By Joe O’Neill
Following on from Saturday’s article, irish-boxing.com continues its look at potential all-Irish fights for 2015. The four fights hypothesised here are perhaps somewhat less likely to happen than those described in Part 1, however they would all be exciting match-ups nonetheless.
Marco McCullough -v- James Tennyson
Perhaps unlikely to happen, but an Antrim derby between two of the island’s most exciting boxers has the potential to be a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender. 25 year old McCullough [11(7)-1(0)] would be the bookmaker’s favourite but with the knockout power and high energy of Tennyson [10(8)-1(1)], an upset could not be discounted. Cyclone-backed McCullough is the WBO European champion and is ranked fourth in world with the body. However, with Ukrainian amateur legend, Vasyl Lomachenko, as the organisation’s current champ and with 126lbs being one of the most talent-filled divisions in the sport, McCullough may have to bide his time (especially considering that Lomachenko only recently fought his mandatory challenger). If Marco were to decide to wait and build up experience, a bout with Lisburn-born Tennyson would be an exciting fight and a perfect co-headliner to a Carl Frampton world title defence.
John Breen-trained McCullough is a highly skilled box-fighter however he still loves to get into close-quarters scraps as shown by his WBO European title-winning display against then-undefeated Martin Parlagi. Knock-out artist Tennyson became the youngest ever professional Irish champion when he stopped Mickey Coveney in the 2nd round for the Irish Super Featherweight title back in April 2013 at the tender age of 19. Now 21, and a division lighter, ‘The Baby-Faced Assassin is looking to propel himself up the rankings. If he could draw McCullough into a war, all bets would be off and someone would most likely be hitting the canvas.
Dennis Hogan -v- Anthony Fitzgerald
Both 29, ‘Hurricane’ Hogan and ‘The Pride of Dublin’ have verbally sparred in the past and a clash between the two would be sure to generate more fireworks. Sean McDermott Street native Fitzgerald has previously accused Hogan of padding his record with low-calibre opposition while in Australia and challenged him to a fight in Ireland. Queensland-based Hogan responded to these barbs by claiming that Fitzgerald is all bark and hasn’t tried to even open negotiations for a fight. There is certainly an unease between the pair and Fitzy has never shied away from all-Irish battles having already fought Robbie Long thrice, Eamonn O’Kane twice, Lee Murtagh twice, Gary O’Sullivan, and WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee.
Hogan [20(7)-0-1] is the former Australian middleweight champ and holds a Top 15 ranking with both the WBA and IBF. Fitzgerald [16(4)-7(2)] is a former Irish super middleweight champ but has since moved down two weight classes and is hoping to use his swarming all-action style to good effect at 154lbs. Training now in Macklin’s Gym Marbella, he is targeting world title challenging-Englishman Brian Rose – however he would jump at the chance of a fight with the ‘Hurricane’.
Despite his lofty rankings, Hogan has made no secret of his desire to win an Irish title. The title is held by talented Belfast man Dee Walsh, however one would assume that he will not be keeping this belt long as he looks to move up through the rankings. This would pave the way for a grudge match for the strap. Kildare man Hogan has never fought professionally in Ireland, and an all-Leinster homecoming title-clash against Dubliner Fitzgerald would have massive appeal.
Eamonn O’Kane -v- Gary O’Sullivan
It probably won’t happen as both seem to be taking different paths towards the top in 2015. However, a fight between ‘King Kane’ and ‘Spike’ would be an acid test for both boxers as they target world level. 30 year old O’Sullivan [18(11)-1(0)] has had a whirlwind few months since his first round one-punch knock-out of Anthony Fizgerald in the 3Arena last November. The Cork native has since signed with Ken Casey of Dropkick Murphy’s fame and tentative plans are in place for a St. Patrick’s Day fight in New York with WBA #12, IBF #12, and WBC #8 ranked Tureano Johnson [18(13)-1(0)], to be broadcast terrestrially in America via NBC. In addition to a fight with the Bahamian, there has been interest from the pay-per-view, adjusted format, ‘Big Knockout Boxing’.
Dungiven man O’Kane [12(4)-1(1)-1] and new trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick have world title aspirations for the 2012 All-Irish Prizefighter Middleweights winner. The 2010 Commonwealth gold medalist is ranked #8 with the IBF and hopes to improve upon this by defeating Welsh champion Frankie Borg [9(3)-3(2)] when they meet in Swindon on February 13th. With IBF champ, Jermaine Taylor, looking likely to be stripped of his title, O’Kane has a chance of a tilt at the vacant belt. This would be against #1 contender, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam, and the Cameroonian’s Irish manager, Gary Hyde, has claimed that a title fight with 32 year old O’Kane, in Ireland, is a possibility.
O’Kane and O’Sullivan are friends and former sparring partners, so the pre-fight hostilities of O’Sullivan-Fitzgerald would not be repeated if the two met. While unlikely, such a fight would constitute a fascinating clash of styles between the skills of former elite amateur, O’Kane, and the unorthodox, show-stopping power of O’Sullivan
Editor Jonny Stapleton’s Choice
Alec Bazza -v- Brandon Peake
Two names that won’t be too familiar to even the most die-hard boxing supporter(and a fight Joe might not have gone for), but for me a clash between two fighters more Die Hard than Bruce Willis whets the appetite nonetheless. Bazza-Peake is a somebody’s 0 has got to go fight with a massive difference, both journeymen have yet to win a fight. A clash would provide the pair with a chance to taste ring glory for the first time.
Anyone who has witnessed Bazza provide opposition to up-and-coming prospects over the last year has been impressed by his willingness to fight and his bravery. What he lacks in technique he makes up for in heart and he is a welcome change to the roll-over Eastern bloc opponents that populate the away corner in small hall shows. The 26 year old Belfast journeyman has jumped up off the floor to give some much vaunted fighters a good workout and always ensures a fight is entertaining.
Peake hasn’t been active of late, but has previously talked about a Bazza bash. The Westerner is a gunslinger without a bulletproof vest, the true epitome of a blood and guts fighter. Peake’s gearbox is void of a reverse setting. The Mayo man has taken serious punishment in most of his fights and spray painted the canvas with blood in a number of battles. Although some may query the 21 year old’s quality, his heart cannot be questioned.
If this fight doesn’t not capture the imagination pre-fight night, it has the potential to be a battle people would remember. Not to mention it could go a long way to prove you don’t always have to have the big names involved to ensure entertaining fights. It could also be a tempt small hall promoters to throw in some more 50-50 clashes and not just prospect building battles onto fight cards.