Graham McCormack has come a long way from a debut he admitted resembled a 3:00AM scrap in Supermac’s over a garlic chip – and even further from the dark places he visited before boxing.
The infectious Limerick southpaw is now a domestic champion, beating Dominic Donegan over eight rounds in Belfast tonight, and moves next in line for an Irish title shot.
Even more impressively, a fighter, who initially just looked like a fun addition to the Irish setup, collected the prettiest strap in Irish boxing by settling a massive grudge in his favour and winning the most eagerly anticipated all-Irish fight of the year.
McCormack was a combination of pure grit and much-improved guile as he put in a career-best performance and one of the best Irish performances of the year to make sure he delivered on the title promise he made his son.
Cavan’s Donegan played his part in another all-Irish fight that delivered and a bout which fans would have no issue seeing again – but McCormack was a deserved 78-75 points winner at the Europa Hotel.
McCormack and Donegan had been linked for years and cultivated a unique rivalary that allowed the fight to remain mouthwatering despite the fact both suffered defeats in 2021. Indeed, the Cavan side of the bad blood affair had lost to two journeymen and drew with another – and, yet still, there was fan demand for the fight. After eight rounds, it was clear to see why.
After verbal sparring for so long, the pair finally got down to firing shots of a more lethal nature atop the MHD Summer Brawl card. The tension levels rose as soon as the first beat of the first ring walk dropped.
What a fight, that was a war!
McCormack winning on points to 78-75 to become the New BUI Celtic Middleweight champion
— Boxing Tickets NI (@BoxingTicketsNI) June 25, 2022
The stare-down was spicy and the fight wasn’t long about warming up. Donegan sat down on his shots early and tried to get instant respect. Donegan’s corner, led by Tony Davitt, were calling for him to push the Limerick man back but both met in the centre of the ring. Any time the action was close range McCormack let combinations go, working head and body while ‘The Bomb’ looked more comfortable at range and tried to put real spite on his punches. A left hook landed by McCormack at the end of a combination got Team McCormack excited and prompted ‘The G-Train’ to roll forward. The Treaty fighter fired flurries in close but wasn’t having things all his own way with Donegan answering back.
A brief light failure provided brief respite but the pair went at it again in the second. An almost possessed McComack piled forward and machined gunned combos upon the restart, before finishing the round as he started it with a left hook that straightened the legs of the Drumgoon warrior.
The pace died somewhat at the start of the third but things quickly heated back up. It was the 35-year-old Munster man’s work rate and quality combinations against the bigger single shots of the Ulster banger, although McCormack did enjoy making his foe miss off the ropes in the last few seconds.
Donegan tried to fight fire with fire early in the fourth but just when it looked like he had encouraged his opponent to take a step back he found himself on the end of another combination. McCormack was going full Mexican, pressuring behind impressive head movement and letting his hands go when the chance allowed. However, Donegan looked able for the pace and still appeared to be carrying power.
They stood head-to-head in the fifth and it suited McCormack, he had to ship some solid shots, most of which landed on the top of the head, but had the better output and landed numerous clean uppercuts. Team Donegan felt McCormack was tiring at this stage and were confident their man had it in him to produce a strong finish.
Donegan started the sixth well on the jab but any lead hand that came out slow was countered. The distance between them closed again, which initially looked to suit McCormack but the pace lessened over the round and Donegan was able to land some shots as things got scrappy, although he cut an extremely tired figure returning to the corner.
Garryowen’s McCormack boxed in the seventh and was still having success landing slipping and landing clean backhands, Showing a true warrior spirit Donegan tried to rally and put was being made to miss by the Shaun Kelly-trained fighter.
The drained men all but kept each other up with the punches they landed on each other in a free-for-all eighth and there was real tension going to referee Padraig O Reachtagain’s card, where McCormack was declared 78-75 winner, prompting half of Limerick to climb into the ring to celebrate a memorable night.