The Irish domestic welterweight division is one of the biggest and most intriguing classes on the island.
Current champion is Galway’s Peter McDonagh who emotionally won the belt last November, live on Boxnation, in the headline bout of MGM’s Second Coming show at the National Stadium – a fitting platform for the title.
With such a large number of fighters at the weight, McDonagh may even get a chance to participate in one of the rarest events in boxing – an Irish title defence.
However, who would the Cinderella Man, who also has European title ambitions, defend the strap against?
This thought got the cogs turning in the collective brains of irish-boxing.com and we feel that the time is right for the return of an all-Irish Prizefighter-style tournament to determine the mandatory challenger for the belt.
Eamonn O’Kane, of course, claimed the Prizefighter All-Irish middleweights trophy back in 2012 but the chances of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom running another edition are basically zero.
However, an eliminator tournament ran by the ever-expanding MGM Promotions would be a brilliant move by the Irish-owned Puero Banús outfit.
With eight Irish fighters, seven all-Irish fights, the tournament could provide an exciting undercard to one of their future shows.
While the idea is little more than a dream right now, such a tournament would be a great occasion and ticks so many boxes for so many fans.
And who would participate in this tournament? Right off the bat we can exclude former Irish light welterweight champion Frankie Gavin who is contracted to Matchroom. Both Noel and Paddy Murphy are another two who could not feasibly enter considering their locations of New York and Brisbane respectively. Finally, the chances of former Irish welterweight champ Stephen Haughian, who feels he was never given the opportunity to defend his title, entering are slim due to his sanctioning with the Malta Boxing Commission.
That then leaves us with:
Dean Byrne – 17(6)-6(2)-1
The former Wild Card star lost to Peter McDonagh last year for the Irish belt in a close fight and the Crumlin boxer would love another shot at glory. A wily operator, Byrne also has Prizefighter previous and would surely want to erase the memory of his loss in the quarter-finals of the 2014 Matchroom tournament on Sky to Mark Douglas.
Stephen Carroll – 2(0)-0
The well-suported ‘Shortty’ could kick-start his career with a berth in such a tournament. With his fiery, exciting style, the Dubliner would win many fans from an appearance on the big stage. Carroll may be inexperienced, but his namesake Jono Carroll proved in 2014 that this can sometimes work to one’s advantage when he stormed to victory in the lightweights edition as a three-fight novice.
Sean Creagh – 3(1)-0
An MGM fighter, the former white collar boxer would bring a form of organised chaos to the table with his high-energy, high-output, bull-strong, super-fit style that would suit the format greatly. The Tallaght puncher appears on the Clash of the Clans card in the National Stadium on February 6th. Like Carroll, Creagh is another who could adjust easily to the shorter format.
Paddy Gallagher – 9(5)-2(0)
Prizefighter did not go well for the Pat-Man in 2014, and he has moved on in his career since then, but a return to the tournament format and the television screens could tempt the Belfast man, as well as giving him an avenue to a title. Gallagher’s amateur pedigree and notable punch-power that gives him the ability to stop a bout at any time would mark the 26 year old out as one of the favourites.
Tyrone McKenna – 9(3)-0
Currently over in Spain training at the MGM gym, the confident Belfast man would jump at the opportunity to further his career. The slick fighter has a little bit of everything as well as a certain unquantifiable X factor that’s needed to become a star.
John O’Donnell 30(11)-2(1)
After a frustrating last few years, highlighted by his withdrawal from a British title eliminator on the David Haye comeback undercard, this style of tournament would give the talented Galway man the chance to restart his career. A former holder of the Commonwealth title, O’Donnell would be the most decorated pro in the tournament and would be the highest ranked entrant according to the Irish rankings.
Ger Whitehouse – 4(1)-0
A former European Schoolboys bronze medalist, and never one to say no to a war, Whitehouse has the perfect blend of guts and guile that screams Prizefighter. Scheduled to appear on the MGM show at the Roadstone Club on February 5th, ‘Crank’ is another novice pro that could be at the perfect stage of his career for the format.
Matthew Wilton – 13(3)-0
While he has stated his intention to move down to light welterweight in search of titles, ‘Speedy’ Wilton’s in-and-out style would be perfect for snatching wins in this style of tournament. A classy boxer not yet particularly well-known to fight fans, television exposure would be great for the Belfast man and he would be confident of claiming the crown.
*It should be noted that Creagh, Whitehouse, McKenna, Carroll, and Gallagher have not fought in an eight-round fight (to give title eligibility). However, were any of the above to win this hypothetical tournament they would have fought for nine rounds (over three fights) in the one night, which hopefully would be an acceptable substitute to an eight-round fight for the Boxing Union of Ireland.