Breakthrough of the Year – 2016

Sometimes it all just comes together for a fighter and they get the opportunity they need to jump up in level.

Boxing can be a frustrating sport, with things rarely going to plan, especially for Irish fighters, but some have had breakthrough 2016s.

The list below sees fighters who have made the biggest jumps since January 1st.

And the nominees are…

Gabriel Dossen – Light Welterweight
It was a dream 2016 for Dossen who seemingly came out of nowhere to pick up his first two Irish titles, defeating a host of big names, to book himself a spot on the plane for the World Youth Championships. Despite being the youngest on a strong Irish team, the confident Galway teen shone and claimed a fantastic bronze medal to mark himself out as a real star for the future

Kelly Harrington – Light Weterweight
The Glasnevin boxer had been in and around the Irish team for years and had been to major tournaments before, but it all clicked into place in Kazakhstan in May. Here at the Women’s World Championships, Harrington won four fights and stormed into the final, where she was subsequently edged out by China’s Yang Wenlu and took home silver. Further proving her class, the inner-city Dub would later defeat World Championships bronze medalist Skye Nicolson twice, and Harrington is now aiming to move down to lightweight as she targets the Tokyo Olympics.

Tyrone McKenna – Light Welterweight
The Mighty Celt’s career kicked into gear in 2016, with the Belfast man linking up with Danny Vaughan and moving down to light welterweight. Here he finally began to get regular fights and would cap the year off with a sensational statement win over Sean Creagh in November in front of the Boxnation cameras to become the BUI Celtic champion and put himself in the frame for the Irish title.

Jason Quigley – Middleweight
The Golden Boy starlet exploded this year, jumping several levels to face James De La Rosa on the Canelo-Khan undercard in May. The Donegal fighter dominated en-route to a ten-round decision, a win that looks all the more better when you consider that De La Rosa gave former world title challenger Curtis Stevens a competitive fight in his next contest. Quigley then grabbed another big victory in December, taking out big-punching Puerto Rican, and former Golden Boy prospect, Jorge Melendez inside a round.

Con Sheehan – Heavyweight
The Clonmel big man had done plenty of groundwork in California with Virgil Hunter and this fuse was lit when he teamed up with Peter Fury. Busy for the first time in his pro career, and receiving unrivalled sparring, Sheehan got three wins under his belt quickly, including two scheduled eight rounders to throw himself into domestic title contention.

Phil Sutcliffe Jr – Light Welterweight
The Dubliner went to Germany to take on Swedish star Anthony Yigit in a short-notice clash in May, losing a very tight majority decision.The defeat in the step-up clash would not deter Sutcliffe however, and he got his statement win in Belfast in November, edging out Welshman Chris Jenkins over ten, knocking the two-time British title challenger and Prizefighter champion down in the first.

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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