Jamie Conlan has saved Irish boxing.
A bold statement perhaps, but the reverberations after his dramatic victory at the National Stadium on Saturday could be felt for years to come.
Before the fight, Matthew Macklin had proclaimed that MGM Promotions can help to ‘end the Civil War in Irish boxing.’ If that is the case, Saturday night at the Stadium was the beginning of the Reconstruction that always comes after a civil war – and it was crucial that ‘New Beginning’ was a success.
Make no bones about it, Conlan losing would have been disastrous – not just for himself, but for MGM and Irish boxing in general.
Macklin envisioned holding up to six televised shows a year on the island but it seems unlikely the Frank Warren and Boxnation would want to return had the show went badly.
An apt comparison is the Matchroom-promoted Matthew Macklin-Jorge Sebastian Heiland card last November. Billed as ‘The Return of the Mack’, the fight ended with the headliner being knocked out and there was a real sense of gloom surrounding the outcome.
Many thought, and were proved right, that Eddie Hearn would not be putting on a show in Ireland for the foreseeable future. Indeed Hearn will most likely wait until Luke Keeler and Jono Carroll have the ability to fill the 3Arena before he returns to Dublin.
Suddenly though, out of nowhere, big time boxing was given a second chance by MGM Promotions to become a fixture on the Irish sporting scene. Again, it looked like it would be turfed back into the wilderness but, spurred on by the 2,000 in attendance, Conlan showed the heart of a hundred Mexicans to get off the floor in the seventh and, hopefully, solidify a bright future for Irish boxing.
If this is to be the case, the way Conlan slammed the floor and rose to just beat the count after the second knockdown has the potential to become part of Irish boxing lore – The moment and eight stone man from Belfast showed the biggest set of balls imaginable to drag himself, and Irish boxing, through a period when it looked like we should be out for the count.
While Conlan and MGM Promotions deserve plaudits aplenty, the Irish fans who packed out the coliseum that is the 76 year old venue on the South Circular Road also require kudos. Without them roaring him on, Jamie Conlan would have found it tough to get up after being hit by multiple kitchen sinks by Junior Granados.
Before continuing I should clarify that, of course, big time boxing exists on the island.
There are Carl Frampton and Cyclone Promotions, who have been putting on unbelievable events in Belfast. However they now plan to fight in the Titanic City just once a year as they take the logical next step with their man and look to break America. While Frampton cards have bone-chilling atmospheres and feature the best pound-for-pound boxer on the island – Irish boxing needs more than one big show a year.
Despite what Rugby Teilifís Éireann may have you believe, boxing is far and away our most successful sport – but avid supporters have spent too long in the shadows, attending shows in leisure centres and hotel function rooms. Don’t get me wrong, small hall shows are invaluable for boxing on the island, and messrs Magee and Dunlop deserve much adulation for what they do, but both fans and fighters deserve regular large scale events.
That is why on Saturday, Irish boxers the length and breadth of the island will have been raising their glass to Jamie Conlan – the man who has ensured them television opportunities and places on big cards.
The war on Saturday was a definite Fight of the Year, and one of the best ever to be shown on Boxnation. Frank Warren will certainly have been licking his lips seeing the show Jamie Conlan put on, as well as the passion of the Irish fans. He now knows for sure that MGM Promotions are on to something.
Big time boxing is viable. Big time boxing is back.