It’s National U22 and U18 final weekend, one of the best weekends on the Irish boxing calendar.
On display over two days in the National Stadium will be the stars of the future and in some cases the stars of the present.
43 fights will play out at the famous South Circular Road venue and 52 new champions will be crowned, as a tournament that entertained over three action-packed weekends reaches its conclusion.
All the action can be viewed here and is well worth taking in.
For those more selective with their viewing, we’ve decided to choose 5 fight’s not to be missed. We acknowledge every fight is important and every title win is massive. However, we’ve just highlighted the deciders that caught our eye.
Interestingly enough, all five are female U22 finals, which reflects the massive growth in female boxing on this island as well as the fact some of the eligible male big guns didn’t enter.
The pandemic alongside Ireland’s non-participation at recent underage tournaments has meant that we have not had the opportunity to see many of the Under-18 entrants box. Therefore, we wouldn’t be able to confidently pick out standout clashes from tonight.
Five To Watch
Nicole Clyde (Antrim) v Ciara Walsh (Smithfield) 48kg
Two little women with big hearts, the reigning Ulster Champion takes on a Dublin dynamo in the 48kg final. Antrim southpaw Clyde reached the last Elite final at 50kg before dropping down in weight to win the Ulsters. At just 19 she has been earmarked as a talent for the future. Clyde a World Youths quarter-finalist, scored a semi-final win over Saoirse Morrissey while Walsh has had two fights thus far, defeating Nicole Buckley and Amber Byrne. One of the older fighters in the competition, the experienced Smithfield woman has had her route to titles blocked repeatedly by the imperious Daina Moorehouse but will be confident of claiming top honours tomorrow.
Daina Moorehouse (Enniskerry) vs Chole Gabriel (Mulhuddart) 52kg
It’s European champion versus European champion in an eagerly anticipated flyweight decider. Daina Moorehouse and Chole Gabriel start a rivalry that very may well run right up and until Paris qualification this weekend, as the Stadium faithful witnesses two world-class underage talents battle it out for National honours. Moorehouse won Junior gold in 2016 followed by Youth gold in 2017 and bronze in 2018. Moving to the adult ranks, she has since won two elite titles. Gabriel won a fantastic European Junior gold in 2019 but then saw her time in the Youth category swept away by the pandemic and returns here after almost two years without a fight.
Zara Breslin (Tramore) v Aaliyah Butler (Monivea) 57kg
It’s history maker versus history maker in the featherweight decider as both have set records for their clubs in the recent past. Waterford’s Breslin was the first Elite Champion to hail from Tramore, while Butler was Monivea Boxing Club’s first European medal winner when she secured a podium finish at the Junior Europeans in 2019. Teenager Butler, like many, is bursting into the adult ranks following the pandemic whereas Breslin will be keen to put her upset loss to Jennifer Lehane in the Elite final behind her.
Leanne Murphy (Togher) v Kaci Rock (Enniskerry) 66kg
Kaci Rock puts her status as Ireland’s #1 welterweight on the line at the home of Irish boxing and does so not at Elite level but in an underage competition. The reigning National Elite champion certainly deserves credit for entering the competition and attempting to navigate some banana skins – most notably her old underage rival Leanne Murphy. The Togher fighter holds wins over Rock and also boasts a bronze from the 2018 European Juniors – where she captained the Irish team.
Lisa O’Rourke (Castlerea) vs Evelyn Igharo (Clann Naofa) 70kg
There is mouthwatering and then there is Lisa O’Rourke vs Evelyn Igharo. This is two highly thought-of emerging talents with Paris 2024 aspirations renewing a senior rivalry at underage level. O’Rourke, who last summer was away in Tokyo training camp sparring her sister Aoife, has multiple European underage medals, and the backing of the High Performance. Igharo is similar in terms being an underage European medallist and she has also proven herself at senior level, winning two National Elite titles at 64kg and 70kg. Indeed, Igharo, who would be in the Irish pound for pound biggest puncher rankings, won the super welter title by beating O’Rourke at the Stadium last year in a gruelling contest.