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A look back at the best All Belfast Battles ahead of McKenna – Crocker

Excitement has been brewing at a steady pace since it was confirmed Tyrone McKenna and Lewis Crocker will fight at the SSE Arena on December 2. 

There is no doubt the welterweight meeting is already as anticipated as any recent all-Irish fight. 

Indeed, some have gone as far as to hype it as the best Battle of Belfast ever made. That may prove to be the case if the fight lives up to expectations but the Conlan Boxing and Matchroom promoted clash has massive competition in that regard.

Belfast boxing historian and scribe  Barry Flynn explains as much when sharing the pairing widely considered to be the best pairings the capital of Irish boxing has served up.

Take a look at the 5 below:

  1. John Caldwell v Freddie Gilroy – 20 October 1962

When considering the all-Belfast boxing classics that have captivated fight followers, the clash between John Caldwell and Freddie Gilroy in October 1962 surpasses them all. In the 1950s and 1960s, both boxers had reached the pinnacle of their sport gaining international acclaim. The two best friends – and Olympic medallists in 1956 for Ireland – enjoyed a rivalry that – peaked when Caldwell claimed a share of the world bantamweight crown in a fight that had been promised to Gilroy. Caldwell and Gilroy were eventually pitched against each other in a bloody and vicious battle in the King’s Hall on a cold, sober October evening.  In front of 16,000 delirious fans, it was Gilroy who was awarded the fight in the ninth round as Caldwell could not continue due to a cut eye. The famous Jack Magowan of the Belfast Telegraph commented in his report, ‘In boxing there are no longer winners, only survivors’. However, that gripping and vicious encounter did not resolve the question of who was the better boxer, which lingers to this day. 

2. Hugh Russell v Davy Larmour – 5 October 1992

In October 1982, with Barry McGuigan taking a break from the ring, Barney Eastwood matched local boxers Hugh Russell and Davy Larmour in the Ulster Hall in a final eliminator for John Feeney’s British bantamweight crown.  What followed over 15 rounds was an absolute war. Russell was awarded the narrowest of decisions by referee Mike Jacobs in a ring that resembled a butcher’s shambles. On returning to London, Jacobs left his white shirt in to be dry-cleaned. However, when he returned to collect it he was handed a note from CID asking him to report to the local police station. Once there, Jacobs was asked how his shirt had come to be covered in so much blood. A simple explanation that he had refereed a boxing match in Belfast duly resolved the matter with the police. Russell duly claimed Feeney’s title in January 1983, only to lose it six-weeks later to Larmour in a rematch at the King’s Hall. 

3. Sam Storey v Noel Magee – 29 November 1989

As reigning British super-middleweight champion, Sam Storey put his title on the line against fellow Belfast fighter Noel Magee in the Ulster Hall on 29 November 1989.  Storey, from Belfast’s Antrim Road, was an international amateur before joining the paid ranks in 1985, the same year as Magee. In his professional career he had tasted defeat only once, to former amateur colleague Stephen Collins. Magee, from one of Ardoyne’s most famous boxing families, had been a model of consistency, losing only twice in 20 paid fights. The battle of the north Belfast men packed the Ulster Hall to its rafters. However, the stress of the occasion seemed to get to Magee, who was reported to have lost 4 lb in nervous energy as he slept the night before the fight. Despite opening well, Magee seemed to visibly wilt as the fight progressed and would later put his performance down to over-training. By the ninth round, Storey sensed victory and seized his chance with the referee Larry O’ Connell stopping the contest 30 seconds into the round.   

4. Rinty Monaghan v Bunty Doran – 6 November 1945

Such was the hype and anticipation for the clash between Rinty Monaghan and Bunty Doran on 6 November 1945 that the ‘house full’ signs were posted on the doors of the Ulster Hall two hours before the bill commenced. At stake was Doran’s Northern flyweight title against Monaghan, the returning hero, who had just come back from wartime service in Europe. Monaghan appeared to have the better of the exchanges in the opening round, but Doran shook the challenger with a long left hook in the second. Rinty, though, proved as elusive as an eel in the following rounds and carried the fight to his opponent’s corner where, after a sharp exchange of blows, he dropped from a short right. He rose at eight still dazed, only for Monaghan to end the fight with a swinging right. Doran was still sitting in his corner with his eyes closed when Monaghan responded to numerous requests to sing. That victory against Doran was seen as a turning point in Rinty’s career that would lead eventually to him becoming undisputed world flyweight champion in in 1948.  

5. Jackie Quinn v Billy Warnock – 20 June 1932

Perhaps one of the greatest unsung heroes of Belfast boxing was the former Irish flyweight champion John McGreevy (known professionally as Jackie Quinn). At the age of 19, he became Irish bantamweight champion, which he followed-up by winning the flyweight crown. On 20 June 1932, Quinn defended his belt at Distillery’s Grosvenor Park against Billy Warnock.  Warnock came from the renowned Shankill Road fighting family, which included Jimmy, Freddie and Dave, all of whom lost to Quinn professionally in the ring. In the clash against Billy Warnock, which took place in front of 12,000 spectators, an epic battle ensued over 15 rounds, which Quinn won convincingly on points at the open air venue. It was a veritable bloodbath that saw courage and bravery to the absolute fore. Such was the reception that the victorious Quinn received at his north Belfast home after the win, it is said that a street party lasted outside until early hours of Sunday morning. 


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years