Opinion: Let Them Fight – The Irish lightweight title has been dormant for too long

Paul Hyland Jr and Gearoid Clancy better hope that all their trousers are perfectly tailored to fit their waists, as it seems that there wont be a green belt adorning them any time soon.

News emerged today that the Boxing Union of Ireland have refused to authorise an Irish lightweight title fight between the pair on the February 4th MHD Promotions show at the Europa Hotel.

Clancy [7(2)-4(0)] is seemingly not currently considered worthy to fight for the title. The Belfast bout between the pair has been planned for months, however the BUI have not been keen. Initially the Oughterard boxer suffering two consecutive losses (to Brendan Saunders and Nort Beauchamp) was a stumbling block. Two more wins on his ledger were requested, but the recent victories over Ray Thompson and Akrapong Nakthaem were not deemed to have been against opposition of a sufficient standard to warrant authorising a title fight.

Naturally there is disappointment from Team Hyland and Team Clancy. Hyland’s promoter Mark Dunlop outlined some recent Irish title fights that seem to make a mockery of the BUI’s reasoning. Fights such as John Waldron taking on Paddy McDonagh for the 175lbs belt off the back of four stoppage defeats and Mickey Coveney facing James Tennyson for the 130lbs belt after ten consecutive losses (one even against Tennyson himself), of which five were by stoppage.

There has been a definite tightening of criteria, and fighting in a scheduled eight rounder is no longer enough. Indeed Clancy has won two eight rounders, both for the New South Wales title, as well as competing in two ten rounders.

The issue seems to stem from the apparent recent introduction of a BUI Ratings Committee which, going by today’s news, would have authorised very few of the Irish title fights which have taken place since the belt’s resurgence from 2005 onwards.

While this system, and a seeming desire for greater quality control, should be respected, there is a definite feeling in Irish boxing circles that it is being excessively harsh on Clancy.

Why? We do not know. Perhaps the quality of the Australian scene is not being looked favourably upon by the BUI. Clancy’s two most recent opponents certainly did have a distinct lack of recent wins, but had mixed it with a good level of opposition – and surely this is better than if they had plenty of misleading victories on their ledger from glorified spars that took place behind closed doors

For a lot of fighters from this island, and Galway’s Clancy would be one of them, the Irish title is the ultimate goal when turning professional. A perfectly reasonable aim and a massive honour should they achieve it.

The introduction of the BUI Celtic belt, fought over eight rounds and providing the holder with the #1 spot in the Irish rankings, is a positive move and introduces a pathway for rising Irish fighters.

However, suggesting that Hyland and Clancy should fight for this belt rather than the Irish title sets a dangerous precedent. The BUI Celtic belt’s purpose should be for fights like Tyrone McKenna v Sean Creagh, boxers who had not yet done eight rounds and are making a step up. It would serve a purpose of garnering them Irish title eligibility and ensuring that they had competed in a tough fight before going into the big one.

This does not apply for Clancy, as explained above, or Hyland [13(4)-0] who has three eight rounders under his belt and has had plenty of tough tests in his career already.

In suggesting BUI Celtic title, the BUI have admitted they don’t see the clash as a dangerous mismatch, so why not let the title be fought for?

No one is being ducked or left out of the loop. Clancy and Hyland are the only Irish lightweights that could fight for the belt on February 4th. Stephen Ormond and Jamie Kavanagh are above Irish title level, Feargal McCrory and Joe Fitzpatrick are ineligible, and an agreement could not be reached with Michael Devine. 

From Irish-Boxing.com’s perspective, it would make sense to get the Irish title back in play in as many divisions as possible. The more Irish champions and titles in action, the better, for an Irish scene crying out for domestic match-ups to replace foreign opposition which can range from really good, albeit faceless, tests to one-sided knockovers.

The likes of McCrory and Hyland Jr’s stablemate Fitzpatrick have already stated they are Irish title keen (indeed these two are the ones who should be contesting the BUI Celtic 135lbs belt), while Eric Dononvan has expressed an interest at a number of weights. If you have a champion at any given weight then would-be challengers have someone they can target and call out, which increases the potential of more Irish bouts, more meaningful fights, more happy fans, and more sanctioning fees for the BUI – surely it’s a no-brainer.

Ensuring the belt is not belittled is of course important, but that would not happen with Hyland v Clancy. There would be no horrible mismatch or one-round blow-out. It is two honest fighters both wanting to fight for a belt which is important to them.

The Irish lightweight title has not been around a fighter’s waist since Andy Murray beat Oisin Fagan in the National Stadium live on RTÉ2 back in February of 2010.

It’s time the belt, for one of the original weight classes, was dusted off and brought back into action

Let them fight.

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