Box-Off drama in the past for Martin Keenan ahead of Dean Gardiner rematch

RTÉ pundit Darren O’Neill has labelled it as the fight of the night, and everyone can’t help but mention that it is the rematch of one of the most controversial fights of 2017.

However, Martin Keenan approaches his National Elite Senior super heavyweight final versus Dean Gardiner tomorrow night full of cheer, ignoring all the talk that is surrounding the clash of the big men.

The Ennis big man won the title last year with a smart win over Thomas Carty in the final however – with the experienced Gardiner not competing and Keenan being a novice internationally – a box-off to represent Ireland at the European Championships was called.

The fight, won by Gardiner on a 4-1 split, took place against the backdrop of internal strife amidst the IABA, with heated arguments over team selection.

Keenan though immediately shuts down any talk of bad blood or revenge, and has drawn a line under the controversial box-off situation.

“Dean deserves to be where he is today because he won the box-off,” the Rathkeale fighter told

“It’s hard to approach, because Dean is a well-experienced lad and a lovely lad. Me and Dean get on like a house on fire outside the ring – can’t say the same about inside the ring though! ”

“I expect Dean to perform to his fullest and. That’s the way you want it though, to leave everything in the ring and then sure we can go out for a few drinks afterwards.”

Keenan scored two wins to reach the decider at the National Stadium, outpointing Dublin duo Geoffrey Kavanagh (Glasnevin) and John McDonnell (Crumlin).

“At the end of the day, that’s what you want,” he notes.

“The first fight I had was against a very good technical boxer, Geoffrey Kavanagh, and John is a nice lad who I’ve had three fights with, and that was the first one I won. He’s a tough lad, a strong lad and a good, technical boxer.”

While his preparations inside the ring have been perfect, his situation outside it been stressfull.

Keenan has had a severely disrupted camp and described how “my mother was hit with cancer and I couldn’t train as much as I wanted to with all the appointments, then my baby was sick as well for the whole week.”

“But, look, they’re the things you have to get over when you’re a boxer and a family man, you have to do these things.”

One of a select few Irish boxers to win Novice, Intermediate, and Senior titles, Keenan remains confident despite a less than perfect camp.

Crediting the set-up at Rathkeale, Keenan promised that “I’ll just bite down on my gumshield and do what I have to do and listen to my coaches, the best coaches in the world as far as I can see.”

When I listen to them, I know myself that I will win.”

“Nell Fox, another heavyweight in our group is also fighting, and I highly expect her to win as well.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)


Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: