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Gutsy Graham McCormack loses gruelling Glasgow title clash

Graham McCormack has been beaten in his maiden title bid.

The Limerick fighter looked to claim the BUI Celtic middleweight title on a Kynoch Boxing card at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Glasgow but was outpointed by Paul Kean live on FightZone.

A whitewash scorecard, however, does not tell the full story of a bout in which McCormack emptied the tank and gave his Dundee opponent plenty of trouble – in the middle rounds especially.

Leaping up in class, the Garryowen fighter proved he can operate around this level but, in the end Kean was just that bit too sharp and schooled.

McCormack, who saw a pair of fights in America fall through in the Spring, returned to the ring in September to defeat a spirited Jordan Latimer in the same venue as tonight’s title bout. This scrappy four rounder acted as a tool-sharpener for a fighter who had not boxed since the Summer of 2019 and, according to Team McCormack, was part of the reason Team Kean agreed to the match-up. However, the Scot certainly found himself in a real fight tonight.

Kean was familiar to Irish fans having defeated Dubliner Jay Byrne for the light middleweight version of the same belt back in 2018. He was then beaten for the Scottish title by Stefan Sanderson – who was later beaten himself by Byrne – but eventually won his National title in 2019 by stopping Craig Kelly. In the COVID era, Kean was stopped in six on a Queensberry card by Hamzah Sheeraz in what was his only other defeat.

Having operated at a higher level, both winning and losing, this difference in experience was perhaps the difference in the end as Kean did enough to win the rounds as well as coming back to wrestle control away from the spirited Irishman who briefly threatened to steamroll through at one point.

A geed-up G-Train soaked in the atmosphere ahead of the opening bell and did not appear overawed whatsoever ahead of the biggest moment of his career. Cagey to start, Kean went sharply to the body as McCormack looked to bob into range.

Fired up, 34-year-old McCormack came out aggressively at the start of round two, putting it on Kean who countered well but wasn’t having it all his own way as the Irishman set a high pace.

McCormack came out aggressively at the start of round two, putting it on Kean who countered well but wasn’t having it all his own way as the Irishman set a high pace. Continuing on the front foot in the third, McCormack brought the action to the ropes while landing some nice long shots but the greater volume was coming back at him from the Dundee puncher.

29-year-old Kean’s output dropped somewhat in the fourth but McCormack continued to push, having his best round to that point and offering encouragement going into the second half of the bout.

Roughing things up in the fifth, McCormack’s purple patch continued as Kean returned to the body looking to slow the rampaging Munster man down.

The home fighter responded well at the beginning of the sixth, showing his experience to find his range and land long shots. McCormack continued to march straight through Kean’s second wind but the momentum looked to have shifted again.

It was closer in the seventh, uncharted territory for the visitor, with Kean being able to box well enough on the back-foot to outland the relentless McCormack who was showing serious heart – and chin – as he refused to take a backwards step.

Needing a knockout in the final round, McCormack put it all on the line but just didn’t have the snap after what was a gruelling encounter.

Going to the referee’s scorecard Kean – who became the first ever two-weight BUI Celtic champion – was confirmed the victor although the 80-72 scorecard was unfairly wide.

The first pro defeat sees McCormack drop to 6(1)-1(0) while Kean improves to 14(1)-2(1).

With a taste for title fights, it’s hoped that McCormack, who absolutely did not disgrace himself, will be back in significant domestic action soon.

Earlier in the evening, Clondalkin light heavyweight John Carpenter moved to 3(1)-0 following a 60-54 win over negative veteran journeyman Elvis Dube. The fight, in which the Dub never really left first gear, played out across two-minute rounds.

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