By Joe O’Neill
With Frampton and Lee winning world titles and many others currently knocking on the door, 2014 was inarguably a great year for Irish boxing.
Encouragingly there are many blue-chip prospects currently making their way up the food chain and hoping to forge successful careers for themselves and continue this renaissance of Irish professional boxing.
In the first of two parts, Irish-boxing.com takes a look (in no particular order) at ten of Ireland’s rising stars: how they fared in 2014, and what may be in store for them this year.
Jono Carroll – Super Featherweight/Lightweight
2014 was a breakout year for ‘King Kong’ Carroll. After a brief Antipodean adventure, the energetic Finglas native returned to Irish shores and joined up with Paschal Collins’s Celtic Warrior Gym. On his Irish debut in November, Carroll was involved in the Boxing Union of Ireland’s ‘Fight of the Year,’ beating Declan Geraghty via disqualification after a dramatic see-saw battle. This secured him a berth in the Prizefighter Lightweights tournament the following month. Making a mockery of his pre-tournament odds of 14/1, Carroll defeated the favorite, Steve Foster Jr, in the quarters and the second favourite, Gary Buckland, in the semis before beating Michael Devine in the final to pocket the €40,000 prize. Still only 22, there is no need to rush the confident Dubliner into big fights a-la previous Irish Prizefighter winners Martin Rogan and Willie Casey. Fans however will be itching to see a rematch, perhaps for an Irish title, with Geraghty.
Hughie Fury – Heavyweight
A combination of illness and family bereavement limited the 6’6” heavyweight to just two fights in 2014. However, promoter Mick Hennessy has no intentions of easing him back into action and aims to move the 20 year old fast. Cousin of heavyweight contender Tyson (and perhaps even more naturally talented), Fury is scheduled to fight on February 21st in Monaco against Andriy Rudenko [24(16)-1(0)] over 10 rounds. The Ukrainian represents a tough test for the Manchester-born youngster. Indeed Rudenko’s only defeat came via a close decision against highly rated Australian, Lucas Brown. An impressive win for the 2012 World Youth Champion could slingshot him up the rankings and result in further challenging fights. A long and successful career hopefully awaits.
Ryan Burnett – Bantamweight
After an initially frustrating and fightless 2014 for the Belfast bantamweight, November saw him finish out the year in style with two knock-out victories within a week. Having amicably parted ways with manager and trainer Ricky Hatton, Burnett is now under the tutelage of Londoner Adam Booth. The mastermind behind Andy Lee’s world title win has high hopes for the 22 year old, predicting that the Youth Olympic gold medalist will be in-and-around the world Top 10 by 2016. With speed, power and skills there is no doubting Burnett’s potential and the next twelve months could see him really kick on after an inactive 2014. A British title shot this year would not be beyond the realms of possibility.
Tommy McCarthy – Cruiserweight
2014 was an explosive debut year for McCarthy who won all four of his fights by stoppage, culminating with an impressive performance in Dublin’s 3Arena in November. 2015 will hopefully see the former elite amateur continue to get regular run-outs and a fight against popular Ugandan journeyman Moses Matovu will surely occur at some stage. McCarthy himself is aiming for the Irish title and has mentioned Ian Tims and Michael Sweeney as potential opponents. With speed, power, and charisma, the Belfastman is a dream fighter to market for manager Pat Magee. The Commonwealth silver medalist (2010) will be hoping to be a part of the many mooted big cards occurring around Ireland this year, allowing him to further build his reputation and fan-base as he targets titles.
Con Sheehan – Heavyweight
The Clonmelman is a new addition to the Irish pro scene having stated his intention to turn pro just a few weeks ago. Sheehan was a record-breaker as an amateur, becoming the youngest Irish amateur heavyweight champion at just 18 years old. He would go on to win a further five national titles as well as an EU Silver (2008) and EU Gold (2009). Now 25, the Tipperary Titan has set his sights on the pro game. While not yet contracted to a promoter, Sheehan has been the subject of a number of inquiries from both England and the U.S. This is no surprise considering that he possesses quick hands and extensive amateur experience (as well as a spell with the Leipzig Leopards in the WSB). The Munster boxer will be looking to make an impact on the heavyweight scene in 2015 and beyond. A fight against fan-favourite and former amateur opponent, Sean Turner, could be on the cards in the not too distant future.