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4 Talking Points from ‘Celtic Clash 7’

‘Celtic Clash 7’ had a bit of everything and the show at the Good Counsel GAA Club in Drimnagh is the perfect opportunity for Irish-Boxing.com to roll out our new feature series.

Talking Points‘ will aim to raise interesting debates which stem from shows, giving both points of view and allow readers to make up their own minds – and don’t be afraid to give us your views on Facebook and Twitter.

So without further ado, here are four talking points from ‘Celtic Clash 7’.

Should female pros be have early big fights?
Ask any manager or promoter around, matching female prospects is a nightmare. The shallower pool means that supply-and-demand can dictate that they require higher purses while quality can vary wildly.

We are still in the early stages of a female pro boxing boom and, despite their best efforts, matchmaking can still be partly luck-of-the-draw. Cathy McAleer was given a huge debut scare earlier this month by Teodora Hristova while the two female ‘Celtic Clash 7’ opponents, Kitti Kolompar and Klaudia Csaszar, both looked poor and were blasted out in a round each by Lynn Harvey and Siobhán O’Leary respectively.

Did Harvey and O’Leary learn anything from these bouts? It’s arguable. In terms of O’Leary, a debut is often seen as a free pass and her KO could settle the nerves – which were also felt keener than ever for Harvey who was returning from an extended ring break.

But, next? At a high financial cost, the difficult nature of matching females often leads to erring on the side of caution – leading to easy wins where little is learnt – leading to a reluctance to go into big fights as more ‘learning’ is required.

Should the system just be flipped? Get the debut out of the way, maybe a second fight too, and then go straight for competitive fights, BUI Celtic title fights. Sure you might lose but, take a look at the rankings of any weight class for women on BoxRec. Even among top tens there are a LOT of red dots, with many female fighters outside of Ireland, such is the current state of the game, having ‘MMA-like’ careers filled with competitive fights from the off rather than the prospect v journeymen building route which is able to be taken by men.

Or is this too dangerous and leaving fighters open to taking lots of losses, having ugly-looking records, denting their ticket-selling prowess and potentially ruining their chances of ‘big money’ fights with big names and/or a more nuanced progression to major titles?

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Do shock losses ‘add’ to a show?
Most shows in Ireland are not priced up by bookies but, if they were, the undercards would be almost entirely filled with Irish fighters at 1/100 or shorter. It’s the nature of the game, whether they be tough journeymen or ones who wilt at the first sign of pressure.

The competitiveness of Irish undercards has been steadily increasing, especially on Celtic Clash shows, with the game journeymen now well-known and many are repeat visitors. Strong, tough, but technically limited, the Irish fighter should win but will be made work by their opponent – the definition of learning and developmental fights.

However, on Saturday, the Celtic Clash series saw its first undercard shock as Martin Wall was stopped in the opening round by Bulgarian Radoslav Mitev. Crumlin welter Wall has promised to rebound and we have no doubt he will but his misfortune raises the question of whether a shock can be good for a show.

Boxing is a sport between two fighters and is a little bit of the sporting element taken away if the man or woman in the home corner invariably has their hand raised at the end? An occasional win for an away fighter certainly adds to the tension of a show and snaps any fans assuming guaranteed wins back to reality, back to sport – as well as, no doubt, keeping other Irish fighters on their toes.

Away from this, and the obvious learning opportunities that come with a loss, is the cultivation of characters through game away fighter performances and upsets. Mitev won his first fight in Ireland, beating Michael Harvey in Belfast in 2011, and has been back ten times since with more visits sure to come. Irish boxing hardcores now know that, most likely, a prospect will be tested when they see Mitev and his red-and-white shorts in the opposition corner – and that’s without even mentioning the potential for a rematch with Wall next year.

Or is it essential for Irish boxing that our fighters keep winning as long as possible and have their losses be in big fights either at home or abroad? It’s often said that a loss can kill a fighter’s ticket-selling abilities, suggesting fans are a fickle bunch – and it would be interesting to see some actual figures on this end. Then there are questions over what a defeat against, what some people would describe as, a ‘bum’ or a ‘binman’ does to a fighter’s confidence and progression.

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Are six rounds enough for an all-Irish fight?
For us, there’s nothing better than an all-Irish fight. Pride on the line, plenty of build-up, a bit of smack-talk or mind-games maybe, and 100% commitment in the ring in what is, more often than not, a competitive and exciting contest.

Martin Quinn v Karl Kelly on Saturday night was no different, a thrilling slugfest which ended in controversy, with Monkstown’s Kelly getting the nod after six rounds on a scoreline of 58-57. The debate over the scoring of this specific fight is a discussion for another time but it is an example that some would point to as a reason for not having competitive all-Irish fights over six rounds.

A fight over six rounds can’t be for a title, and many feel that any two Irishmen that step into a ring together should have a belt as a potential reward – not to mention that a fight ‘only’ being over six rounds having less prestige. Then there is a scoring, a competitive six round fight, scored by just the referee, lends itself to a close, and often controversial, card – whereas over more rounds there are more eventualities, greater potential for drama, and more time for one boxer to assert their dominance, as well as three scoring judges for title fights.

However, with the increasing prominence of the eight-round BUI Celtic title, the six-round all-Irish fight could have a place. Quinn v Kelly was packaged as an unofficial BUI Celtic title eliminator and, following the controversy, it leads perfectly into a rematch for the belt – much like Stephen McAfee and Colin O’Donovan last year.

With fighting in an eight-rounder a requirement for Irish title eligibility, the BUI Celtic title was introduced, helping in terms of experience, financially, and promotionally, and has led to Irish boxers engaging in all-Irish bouts earlier in their careers – and a recent trend of all-Irish six-rounders, BUI Celtic eliminators if you will, could be a further extension of this.

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Should boxing shows have ‘other’ entertainment?
Christy Dignam took to the ring on Saturday night. The Aslan rock legend wasn’t throwing punches, just belting out tunes, and showing that he more than still has ‘it’.

Something new and different for a pro show, in-ring entertainment could become a feature of future shows – but should it be?

If the act is good, as Dignam was, it can serve to build the atmosphere – and Saturday’s singalong certainly did. Then there is the appeal of the artist – the numbers are impossible to quantify, but the musical entertainment would have been a selling point, or at least a sweetener, for many attending the show.

Even if the extra ticket sales generated do not exceed the cost of booking the act, the ‘experience’ is bolstered to no end and Saturday’s performance will live long in the memory.

The main argument against would be that boxing is boxing. Some people go to a boxing show to enjoy the boxing rather than the ‘event’. In addition to this, some would say that the 20 minutes Dignam spent in the ring could have been used by a boxer while another argument would be that such entertainment could become repetitive, especially if the same acts are used again and again, or that a poor or badly-received act could put a dampener on a show.

Indeed, some crazy people don’t like Aslan

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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