The Irish middleweight division is one of the most competitive and exciting of the domestic weight classes.
It boasts a mix of fighters making a splash on the world scene, one World champion and many fighters on the brink of a shot at gold, not to mention some exciting prospects.
Odhran Crumley has decided to break down the exciting 160lbs mix for Irish-boxing.com.
The current leader of the pack current WBO World Champion, Limerick’s Andy Lee will defend his world title on September 19th against mandatory challenger in Billy Joe Saunders.
The bout is one of the biggest clashes to come to these shores since the Collins vs Eubank clashes and a fight Lee claims he will find the punch to ‘knock out’ his foe within the first five rounds.
The Limerick man is universally regarded as a warrior within the boxing fraternity and he lived up to such a reputation with a spirited draw against Peter Quillin after finding himself on the canvas in rounds one and three. He showed guts and guile to maintain a grip on his WBO 160 pound world crown.
All Irish fighters are targeting a shot at Lee’s strap and with Matthew Macklin rebuilding after a shock loss in Dublin last November, a few wins from him could see these two share the ring in a contest Irish fight fans have been crying out for, for years.
Considering Lee’s exceptional rise to world champion status (which he credits to his friendship and bond with trainer Adam Booth) and how the confidence boost recent high profile wins would provide the Limerick man would be installed as a favourite if the two Irish road warriors paths were to diverge in Ireland late this year or early next.
Another fighter nearing middleweight world glory is Eamonn O’Kane. The Dungiven native has benefited greatly from the success of Carl Frampton in Belfast and has just agreed to fight Toureno Johnson in a final eliminator for David Lemieux’s IBF strap.
This comes off the back of a series of impressive results the most recent coming in a gutsy performance against unbeaten Englishman Lewis Taylor, who has since rebounded to win the English title.
O’Kane a decorated amateur winning gold at the Commonwealth games and beating big names such as George Groves who is now a stablemate in the gym of world renowned trainer Paddy Fitzpatrick.
Under Fitzpatrick’s watch ‘King Kane’ has concentrated more on refining his brawler style which brought him success in the amateur circuit in order to suit the pro ranks in what the pair describe as ‘smart work’.
Matthew Macklin will be hoping to fast track a return to the top after a surprise loss to the talented Jorge Sebastian Heiland last November. That reverse left him pondering his future. However, under the watch of Eddie Hearn he has decided to give it one more go.
He believes that career threatening loss was down to burnout as he trained for nigh on the entire of 2014. Macklin who has shared the ring with some of the best around in fighters such as Gennady Golovkin, Sergio Martinez and Germany’s Felix Strum who he controversially lost to for the WBA crown in what can only be described as a ‘hometown robbery’ in Strum’s favour.
If the former Irish, British and European champions still has the hunger and his body allows him to reach the levels he is capable of it will not be long until he will be fighting for the world honours .
There are plenty of fights out there which could capture Irish fan imagination and launch him back into contention.
One such fighter willing to share the ring with him- and indeed any middleweight of note is Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan. The Cork has not only talked, but fought his way into the big time reckoning by claiming the NABA WBA USA title recently.
Below the big guns there are a number of budding and hungry fighters wanting a piece of the middleweight pie.
The scene is buzzing with fighters wanting to make an impression from seasoned professionals to up and coming prospects such as unbeaten Cyclone promoted Conrad Cummings (6:0) hoping to rise through the rankings and take a real step up this year under the watch of world champion trainer Shane McGuigan.
Others include Alfredo Meli (10:0) who is keeping active and making waves in the pro ranks.
Anthony Fitzgerald bounced back from his first round loss to Gary O’Sullivan with a point’s victory at national stadium in front of the Boxnation cameras. ‘Fitzey’ a big ticket seller who ran WBO king Andy Lee and IBF hopeful Eamonn O’Kane close and despite a move down to light middleweight would considering big fights in his old division.
Rival ‘Spike’ looks for big fights after signing a promotional deal with USA based Dropkick Murphy’s and after registering four straight knockouts in front of the TV cameras he chases a fight against interim WBA champ Chris Eubank Jr and we all know what happened the last time a Cork man faced a Eubank..
Matchroom’s Luke Keeler (8:1) has recovered from a hand injury which contributed to his first loss in the semi-final of the Prizefighter tournament and returns on the August 1st Sky Broadcast Hull bill, where he has on twitter asked Prizefighter champion Tom Doran (16:0) for a rematch.
The current situation in the middleweight division reflects exciting times across Irish boxing, but it in this writers opinion it’s the standout domestic division at this current time.
It boasts fighter on the brink of world glory and with currently one world champion who’s to say Irish fighters couldn’t one day have an all Irish unification fight or further have an Irish men holding all the divisions belts. Here’s to the middleweight division and the future..