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Curtain Call: Irish boxing’s 2016 retirees

We have said goodbye to man big names and faithful servants of Irish boxing over the past year.

Here we pay tribute to the eight fighters, all of whom were always hugely generous towards us here at Irish-Boxing.com and provided entertainment for Irish fight fans.

Starting us off at the very beginning of the year, Irish light middleweight champion Dee Walsh stepped away from professional prizefighting at the age of just 26. The Belfast slickster would explain that he had fallen out of love with fighting and stepped away with an unbeaten record of 12(5)-0.

Also retiring in January was Limerick’s Willie Casey. The former Prizefighter and European super bantamweight champion had not fought since September 2014, but officially confirmed that he will be stepping away this year. The Southill southpaw remains in boxing, and is a regular at the National Stadium as a coach with Rathkeale BC.

February saw the King of the Call-Out, Anthony Fitzgerald, hang up his gloves. The Dublin middleweight had an exciting 27-fight career – which included a remarkable 11 all-Irish clashes. Of these there was closely-contested battle with Andy Lee, an epic small-hall trilogy with Robbie Long, and Irish title bouts with Lee Murtagh and Eamonn O’Kane.

Another middleweight would retire in April, with Derry’s Eamonn O’Kane succumbing to injury. The former Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Irish champion, and Prizefighter winner had gained plenty of admirers for his brave showing against Tureano Johnson in an IBF eliminator in October 2015 and had hoped to face Cork’s Spike O’Sullivan in a major all-Irish clash. However, a troublesome neck injury saw King Kane make the decision to step away rather than risk endangering his long-term health.

A third Irish middleweight made boxing’s toughest call in May. ‘The Tipperary Tornado,’ Matthew Macklin had defeated Brian Rose the previous month, but the tough battle had shown Macklin that he would be no longer able to compete at world championship level and he made the decision to retire on a high. The two-time European champion and two-time world title challenger remains in boxing through Macklin’s Gym Marbella, and acts as manager to a number of Irish fighters.

Former Irish cruiserweight title challenger Michael Sweeney decided to step away in August following a career blighted by injury. A natural talent, Sweeney suffered with numerous injuries throughout his 17-fight career and admitted he was never at 100% fully fit and firing. The Mayo fighter remains heavily involved in the sport and is currently training his younger brother Gary who has made a strong start to his pro career this year.

September saw Crumlin welter Dean Byrne choose to retire. The former Australian champion was veering into high-end journeyman territory and therefore decided to retire on his own terms, citing how “if I don’t get out now I never will.” Irish Lightning would go out on a high, with a rolling-back-the-years win over Jamie Robinson live on Sky Sports.

Finally there was the retirement of Jobstown’s Patrick Hyland. The talented featherweight lost his father and trainer Patrick Sr last year, and brought the curtain down on his career to focus on his growing family. Pajo enjoyed a successful 33-fight career, winning the Irish title and giving Javier Fortuna all he could handle before two successive stoppage losses this year to Gary Russell, in a WBC world title fight, and Leeds star Josh Warrington.

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