Such is the age profile of this year’s National Elite Senior finalists that they will be more familiar with One Direction than any 1980’s boybands – but there is a real New Kids on the Block feel to the latest instalment of the highlight of the Irish boxing calendar.
Saturday night at the National Stadium will see 20 new Irish champions crowned across the weights, with 16 fights on the agenda. The majority of amateur ‘names’ have moved on to pro pastures and we are in a real period of transition.
Saturday becomes an opportunity for a host of young talent to place their name in the history books and win wider recognition, especially considering that a number of bouts will be shown live on RTÉ 2.
However, while a lot of the finalists’ faces will be fresh to the wider boxing audience, they are not fresh to the ring warns IABA CEO Fergal Carruth.
Big names like Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Con Sheehan, Ray Moylette, Roy Sheahan, Katie Taylor, and David Oliver Joyce among others have turned over, star of the show Joe Ward is busy with the WSB and the vast majority of fighters bound for the Commonwealth Games won’t be involved. Nevertheless, Carruth is adamant that this won’t detract from the night or our chances in big tournaments moving forward.
The brother of Olympic hero Michael knows there is a new blood element to the scene, particularly in terms of the men, but believes, such is the talent emerging, that this year’s Seniors will be as hard to win as any.
Indeed, he suggests while there are few big ‘names’, there are big talents to such a degree that the old adage of it being harder to get out of Ireland than to do well on the international stage remains relevant.
“There has been a lot of competitive boxing leading up to the finals so we have had a lot of boxers dethroned on the way to the finals.”
“We have some bright emerging talent coming into Irish boxing and boxing, like every other sport, is cyclical and you will have a re-blooding of the National Championships as the years go by especially in between Olympic cycles,” Carruth told Irish-Boxing.com when asked about the fact there will be so many new champions come Saturday night.
“In saying that, we have some very talented boxers coming up this year and next year we may even see more. There are some really talented fighters who haven’t entered these championships and may come in next year and make a real impression,” he added, beaming at the healthy situation he feels Irish amateur boxing is in.
“It shows we are in a positive place. Boxers now are looking toward the Tokyo Games, but there are very few weights where you have fighters guaranteed to get out of Ireland because the competition is so high,” he continued before praising all the emerging talent further.
“There is a huge conveyor belt of talent there, we have won 29 major medals in 2017 alone. There is huge competition for each and every berth going in the Tokyo Games.”
There are some boxers that have made noise in the underage ranks this year and cranked up the volume with impressive runs to the deciders over the last couple of weeks.
Some of those fighters get the chance to impress on live TV this weekend as RTÉ come back on board.
Carruth was genuinely delighted to welcome the national broadcaster back to the Stadium and believes they could catch some great fights on tape this coming weekend.
“We always maintained a very good relationship with RTÉ and, for both parties, it came about at the right time to work together again. We are very grateful to have RTÉ back on board and we have two and a half hours of boxing on Saturday night. It’s prime time TV and we are delighted with that.”
“We should get a good number of bouts on and there will be some really really competitive bouts and we hope it makes for some great TV,” he added before revealing the pair are in talks re showing further boxing over the year.
“We are talking to RTÉ about putting some other content together throughout the year. We are going to have a round robin competition in Cork in June and there is a possibility we may TV coverage for that.”