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The Awards – ‘The John Duddy Fight of the Year’

Thankfully for Irish fight fans, there have been a number of absolute barnstormers at all levels this year. Drama, knock-downs, toe-to-toe wars, and unbelieable atmoshperes, it’s been a good year.

This award is named in honour of John Duddy, a boxer loved by many and someone who had more than his fair share of FOTY contenders.

And the nominees are:

Jamie Conlan v Junior Granados
What an atmoshpere. Jamie Conlan was expected to handily dispose of Mexico’s Junior Granados in the headline bout of MGM’s first foray into promoting. It started well for the Belfast man, but Granados fired a few warning signs before sensationally downing Conlan twice in the seventh. Helped by 2,000 voices screaming him on, ‘The Irish Mexican’ rose to his feet and boxed his way to a potentially career-changing win.

Alfredo Meli v Conrad Cummings
We all predicted it would be a cracker, but Cummings-Meli exceeded all expectations. The ‘All on the Line’ headliner started with a bang when Cummings dropped the Belfast man in the first. Meli however recovered well to control the middle of the fight before Cummings came roaring back down the stretch. The epic small-hall classic ended in a draw and we already can’t wait for a rematch.

Peter McDonagh v Dean Byrne
A clash of styles, but not what we expected, for the Irish welterweight title. Journeyman-turned-Cinderella Man McDonagh was expected to try outwork Dublin’s Dean Byrne, who came in with the reputation of a slickster. However, the opposite was true and Galway’s McDonagh was something of the matador to Byrne’s bull. While the former Wildcard puncher landed plenty of blows, it was MGM’s McDonagh who boxed his way to the win.

Gerard Whitehouse v Radoslav Mitev
The definite four rounder of the year, Balbriggan’s Whitehouse went to war with the Bulgarian import at the Red Cow Moran Hotel in November and came out the other side a winner. After using his skills in the opening stanza, ‘Crank’ went into the trenches for the remaining 9 minutes of 50:50 action. The young Dubliner always brings a passionate local crowd and more performances like this will win him many more fans.

Darragh Foley v Valentine Borg
Nominated for the ‘Fight of the Year,’ Foley is up for similar honours on this side of the Atlantic. The Dublin lightweight started quickly in what was a brutal, knockdown-filled war, and had his highly-rated opponent on the canvas twice in the opening three minutes. Borg visited the floor again in the fourth before inflicting a count of his own on the Irishman in the fifth stanza. However, Foley would end the fight one round later and further mark himself out as one of the most exciting stars in Oz.

Paul Hyland Jr v Virgile Degonzaga
Fresh from headlining his first show at the Europa Hotel, Belfast lightweight Paul Hyland Jr went straight into another war on the ‘All on the Line’ undercard in the Waterfront Hall. Facing a tough French knockout artist who came the win, Hylo showed guts, strength, an iron chin, and some silky skills to claim an impressive victory. Indeed the performance even impressed IBF super bantamweight champ Carl Frampton who was sitting ringside and labelled the clash as being “one of the best 6 round fights I’ve ever seen!”

Dean Gardiner v Guido Vianello
It’s not often that amateur boxers trade counts, but that’s exactly what happened for one Irishman during the European Games. In Baku, Clonmel super heavyweight recovered from hitting the canvas in the first, to force a count on the Italy’s Vianello in the second, en-route to grinding out an impressive win. The victory was extra sweet for Gardiner who had been defeated by the young Italian in the EU Championships in 2014.

Ian Tims v Michael Sweeney
Some onlookers felt that the rematch between Sweeney and Tims would be an underwhelming contest between two over-the-hill boxers – how wrong were they? Sweeney began using his skills but Tims soon took over with his relentless, steamrolling style. Sweeney would raise the roof in the fourth when he sensationally knocked the Dubliner down but Tims would reassert control down the stretch and take the win.

Alfredo Meli v Rhys Pagan
The Belfast middleweight faced a step up in class at the Féile Fight Night against tough Scot Rhys Pagan. A clash that resembled two Duracell Bunnies going head-to-head, Immaculata’s Meli emerged victorious after eight exciting high-tempo rounds. While the scorecards, which included a point deduction to Pagan, read 80-73 to the Irishman, it was in reality a much closer, competitive bout, and Meli marked himself out as one to watch for the future.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: