All-Irish Fantasy Fights: PART 2

By Joe O’Neil

Following on from last week’s piece, irish-boxing.com continues its discussion of fantasy match-ups between great Irish boxers – both past and present.

Andy Lee -v- Steve Collins
Middleweight
Celebrating his 31st birthday this week, Andy Lee sits the top the world with the WBO middleweight title in hand – a just reward after a long, and sometimes arduous, career. Reinvigorated under Adam Booth, the Limerick man won the belt last December with a stunning stoppage victory over the highly touted Matt Korobov. The Castleconnell man is due to defend his title this Autumn but how would he fare against the last Irishman to hold a middleweight world title?

Twenty years before Lee upset Korobov to win the WBO middleweight belt, the strap was held by Steve Collins. The Dubliner would then win the WBO super middleweight belt in 1995 after two famous wins over the previously undefeated Chris Eubank in Cork. Long ignored by a certain Roy Jones Jnr., Collins retired as champion and remains a highly respected figure in Irish boxing.

A fight between the pair would see Lee needing to use the long range boxing skills he developed as an elite amateur and honed at Detroit’s Kronk Gym under the watchful eye of the legendary Emmanuel Stewart. Whether he could withstand the unparalleled workrate and relentless swarming of Collins is another story. Cabra’s Celtic Warrior famously claimed that his chin was so solid that it was sponsored by Readymix Concrete – however if any man could test this chin it would be Lee and his much-vaunted right hook. While immensely different as fighters, both always guarantee an exciting fight. A fantasy match-up would be an exhilarating clash of styles.

Carl Frampton -v- Wayne McCullough
Super Bantamweight
Last week we discussed how Carl Frampton would fare against Barry McGuigan and Bernard Dunne, and the Tiger’s Bay fighter features again this week in a Belfast derby against Wayne McCullough. Of course, back in reality, it has been announced this week that ‘The Jackal’ will to make his U.S. debut on July 18th, defending his IBF super bantamweight title against Alejandro González Jr. in El Paso, Texas.

Someone who is no stranger to fighting for world titles in the U.S. is Wayne McCullough – a veteran of nine world title fights, five of which were in the America. Next month it will be twenty years since ‘The Pocket Rocket’ scored one of Irish boxing’s greatest achievements – winning the WBC bantamweight title against Yasuei Yakushiji in his native Japan. Indeed McCullough remains the only fighter from Ireland or Britain to win a world title on Japanese soil. The 1992 Olympic silver medallist was a world class pro and a popular figure, fighting for titles across bantamweight, super bantamweight, and featherweight before retiring in 2008.

A Belfast battle between the two would be an all out war. Frampton is currently the hardest puncher in the super bantamweight division but McCullough was a dogged fighter and took noted punchers, Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales, the distance – giving both some of the toughest fights of their careers. Could Frampton succeed where they couldn’t and stop ‘The Pocket Rocket’? Or would McCullough be able to drag ‘The Jackal’ into uncharted waters?

Tyson Fury -v- Kevin McBride
Heavyweight
Manchester-born man-mountain Tyson Fury is currently in line to face Ukrainian heavyweight legend, Wladimir Klitschko. While an underdog, many believe that Fury with his size, speed, and skills, has the tools to dismantle Dr. Steelhammer and give Ireland its first heavyweight world champion in over a hundred years. Fury is one of boxing’s biggest characters, and the all-singing, all-dancing behemoth will undoubtedly win a world title soon – whether it be against Klitschko this Autumn or in the coming years

Kevin McBride has happy memories of facing fighters called Tyson having sent ‘Iron Mike’ into retirement ten years ago this week. After representing Ireland at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the Clones Colossus went on to have a more than respectable career with the obvious peak of that night in Washington D.C. in 2005 when, as a 20/1 underdog, he bullied Mike Tyson into submission.

Both fighters have been Irish heavyweight champion and a bout between the two would be an intriguing affair. The switch-hitting Fury would be favourite – indeed he is one of the most skilled heavyweights around today, however one could never rule out McBride. The Monaghan man was a crafty fighter and was always able to use his size and weight to his advantage – would he be able to shock the world again?

Mick Conlan -v- John Joe Nevin
Bantamweight
This week’s amateur fantasy fight features two boxers who were once team mates however have never faced each other in the ring. One of the most exciting and decorated boxers in Ireland today, Conlan won bronze at the 2012 Olympics before further honours at the 2013 European Championships (silver) and the 2014 Commonwealth Games (gold). Since moving from the flyweight division up to bantamweight, the Belfast man has come on leaps and bounds in terms of strength and is one of the best in the World at the weight. Having achieved Olympic qualification early through the World Series of Boxing, Colan is now gunning for gold at Rio 2016 next year before he sets his sights on the pro game and a world title within his first ten fights.

Ireland’s bantamweight king for over half a decade, John Joe Nevin has an even larger collection of medals that Conlan with an Olympic silver (2012), two World Championships bronze (2011, 2013), European gold (2013), and EU gold and silver (2008 and 2009 respectively). A joy to watch in full flight, at times Nevin seemed more like he boxed out of Cuba than Cavan B.C. Having medalled in every conceivable amateur tournament, Nevin turned professional in 2013 and has so far compiled a 3(2)-0 record, and will be looking to shoot up through the ranks as soon as possible after a period of inactivity.

Nevin turned pro at the same time that the younger Conlan matured into the bantamweight division meaning we never got to see a 56kg showdown between the two in the National Stadium. What a fight it would have been too – a clash of styles between the shuffling Mullingar man’s counter-punching and Conlan’s beautiful and varied attacking prowess. Maybe the two will meet in the pros at some stage.

Did we leave any out? Which fantasy All-Irish fights do you wish you could see?

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