Just over a decade ago a young 17 year-old flyweight boxing out of Immaculata, Belfast – Ryan Lindberg – fought his way to his first Ulster Senior title beating none other than the current IBF Super-Bantamweight Champion of the World, Carl Frampton, in the final.
‘The Jackal’ was entering the bout as the reigning Irish senior champion but went down 21-15 to southpaw Lindberg on the judges scorecards.
Competition was tough that year, in Lindberg’s semi-final contest was current undefeated WBO Inter-continental Champion Jamie Conlan (15-0), and he claimed a 34-15 victory on the old points scoring system.
The southpaw went on to win six successive Ulster Senior titles in two different weight classes between 2005-2011.
That victory over Frampton saw the ‘Mac Man’ pip the reigning World champ and biggest name in Irish-boxing to a place in the Northern Ireland boxing squad for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where he made it to the quarter-final, just one victory shy of returning home with at least a prestigious bronze medal.
June of 2006 would also see Lindberg beat future 2012 Olympic Gold winner and current Matchroom prospect Luke Campbell (12-1) on his way to picking up silver at European Union Junior Championship in Rome.
A couple of weeks later he traveled across the water to Liverpool where he fought and beat ‘The Jackal’s’ next opponent and arch-nemisis, current WBA super bantamweight titlist Scott Quigg (31-0-2) on his way to picking up a gold medal at the Four-Nations tournament.
2007 brought more success for Lindberg as he won his one and only All-Ireland senior championship in the bantamweight division after a second epic battle with Carl Frampton, this time they met in the semi-final stage of the competition. The Nugget Nugent trained fighter came through a standing count after a vicious barage of combinations in the final stanza from the Tigers Bay man, but still managed to win the bout 23-17 in what was described by onlookers as the ‘fight on the night’ in the National Stadium.
In May 2007 Ryan boxed and lost out to the Mongolian 2008 Olympic Gold winner Enkhbat Badar-Uugan in a multi-nations tournament.
In October of the same year, Lindberg and the rest of the Ireland squad traveled to Chicago for the 2007 World Championships where he lost out to eventual medalist and current IBF Super-Flyweight World title holder – McJoe Arroyo (17-0) of Puerto Rico.
Ryan Lindberg was for years the name touted as Belfast next big thing by people in the boxing circle. And his exploits and achievements inside the ring, did nothing to dampen those observations.
In whats already an impressive résumé of opponents to have shared the squared-circle with, it doesn’t stop there. He has also tasted success against some more familiar faces in Marco McCullough (14-2 former Irish and European WBO European Champion), Chris Jenkins (16-1-1 WBC international champion), undefeated Derry man Tyrone McCullagh (2-0) as well as stand out elite amateurs Steven Donnelly and Sean McComb.
Lindberg’s reign as Irish Senior champ came to an end in 2008 when he fought the unstoppable 2012 Olympic silver medalist, and now undefeated professional pugilist, John Joe Nevin (7-0). Nevin said after facing Lindberg “I was surprised when I beat him, he is a tremendous boxer.”
We now know just how good some of these great champions have went on to become. Ryan Lindberg was mixing it with these types of operators in domestic and international level on a regular basis and, more often than not, coming out on top.
The now-27 year old has been back in the gym recently with his eyes set firmly on a comeback after a 5 years absence from the sport.
We spoke with him recently and found out he is planning to return:
Q. What made you quit boxing? And why come back now?
A. Well there’s a load of reasons but the main one was my grant was running out and either take a job or keep boxing and go on the dole so I took the job, and the reason I’ve started again is just people have been showing a lot of interest in me and has gave me a boost to get back to training and maybe give it a go.
Q. Are you planning on returning to the amateur scene or going pro? And what weight category to do plan to fight at?
A. If someone took me on pro I’d give it a go but if no one approaches me then I might try for the Ulsters, well my weight never goes too high so maybe 56/60 just decide that when the time comes, focus on my fitness then worry about weights after.
Q. How has training back under Nugget Nugent and Martin Lindsey at Immaculata been?
A. Things haven’t changed in the club under Nugget, training is still as hard and now that Martin is coaching, that’s another boost to the club, especially with Martin’s experience.
Q. Can you feel the old Ryan coming back the more time you spend in the gym? Or has it been like you’ve never been away?
A. It’s tough getting the old me back as I was full time training when I was boxing, now that I’m working and training it’s a bit harder.
Q. Some of your club-mates are pushing on in the paid ranks now fighting regularly, how has it been training around these guys?
A. With the likes of James Fryers, Joe Fitzy and Alfredo Meli boxing pro, it’s given me a bit of interest in the pros like, but now that the amatuer game has gone a bit more pro, training with them lads will also help me.
Q. Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
A. That’s a hard question, hopefully win the lotto by then, but to be honest I don’t know.
Q. Frampton and Quigg fight next month in the much anticipated unification bout. You’ve beat them both, but who do you see winning and how?
A. Hands down Frampton should win this, overall a better boxer but I think he will win on points as Quigg has a good chin on him.
We wish Ryan all the best for the future and look forward to seeing him back in the ring.