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Celtic Carnage – KOs, wars, wins, and pain in Spain

The Celtic Clash series roared back into gear this afternoon and evening in Spain.

The Boxing Ireland Promotions fight night went on the road for its eleventh instalment, rocking up in the Alicante suburb of Guardamar where eleven Irish fighters took to the ring – and they weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Three boxers fell to defeats in a night where the opposite side of the bill came to fight, and the officials weren’t giving any favours.

The defeats for Martin Quinn, Julio Cesar, and debutant Alan O’Connor will perhaps grab the initial attention but there was plenty more on show – including a thrilling start to pro life for Dylan Wilson, potent reintroductions for Robbie Burke and Danny Keating, and a reminder served by Stephen McAfee.

Indeed, the drama began before a punch had been thrown. While Cavan light middleweight Dominic Donegan had been forced off the show earlier in the week, Belfast bantam Cathy McAleer cruelly found herself without an opponent just this morning.

The show, of course, went on – with two casualties from an initial list of 13 still arguably a ‘solid’ return – and it was up to Kerry light heavy Kevin Cronin [4(2)-0] to get things underway. ‘The Kingdom Warrior’ didn’t have it all his own way against Bulgarian Daniel Borisov but, a competitive second aside, still appeared to win every round. Cronin was not happy with his performance but could have been left even more disappointed had the judges’ scorecards tipped any further towards Borisov – a majority decision raising some early eyebrows.

Dublin super middleweight Robbie Burke [3(3)-0] wasn’t leaving anything to the judges and put Norbert Magyar down twice in the opener as he staked his claim as Ireland’s premier domestic puncher between 168lbs and 175lbs. Is a Cronin-Burke match-up this year a realistic possibility?

The third of three fighters around these two divisions had a much tougher night. Belfast’s Julio Cesar [3(1)-5(4)] had perhaps the toughest match on the card versus Spanish hardman Fernando Heredia, was hurt after mere moments of the opening bell, was put down multiple times, and was eventually stopped in the second round.

Belfast welter Owen O’Neill [6(0)-0] had a tough four rounder against Petar Aleksandrov but showed good conditioning to scrap it out through four competitive rounds where he perhaps previously would have wilted.

One of the most impressive fighters on the bill was Cork light middle Danny Keating [4(3)-0] who dominated his four rounder with Geiboord Omier, looking a class above and certainly indicating that his career ceiling is higher than most.

Moving down to welterweight, Owen Duffy [5(2)-2(1)] had it put up to him by Alexander Zeledon but his superior conditioning won out in the end. The Monaghan man’s next move now is especially interesting.

A late replacement, Hungarian Szylvester Ajtai proved to be the only sour note on the card – offering no resistance whatsoever to the returning Jake Hanney who chopped through him in less than a round.

Moving into the second half of the bill, things started to get crazy.

It all seemed to be going to plan, with Clondalkin light welter debutant Alan O’Connor [0-1(0)] looking surprisingly smooth versus Nicaraguan Eligio Palacios. Despite giving up a bit of size, O’Connor controlled the fight off the jab but two of the judges disagreed, somehow scoring the bout 40-36 and 39-37 to Palacios, overruling a 39-37 for the Irishman. Even Palacios’s trainer, apparently, disagreed with the final verdict.

It quickly then became a double hit as Crumlin light welter Martin Quinn [3(1)-2(0)] was faced with an extremely aggressive and game opponent in Ezequiel Gregores. While Quinn was evidently the more cultured boxer, he perhaps lacked the ring sharpness and fitness to fully deal with the relentless Argentine who managed to work his way to a majority decision victory,

Another Clondalkin debutant, the Kenny Egan-trained Dylan Wilson [1(0)-0], had a night to remember. The kickboxing convert was involved in an almighty war with Fernando Gandarias, coming through the wild scrap a points winner. A second round knockdown and any number of huge, clean shots on the Spaniard’s chin couldn’t stop Gandarias pouring forward throughout in a brawl that had it all.

Finally it was left to Stephen McAfee [7(3)-1(1)-1] to close the show and he did so in style, dominating the game and potentially dangerous Sergio Gonzalez. The Argentine had no answer to McAfee’s attack and did well to hang with the Sallynoggin slugger. Moving now into his tenth fight, a fifth domestic outing appeals – versus anyone.

While not a clean sweep for the stable, the show certainly provided entertainment and laid a base for the series’s return to Ireland with editions 12 and 13 being planned for Belfast and Dublin respectively. Small hall is back, baby.

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