‘Celtic Clash 3: Building Champions’ – Opponent Analysis

Tomorrow night sees the first Irish show of the new ‘season’ of boxing.

The National Stadium in Dublin plays host to ‘Celtic Clash 3: Building Champions,’ run by Boxing Ireland Promotions and Tony Davitt Promotions.

A bumper card, there will be 15 fights on Saturday including a headline title clash.

As with most cards, there have of course been some unfortunate fight week changes. Fan-favourite Alec Bazza has been forced to pull out of his fight with debutant Niall O’Connor and Keane McMahon’s tasty-looking fight with Radoslav Mitev has been shelved following the Dubliner’s withdrawal.

However, the card itself remains a strong one, and certainly an improvement on ‘Celtic Clash 2: The Rising.’

Most notably, this time round we have a proper attention-grabbing headline fight. Lilywhite Lightning Eric Donovan [4(3)-0] takes on Welsh champion Dai Davies [14(2)-25(12)-2] for the BUI Celtic title. A fight perhaps being overlooked due to the unflattering record of Davies, it is in fact a major test for Donovan.

Since knuckling down from the start of 2014, Davies has won five of his last seven, with his only reversals being a one-point away defeat over ten rounds against Josh Wale and a stoppage loss to Matchroom hotshot Reece Bellotti. In this time he has defeated recent British super featherweight title challenger and English champion Andy Townend, upcoming Commonwealth super bantamweight title challenger Ashley Lane, as well as grabbing a rematch victory over Robbie Turley, who himself would go on to claim Commonwealth super bantamweight honours.

A smart, busy fighter with a massive gas tank, the fight represents an early, risky acid test of Donovan’s top-level ambitions.

Another sign of growth from Celtic Clash 2 is the inclusion of a high-profile all-Irish chief support. In a super bantamweight bout, Regan Buckley [1(0)-0] faces Carl McDonald [2(0)-0] over six rounds. A fight that has been bubbling for weeks (and almost boiled over at today’s weigh-in) it is a clash that has captured the imagination of Irish boxing fans.

Of the five remaining fights featuring non-debutant boxers, John Joyce [1(1)-0] v Jamesy Gorman [8(3)-37(5)-1] looks to be the pick of the bunch. Lucan welterweight Joyce was one of the stand-outs on the Celtic Clash 2 bill in May, but in Belfast’s Gorman he faces an extremely durable journeyman who always raises his game for domestic dust-ups. A four-round fight, it certainly wont be a walkover for Joyce.

In the only eight-round bout on the undercard, Balbriggan welter Gerard Whitehouse [6(1)-0] faces Hungarian Gergo Vari [21(7)-19(9)-1]. The Dublin 22 year old had hoped for a domestic title fight but one unfortunately could not be made. In Vari he faces an experienced foe.

Vari’s win column has been built entirely in Hungary and Slovakia where he has twice challenged for national titles at higher weights. On the road he has gone the distance with upcoming Paddy Gallagher opponent Gary Murray, Italian light welterweight champ Renato De Donato, and has been stopped in the fourth and the second respectively by Ted Cheeseman and Joe Pigford.

It is a solid, if unspectacular fight for Whitehouse, who is eager to be pushed on and just needs a willing opponent.

Dublin light middleweight Bernard Roe [4(0)-0] steps in to face Radoslav Mitev [9(2)-32(14)-1]. The Bulgarian is an extremely game foe and has provided stiff tests and caused shocks before – however Roe should be slightly too big in this four rounder. Over the years Mitev has been stopped by Phil Sutcliffe, Anto Upton, and Lewis Crocker, while he also gave Crank Whitehouse an extremely tough fight and defeated Michael Harvey. Away from Irish fighters, he has also defeated Scottish light welterweight champ Eddie Doyle.

In one of the most intriguing bouts on the card, Tallaght’s Sean Creagh steps in at just two days notice, way above his optimum fighting weight, to take on initial Roe foe Valentin Stoychev [8(4)-22(11)-4]. The fight has been made at 164lbs, in between middleweight and super middleweight, while Creagh is used to fighting at welterweight (147lbs) and light welter (140lbs).

The Dubliner had been training for his fight date in Belfast on October 6th, and will need to be on his game here to avoid a slip-up. Stoychev has moved up through the weights in recent years and has Irish upset previous, having held Michael McLaughlin Owen to a draw back on the Donegal man’s debut. More recently he was stopped in the first by Belfast’s Alfredo Meli, but Creagh really needs to be on his game in this four rounder.

Then there is Sallynoggin lightweight KO artist Stephen McAfee [1(1)-0] who faces Attila Hovath [3(3)-6(5)] over four. McAfee throws bombs and Horvath has been stopped in the first in his last two fights – meaning fans can perhaps expect another highlight reel knockout. Probably the weakest match-up on the card, although admittedly still only McAfee’s second fight.

Also on the card there are a record eight professional debuts, all taking place over four rounds.

Pro debuts should always be judged differently than other fights. It would be unfair to expect evenly-matched or challenging fights for nervous youngsters making their pro bow. Of course, if a fight is a cracker then all well and good, it is an added bonus. However, for onlookers, debuts are often more a case of getting to catch a glimpse of what a fighter has to offer.

Scrolling through the eight debuts, the fight with the most potential to ‘catch fire’ so to speak looks to be young Donegal cruiserweight Michael Gallagher against Mateusz Rybarski [1(0)-2(1)]. The big Pole gave Johnny Corcoran a good test back on Celtic Clash 2, eventually being stopped in the fourth and final round.

Crumlin super featherweight Aiden Metcalfe also has a nice looking fight with Damian Lawniczak [4(0)-23(3)]. Initially due to face another Polish puncher, Dawid Knade, the Dubliner now has a tougher fight against the man whom Eric Donovan debuted against and a fighter who has caused upsets in Britain before.

32 year old Jobstown bantam Dylan McDonagh begins against durable Bulgarian Georgi Andonov [3(1)-4(0)]. McDonagh wants immediate domestic dust-ups, and Andonov offers the chance for comparison with Carl McDonald who he went the full four with on Celtic Clash 3.

Another fighter looking to make comparisons is Crumlin Wrecking Ball Martin Quinn. The lightweight starts against Marcin Ficner [2(0)-17(7)] and has vowed to stop the Pole in the second round, one round quicker than the “average” Stephen McAfee.

Rugged Cork super bantamweight Colin O’Donovan faces Trayan Slavev [3(2)-13(9)-1] who should not last long.

Teenage Wicklow welter James Cahill starts off against Tomasz Goluch [4(2)-8(5)] and has a slightly tougher test, but will also be targeting the stoppage.

A light welter looking to entertain, Ballybrack’s Niall O’Connor was disappointed not to get the chance to prove himself against Alec Bazza. He now faces Pal Olah [7(5)-10(4)-1] who would be an above-average debut opponent, one usually reserved for later in a fighter’s development. Rough and tough, this fight could descend into a tear-up.

Finally, an elite underage amateur, Newbridge light heavyweight Chris Mullally faces Przemysla Binienda [2(2)-10(5)] who looks to be a decent debut yardstick, being stopped and going the distance in equal measure.

gym trition

frayne carpentry

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