The Irish national championships, are, of course, one of the highlights of the boxing calendar. They give us the chance to see the past, the present and the future of boxing in a country that adores the sport. It gives fighters a chance to make names for themselves, to cement their reputation or just to prove that they aren’t going anywhere. It is a night for celebration, for wonder and for excitement. It is a usually then a great event, but this years was particularly good with some top quality fights creating fireworks and memories, both for the fighters and the punters who were there to watch.
It reflects a general trend in boxing, one where the sport is in good health and getting better. Last year was dominated by a fight between a boxer, in Floyd Mayweather and someone who was not a boxer, Conor McGregor. While it was, in the end, a reasonable fight where McGregor showed what a resilient and talented fighter he is, it was hardly a match for the ages and the way the media jumped all over it suggested that there was a bit of a dearth in quality. Even the Golovkin and Alvarez fight had a degree of attention taken away from it by the Mayweather McGregor bout.
This year though, as in the National Championships, we are seeing a new class of boxers who are taking the limelight. Boxers who, rather than mouthing off and insulting each other, are, in general doing their talking in the ring. It makes for more interesting and closer fights. We see the media and the bookmakers taking interest in fights that actually matter. If you look at how many Joshua vs Parker betting tips there are floating around at the moment, you can see how much more seriously the media and the betting community is taking real fights. And with Garcia vs Lipinets and the rematch between Golovkin vs Alvarez on the horizon, we can see that boxing is doing well on the international stage.
Here in Ireland, the national championships showed how well the sport is doing on the national stage with an amazing thirteen new champions being crowned in Ireland’s national stadium, with both male and female boxers excelling and proving that they will soon be making their names on even bigger stages. There were so many highlights that it seems unfair to single out particular fights but there were some that were particularly impressive. Here are the particular favourites which illustrated how well Irish boxing is doing.
Dean Gardiner vs Martin Keenan
Keenan was the only male boxer who came into the Championships as a defending champion and had hoped to stamp his mark further on his title. Gardiner though had other ideas and managed to keep Keenan at arm’s length while also getting his own shots in. It was a little bit topsy turvy as a fight but eventually Gardiner emerged as the winner on a unanimous decision and looked delighted. Gardiner will now be hoping to dominate the 91+ KG category in Ireland before moving on beyond these shores to bigger things.
Kellie Harrington vs Amy Broadhurst
Harrington fared quite a bit better than Keenan as a defending champion, as she held off the new guard to retain her 60 KG title. Broadhurst is looking like a very handy fighter as her underage achievements have shown and she will be very excited to move on from this defeat with more experience and know how. For Harrington, this is her eighth elite level title, a record that shows just how good a boxer she is.
Kieran Molloy vs Eugene McKeever
Molloy took home the prize for the best Irish male boxer and proved why he deserved such an honor by dismantling McKeever in the 69KG final. He looked a little sharper and much more confident but McKeever did his best to make the final a top class one and one which he will have been proud of being a part of. Having already picked up both European and Mini-Worlds medals as an underage fighter, Molloy will be hoping to conquer more than just Ireland sooner rather than later.