O’Donovan and McAfee deserve the attention and rewards following bloodbath first fight

It’s the big one, but it’s a small one, but it’s a good one.

This Saturday night, less than four months on from their first fight, Stephen McAfee [2(2)-0-1] takes on Colin O’Donovan [1(1)-1(1)-1] in a hotly-anticipated rematch.

Flung together in December on the ‘Celtic Clash 4’ undercard, the super featherweight pair produced a six-round epic and will now do it again over eight in the headline fight of ‘Celtic Clash 5’ at Good Counsel GAA in Drimnagh, Dublin at the weekend for the BUI Celtic title..

It was a no-brainer for promoter Leonard Gunning who told Irish-Boxing.com how “there was a big public clamour for it on social media after some clips went out, especially the final round. It was a real old-school, toe-to-toe fight with lads just letting their hands go and leaving it all in the ring.”

“Even at ringside, beside me, opinions were split on who won and who lost – and I didn’t hear one person say a draw! Everyone was saying it was either O’Donovan or McAfee. It polarised people. When both hands were raised up, I don’t think anyone was happy so it had to be made again. It’s the best fight out there for the two lads as well.”

“It wouldn’t be the norm to go with two lads who are relatively unknown on the scene, effectively novices, to headline a card. But, it’s two lads rematching after what pretty much everyone is calling the Fight of the Year, it stands on its own two legs. The effort and the will and the desire and the heart the lads showed in the first fight, I think they deserve a bit of a reward and the attention.”

“We decided, let’s make it top of the bill. It’s an old-school type of fight so let’s have an old-school type of crowd. Let’s get everyone right up into the ring, effectively. If it’s half as good as the first fight, over eight rounds, we should be in for a cracker.”

Gunning is hopeful that a trend is starting which will see increased numbers of all-Irish fights and the development of a proper domestic scene in Ireland rather than one which is dependent on America or Britain.

The Sligo fight man described how “it’s always been my desire to have an actual Irish scene where Irish guys fight each other because they’re the fights that the public are more interested in and they’re the fights that the boxers are going to make more money from as well. If the fighters are going to make more money, if the fans are going to enjoy it, why not have it all the time?”

“There’s a few weights there where there are loads of Irish guys and they all should be fighting each other. As a promoter, I want to see these fights, let’s make them happen. If I have my way, there’ll be a fight like that [McAfee v O’Donovan] on every show.”

It could be argued that Gunning – who manages O’Donovan – has a horse in the race, however, he is staying firmly in the middle and stated that “I’ll be sitting on my hands in the neutral corner, keeping my mouth shut!”

“I’m split between the two lads. I’ve promoted all of Stephen’s fights and I think he’s a great lad, I’ve liked him from the first punch he threw. Obviously then, I manage Colin, and I’ve seen the willingness of him to take any fight that is offered to him.”

“I’ve got a great fondness for both guys. I just hope it’s a good fight and that the best man wins.”

Whoever does win, Gunning hopes to reward with an Irish title fight. A BUI Celtic title win guarantees a Top 4 Irish ranking with the Boxing Union of Ireland and the vacant super featherweight title may be contested soon enough.

The promoter pointed out that “if you win a Celtic title, the next natural progression from that is an Irish title and in Celtic Clash 7, as long as they don’t get bashed up too much, I don’t see why the winner can’t fight for the Irish title.”

Looking down the show, Gunning outlined how “we’ve got a really busy undercard. All the guys are priming themselves for a big show that we’re going to be doing in the Summer.”

“Owen Duffy from Cavan and Chris Scuvie from Blanchardstown, the two of them have been flying in the gym. They’re making their debuts and I’m hearing a lot of good things from their coach, Tony Davitt. They’re looking to make an impression and springboard into the consciousness of the Irish boxing fan – because there’s so many guys turning pro and lads are going to have to distinguish themselves from the pack if they are to make headway.”

“I’m also looking forward to seeing John Joyce and Keane McMahon set themselves up for what could be a very busy six months. Also great to see Carl McDonald, Niall O’Connor, and Martin Quinn pushing themselves on as well.”


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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