway, here we go.

* denotes a currently active fighter.

30. Deirdre Gogarty
Katie Taylor’s hero, the Drogheda slugger was one half of the first women’s professional fight to draw mainstream attention. After the brawl with Christy Martin, Gogarty would win an early version of a world title and her generational influence can’t be overlooked.

29. Eamonn Loughran
Ireland’s forgotten world champion, Loughran transformed his career with an upset win over Donovan Boucher and reigned in the early days of the WBO for two-and-a-half years.

28. Aoife O’Rourke*
Still only 22, O’Rourke claimed a fantastic European gold last year at middleweight and looks to have a huge career ahead of her.

27. Ray Moylette*
The first Irishman to win a world title – at Youth level in 2008 – Moylette followed this up with European senior glory before, eventually, moving into the pros. A provider of epic nights and fights.

26. Stephen Kirk
The Belfast light heavy won World bronze in 1997 at a time when Irish fighters just didn’t do that. A career cut short by a failed brain scan, Kirk could have had so many more medals.

25. Paul McCloskey
The Derry slickster won British and European honours to add to EU silver from his amateur days. ‘Dudey’ gave us some big nights in Belfast as well as the infamous Amir Khan clash.

24. Ray Close
The Belfast man went to Italy to dethrone European champion Vincenzo Nardiello before being desperately unlucky in world title tilts, drawing with and losing a split decision to Chris Eubank.

23. Dave Boy McAuley
A career cut by the timescale [meaning his 1980s scalp of Duke McKenzie and battles with Fidel Bassa aren’t counted], Dave Boy still had big wins and fights in the 90s, defending his IBF flyweight title successfully four times.

22. Kurt Walker*
Currently ‘the man’ on the Irish amateur team. In addition to a noted underage career, the reigning European champion also has a continental bronze, EU gold, and Commonwealth silver in his locker.

21. Paul Griffin
A sensational European gold in Sweden has seen Griffin go down in Dublin boxing lore. To this day, many will swear the Barcelona Olympian, who also claimed Euro bronze, was one of our most talented ever.

20. Matthew Macklin
He should have been a world champion that night in Germany versus Felix Sturm but Macklin still enjoyed an illustrious career full of wars and knockouts en-route to the British and European (twice) titles.

19. Bernard Dunne
Responsible for reinvigorating boxing in Dublin, Dunne won European honours before being part of one of our most famous nights with ‘that’ win over Ricardo Cordoba.

18. Brian Magee
The Dane Killer is perhaps one of our most underrated fighters. A European silver and Commonwealth bronze medallist, Magee had a long pro career in which he won British and European honours before picking up a ‘regular’ WBA belt.

17. Darren Sutherland (RIP)
What a fighter. The dearly departed Dazzler claimed double EU gold, Olympic bronze, and was on-course for pro stardom before being taken from us early.

16. Jason Quigley*
The first Irishman to make a World Championships final, Quigley did so off the back of a sensational European gold before jumping into the pro ranks early with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.

15. TJ Doheny*
The enormity of Doheny’s away corner world title win over Ryosuke Iwasa in Tokyo can not be overstated. A historic victory for a road warrior who also won a final eliminator in his opponent’s backyard.

14. Damaen Kelly
Another criminally underrated fighter, the Belfast Olympian won World and European bronze in the vest. As a pro, Kelly claimed British, Commonwealth, and European honours as well as challenging for the World crown.

13. Kellie Harrington*
Seen as a bolt from the blue, the Dub claimed World silver in 2016 and has gone on to become Ireland’s top amateur with a subsequent World gold, European silver and bronze, and EU silver.

12. Kenneth Egan
10 Senior titles, 6 EU medals, 2 European bronze, and Olympic silver, King Kenny was the first Irish amateur boxing superstar of the millennium.

11. John Joe Nevin*
The first Irishman to win two World Championships medals, Nevin also picked up Olympic silver, European gold, and EU gold and silver – with his Olympic semi-final win over Lazaro Alvarez being arguably the best Irish performance at a Games ever.

10. Andy Lee
Everyone’s favourite Irish boxer always did things the hard – and exciting – way, finally making his breakthrough with that glorious win over Matt Korobov. An Olympian, European bronze, and EU silver medallist with a strong pro CV, he kicks off our Top 10 here

9. Ryan Burnett
After becoming Ireland’s first Youth Olympic champion, the Belfast boxer embarked on cruelly short pro career – still managing to defeat two reigning world champs to become a unified titlist.

8. Steve Collins
An undefeated two-weight world champion, Collins’s epic wins over Chris Eubank are carved deeply into the Irish sporting psyche.

7. Paddy Barnes
The only Irish boxer to have medalled at two Olympics, Barnes’s glittering amateur career also saw him win double Commonwealth gold, European gold and silver, and a World Series of Boxing crown.

6. Joe Ward*
The Moate medal machine has more World and European podium finishes than any other male Irish boxer. Three golds at continental level along with a bronze and two silver on the world stage – and all before turning 24.

5. Mick Conlan*
Has any Irish boxer had a better year than Conlan’s 2015 where he claimed Olympic qualification, European gold, and World gold? Add to this the small matter of Olympic bronze, Commonwealth gold, European silver, and an imminent world title shot, and you’ve a pretty good résumé.

4. Michael Carruth
The man to make the breakthrough. Carruth won welterweight gold at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, defeating Cuban legend Juan Hernandez in the final.

3. Wayne McCullough
Commonwealth gold and Olympic silver was then followed by a sensational pro world title win in Japan and subsequent mega fights with Erik Morales and Prince Naz among others.

2. Carl Frampton*
Unified world titles at super bantamweight, moved up to win a world title away from home at featherweight. A fighter for whom stadiums are built, a Belfast icon.

1. Katie Taylor*
1 Olympic gold, 5 EU gold, 7 European gold, 6 World Championships gold, and 5 pro World Titles.

The Greatest.

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