The annual Irish Boxing Awards took place on Wednesday, January 18 with Lisburn super-middleweight Brian Magee claiming the coveted Irish Boxer of the Year accolade. This is the fourth consecutive year that the awards have taken place and after celebrating the success of Phil Sutcliffe’s Crumlin gym in Dublin, in recognition of their 2010 exploits, the event returned to Belfast and Magee’s St. Agnes’ Club, where a host of media representatives gathered to hear of Brian’s next move.
2011 was a mixed year for Magee, who travelled to Canada in March to face off with IBF belt holder Lucian Bute. The Irishman gave a good account of himself but eventually fell in the 10th round after shipping some well-placed body shots from the stellar champion. Brian regrouped, however, and went to Costa Rica in July to meet local star Jaime Barboza in a WBA interim title affair. Magee’s class told over 12 rounds as he took the decision and the belt. He is now looking to move in to contention for a shot at the regular WBA title or a crack at the division’s big players, with esteemed names like Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward being mentioned.
Other fighters in contention for the Boxer of the Year gong –which was voted for by a media select- included Paul McCloskey and Andy Lee. Awards organiser Cormac Campbell presented the trophy and later described Brian Magee as “the model professional.”
“Despite the current economic woes Brian and his team have continued to carve out opportunities at the highest level,” said Campbell. “His dedication in the gym and willingness to travel provides a template many young professionals should consider following.
“This is the fourth year we have run the awards – with the boxer of the year going to a different fighter each time. Out of the previous three years Brian actually came second in the voting on two occasions so this was a case of third time lucky.”
Flyweight prospect Jamie Conlan was also on hand to receive an award, with the west Belfast talent being pronounced Prospect of the Year. Conlan follows in the footsteps of Martin Lindsay, Carl Frampton and Jamie Kavanagh who had taken home the cut glass trophies in previous years. Conlan has had some trouble convincing Britain’s top flyweights to meet him, despite Jamie appearing extremely willing to travel over to England to challenge for the big titles. The 25-year-old was set to face former British title holder Paul Edwards in late January in Edwards’ home town of Liverpool but the Scouser withdrew, citing a change of trainer as the reason, and Jamie was forced to tread water against a journeyman opponent.
Fans eagerly await the confirmation of an all-Belfast clash with improving fellow-flyweight Luke Wilton.
“Jamie is a very exciting talent, who possibly should be further on in his career already, but with his brother Michael a medal hope at this summer’s Olympics and opportunities finally starting to fall in to place, we can expect to hear much more from him over the next 12 months,” added Cormac Campbell.
There were two other winners announced but understandably neither were on hand to receive their prizes. Paschal Collins (brother of former WBO super-middleweight king Steve) was named as Coach of the Year and the Cork trainer has certainly built an impressive stable of fighters. One of those boxers, undefeated light-middleweight puncher Gary O’Sullivan, was named as Irish Champion of the Year. Despite suffering from a frustrating spell of inactivity, ‘Spike’ returned in style last year with a first round knockout of Dubliner Robbie Long when the two clashed to contest O’Sullivan’s domestic middleweight crown in the National Stadium. A link-up with British promotional powerhouse Frank Warren should prove fruitful for Collins’ entire squad in the forthcoming year.
Irish cruiserweight champion Ian Tims is also part of the group. ‘Timsy’ outpointed Michael Sweeney for that very title in March 2011 and recently contested the EU crown out in Finland, going down narrowly on points but returned home convinced that had the fight been on neutral soil he would have prevailed. Meanwhile, lightweight prospect Stephen Ormond is aiming for a big year under Paschal’s tutelage and the undefeated Clondalkin hope is forever linked with a shot at London starlet Kevin Mitchell. Collins also now trains ex-amateur star Karl Brabazon in his Dublin base and was a deserved winner of the Coach of the Year honour.