All boxing is perhaps only hours away from being suspended indefinitely as Covid-19 creeps across the globe so when better to start a weekly boxing column?
Since selling out to the man and getting a regular job, my output on this website is a lot less than before. So, I’ve decided, rather than confining my rants and reasoning to a few select Whatsapp groups, I’m going to post them on Irish-Boxing.com every Thursday for your enjoyment and derision.
I don’t intend for these pieces to be pure previews or reviews and will be voicing my opinions about certain fights or fighters. Not every fighter or fan will like it but, sure, isn’t debate fun?
I begin on the crest of a wave having predicted – at odds of 16/1 no less – the manner of Jono Carroll’s big win over Scott Quigg at the weekend and now we turn our attentions to the greenest of weeks.
— Joe O’Neill (@J0E_90) March 7, 2020
Yes, it’s that time of year again when boxing cards around the world are given an Irish theme and some even feature Irish fighters. Of course, there are no actual shows in Ireland, it’s been a good while since we’ve had a card here during the national holiday (and they would have been cancelled this year in any case). However, while it is hard to envision it all going ahead, there are ten Irish pros currently scheduled to be in action over an especially long weekend – Corona allowing.
To start us off, Dublin youngsters Liam Gaynor and Ryan O’Rourke both hope to indulge in a spot of record-building in Bolton on Saturday night but most eyes will be focused on New York on that weekend-iest of nights – Tuesday.
Here, on actual St Patrick’s Day, Mick Conlan will be way, way, way too good for Belmar Preciado. It’s unfortunate that a fight with a more solid test in Hiroshige Osawa fell through and replacement Preciado probably ranks below 2019 opponents Ruben Garcia Hernandez and Diego Alberto Ruiz. But, it’s St Patrick’s Day, who there will really care? The Garden will be bouncing again – unless it all takes place behind closed doors. Indeed, barring a Colombian disaster of Breidis Prescott proportions, it will be a fun send-off towards August.
Here, at the Féile is when #TheConlanRevolution – sorry, as much as I love Mick, I’ll never warm to that hashtag – really gets down to business. People have questioned the progression of Conlan, with Shakur Stevenson’s world title defence this Saturday at the same venue a stark contrast, and it’s maybe a topic I’ll discuss at a later date. For now though, Top Rank, Jamie Conlan, and Adam Booth retain the benefit of the doubt.
Prediction – Preciado to quickly shell up once faced with the speed and variety of Conlan who will then promptly break the Colombian down and stop him in the fifth or sixth.
Limerick light heavy Matthew Tinker and Coalisland super feather Feargal McCrory, both having relocated to New York, get to take advantage of their Irishness on the undercard. McCrory, especially, has a decent test in Juan Tapia and, if he gets the win after over a year out, Feargal may even crack a smile.
Then there is Paddy Donovan, Irish boxing’s biggest prospect in terms of expectation – I won’t commit to saying ‘top prospect’ juuuust yet. An American. debut for the Top Rank starlet, it will be interesting to see how the Limerick welter deals with the spotlight. Being part of the Tyson Fury camp over the past few weeks really is invaluable experience for the youngster – an unsurprisingly wise move from the almost annoyingly sound Andy Lee.
My undoubted highlight of the whole weekend though is Boston on Saturday with Larry Fryers and Ray Moylette meeting, at last, for the New England light welterweight title. I really can’t confidently call this one. Pedigree has me leaning towards the sharp-tongued man from Mayo. Sparring with James Tennyson – and the defensive tightening this entails – is certainly encouraging prep. That said, the extended period out of the ring for Ray and a size advantage for Fryers, who is an absolute gentleman, by the way, could be factors.
Prediction – Ray Moylette on a competitive points decision (78-74/77-75-type scorecards).
I was able to go to the annual Murphys Boxing St Patrick’s Clash card back in 2017 and it really was good craic. There’s a great atmosphere from the fans – who are almost all supporters of the Dropkick Murphys rather than boxing – and the band themselves play a few songs. This year also has an appearance from the absolutely brilliant Kneecap (clinging desperately to my youth here).
There’s no details available as of yet but I’m hoping there’ll be a stream of some sort provided by Murphys.
Finally there’s the comeback of Joe Ward and I just hope it goes well for the guy after that disaster of a debut. For a man that has been constantly slagged by former teammates for his rather lax approach to training, Ward’s dedication to get back to full fitness these last few months has been quite inspiring. Aside from this, though, I can’t shake the question from my head of whether, if he could turn the clock back, would Joe reconsider his choice to turn pro so close to the Olympics?
For the boxers who did stay amateur, Olympic qualification finally starts this weekend in London. In general, the qualification process is more favourable to Irish boxers than in the previous cycle but the addition of box-offs within the tournament rather than the lottery of hoping one’s defeator progresses through the rounds and drags you through may be more of a hindrance than a help.
As we all know, it’s all about the draw tomorrow afternoon but with Kurt Walker, Kelly Harrington, and Michaela Walsh all seeded we should be hoping for at least two of these to make it through here. There’s always a dark horse or two, as well – my boss, Jonny Stapleton, is tipping George Bates and I think Aidan Walsh may make a big breakthrough.
- Boxing Social’s Rob Tebbutt did a great sit-down interview with Andy Lee recently. In terms of considered questioning and coaxing interesting tidbits from fighters, there really is no-one better in the YouTube interviewing game.
- RIP to Barney Eastwood. Before my time in this game but his contribution to Irish boxing is near-unrivalled. Read Garry Doyle’s tribute for an insight into the Titanic figure.
If someone mentioned the name Eastwood in 1985, you assumed they were talking about Barney rather than Clint.
No sporting night has ever compared to the Pedroza one for me – the auld lad getting the ticket just the day before.https://t.co/W6ueTd15Rf
— Garry Doyle (@GarryDoyle1) March 10, 2020
- Katie Taylor v Amanda Serrano has been confirmed – although I still have a nagging feeling that the controversial Puerto Rican won’t make it to Manchester for May 2nd. It’s a shame for Katie that this super fight has been relegated to a support bout – less of your “co-main” guff, Eddie. On the other hand, it’s a good bit more accessible for Irish boxing fans (and me) and the addition of Jason Quigley v Jack Cullen is a nice bonus.
Katie Taylor’s undisputed world lightweight title fight with Amanda Serrano will be on the Dillian Whyte-Alexander Povetkin bill on May 2, live on Sky Sports Box Office! 🎬
— Sky Sports Boxing (@SkySportsBoxing) March 6, 2020
- Buncey is giving me hope for the forthcoming pandemic.
Professional boxing is the only sport that can survive the Corona chaos: We have no league, we have no tournaments, the best don’t need to fight the best, we invent qualifiers – we do what we like! We can cancel, postpone, rearrange and muddle our way through any crisis!
— Steve Bunce (@bigdaddybunce) March 11, 2020
- Thanks also to Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh for doing up the title picture for this column. The healthy sheen coming off myself is the result of a boxercise class with RTÉ’s newest star, Victor Rabei.
Bet of the Week
This will be a feature in the weeks and months to come but there are literally no good value bets for the fights this weekend. Waste your money on a present for a loved one or some ridiculously overpriced hand sanitiser instead.
Enjoy the boxing, if it happens, over the next few days. These could be the last few fights for a little while as a stubborn journeyman of a virus is slowly outpointed. Stay safe, wash your hands.