As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.
This year Irish boxers have shared the ring with some great opponents, both in terms of skill and experience, and we have decided to celebrate the best of these.
We have named this award in honour of Guillermo Rigondeaux, who wowed Irish crowds back in 2011 when he dismantled Willie Casey within a round in one of the greatest exhibitions of skill on these shores in recent memory.
And the nominees are:
What a little warrior this guy was. Nobody expected Junior Grandos to put up much of a fight when he faced Jamie Conlan at the National Stadium in July. However, the man from Southern Mexico proved to be a tough, come-forward foe and dropped Conlan, or the ‘False Mexican’ as he called him, twice in the seventh round. Indeed the fight may have been stopped by a less experienced referee than Mickey Vann. Thankfully for Irish boxing, Conlan recovered well and won the fight of the year contender.
The experienced Olympian gave Tommy McCarthy a very tough fight back in August. The Commonwealth gold medalist, although dropped twice, gave McCarthy all he could handle at the Féile Fight Night, winning three rounds against the rising Irish cruiserweight star and testing his chin. A gentleman in defeat, Fry also offered some kind words for McCarthy afterwards.
Alejandro González Jr.
Many people would have predicted that there would be a knockdown or two in the opening round of Carl Frampton’s U.S. debut against unheralded Mexican youngster Alejandro Gonzalez Jr. However it was Frampton who found himself on the El Paso canvas twice against ‘La Cobríta.’ The Belfast man would recover well and take a comprehensive points victory, but Gonzalez was able to withstand the power of ‘The Jackal’ and gave a great account of himself in defeat – minus a few low blows.
Julio César La Cruz
Pure class. A rejuvenated Joe Ward was in the form of his life going into the World Championships having just won his second European title. The Moate light heavyweight waltzed to the final but was unable to exert revenge over the Cuban maestro, who defeated him at the semi final stage of the 2013 Worlds, losing a unanimous decision. Ward will be hoping that it is third time lucky next Summer in Rio where the pair will be among the favourites to take gold.
Chris Eubank Jr
You may not like him, but Chris Eubank Jr is a rising star in the middleweight decision. An imposing physical specimen, Eubank Jr showed great speed and brute strength against Cork’s Gary O’Sullivan this month when he won the pair’s long-awaited grudge match. Additionally, the Brighton boxer showed one hell of a chin, taking Spike’s best shots and living to tell the tale. Now with Adam Booth on board, Eubank Jr is only going to get better as his skills improve.