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Irish title dream dies for David Bailey

There was nothing in boxing more important to David Bailey than the Irish title but the last few months have seen this change – and change drastically.

The Bristol-born Galway light heavyweight has this year seen an Irish title fight versus Paddy McDonagh fall through three times and he is sick of it.

“The Irish title, for me, holds the same prestige as a World title. It is a prestigious and historic belt that I am proud to be contesting for. It really is my dream to face a great champion for this belt.”

“Representing my family and my people is a big motivation. I want to come back and live in Connemara as champion of Ireland. I want to bring pride to my family and everyone in Lettermore. I believe winning the Irish title will do this for me.”

Following quotes like this, Bailey’s passion is clear but this summer has left the 34-year-old feeling burned.

So much so, he now admits that the “whole saga has destroyed the reverence I once held for the Irish title. I’m no longer after the belt, it’s not worth a shite in my estimation.”

The saga is a long and confusing one with a number of sides and Irish-Boxing.com will attempt to outline it all below.

David Bailey [7(1)-0] was due to fight for the Irish title in Dublin on Saturday July 7th.

Having already seen a thumb injury force him out of a March 3rd challenge of champion Paddy McDonagh [11(0)-2(0)] on the Ireland’s Last Man Standing card, Bailey was finally to get his chance on the JB Promotions ‘The Beginning’ bill – which was to be run in association with Assassin Boxing, McDonagh’s management.

This show, of course, was cancelled one week out but the Irish light heavyweight title fight seemingly was saved, being brought forward a day onto a Tommy Owens bill in Bristol on Friday July 6th.

All of this went on behind the scenes and, with the fight not taking place, it only emerged afterwards with McDonagh revealed to have withdrawn from the date.

A hand injury was said to be the cause but the medical proof provided to the Boxing Union of Ireland was deemed insufficient and the Mullingar southpaw was stripped of the title which remains vacant today.

mcdonagh bailey

From here, the story gets complicated.

With McDonagh stripped, mandatory Bailey remained especially keen to fight for the belt but was shocked to learn at the start of August that the new vacant title fight mandated by the BUI was himself versus the recently stripped champion.

“It became clear to me that it’s not as prestigious as I once thought it was,” recalled Bailey to Irish-Boxing.com. “I was confused. But who am I to question the decision of the BUI committee?”

However, the ordering of a McDonagh fight was hard to swallow for Bailey who described how he had spent months “missing out on good times with my woman and my two beautiful children. No holidays this year except for a budget stay with relations in Ireland because my family had flights booked for the fight anyway.”

“Missing football training and games with my son as I’m either in the gym, running, trying to rest, or I’m working.”

“I pushed aside feelings of doubt about the honourable worth of the title but thoughts kept creeping in during my countless runs: ‘Why are they giving Paddy another chance? Why am I putting myself, my family, my sponsors, through this pointless exercise?'”

Bailey, who is ranked #4 at 175lbs by the BUI, believes McDonagh should not be part of an Irish title fight so soon after being stripped – something he claims the influential BUI board member Mel Christle had previously assured him.

The Tribesman had been left thoroughly dissatisfied with his dealings with McDonagh and Assassin, from the initial March 3rd date up to the July 6th/7th weekend, with tickets, communications, and money being among his issues.

He laments “after all this, the BUI decide to give Paddy a shot at the vacant title v me? Why not against the Celtic title winner between [Steve] Collins and [Stevie] Ward? Or [Seanie] Monaghan in New York?”

“I was told Paddy McDonagh would be completely out of the picture by Mel – If [McDonagh] did not produce the sufficient evidence for his injury, the next man in line would be Seanie Monaghan.”

The issue exploded last month when, following the mandating of the fight and a lack of an agreement, it came down to purse bids.

Already unhappy with just a one week turnaround from the fight being ordered to the opening of purse bids, Bailey was left dumbstruck.

Detailing what happened on the day of the bids, Bailey explained how “the BUI informed me purse bids would be opened on Thursday 16th August at 1.30pm. Yet, when I call the office at 1.31pm, no one answers.”

“I texted Mel Christle, who was on holiday, and [BUI secretary] Patricia Connolly. Patricia responds and says it won’t be until tomorrow she’s back in the office after leaving at 11am?”

“Mel then responds later in the day 4:40pm to let me know a bid of €800 has been made by Assassin Promotions. My simple question is who opened the bid and what time?”

Irish-Boxing.com contacted the Boxing Union of Ireland regarding both the (re-)mandating of McDonagh v Bailey and the purse bids for this fight. The governing body said that they have spoken to Bailey about the situations and did not want to comment further.

While acknowledging Bailey’s disappointment and stance, it should be noted that a fight with Monaghan, a Stateside ‘name’, would seem unlikely while Ward is currently ineligible for the Irish title and this lack of options at light heavyweight perhaps influenced the BUI’s decision to mandate the stripped McDonagh.

Irish-Boxing.com also contacted Assassin’s Conor Slater who noted that he had made an offer to Bailey to fight McDonagh for the vacant belt on the Saturday October 6th show at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght but the offer, which Slater claims was worth “a few thousand euro” was rebuffed by Bailey.

Slater outlined how “it was at this stage that we presumed that he’d have a promoter bidding for him in Bristol.”

“We agreed to bid €800, knowing if someone else bid more, Paddy would get 50%, and we would’ve topped up Paddy’s purse ourselves – but no one else bid, we won at €800. Had a Bristol promoter bid €900, we would’ve travelled.”

“Bailey has pulled out. Paddy will have a tick over fight [on October 6th], and Paddy would fight anyone for that Irish title. Ward, Collins, Monaghan, anyone. If David Bailey wants the fight for October 6th, it’s there.”

Regardless of the ins and outs, Bailey has been left hurt and disillusioned.

For him, the McDonagh fight is not one even worth considering – and his reasoning is understandable.

After seeing three separate dates fail to come through, ‘The Bomber’ explained how “I won’t entertain boxing Paddy McDonagh for the vacant title.”

“None of my support believe it would happen versus him anyway so won’t risk losing more money on the no show.”

While the Irish title is out of his head, Bailey remains a proud Irishman and is now looking forward.

He rued: “I can see it all so clearly now. I just wish my eyes were wise to it years ago. I’ve missed so much of my kids because of this. I’m just a fool with a big heart.”

“A massive thank you to my coach Amin Khan. I’ve gained a good friend for life. I’ve put him through this emotional rollercoaster with me and he’s been nothing but supportive and positive throughout.”

“My dream was to fight for the Irish title in Ireland at the National Stadium in Dublin. I did everything I could humanly possible to make that happen.”

“I’m no longer ‘devastated’ that this is the situation, I’m more ‘dissapointed’ it’s gone this far and for this long. I’m putting an end to it now.”


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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie