New kid in town

05 May 2008 – by Padraig Hoare

“It was a real barnburner. I was spellbound. Here were two lads, tearing the house down, displaying incredible courage, all for the glory of an Irish title. I had been planning for a while to get into the promotional aspect of boxing. That fight made my mind up. – Tommy Egan.

A ferocious battle between two unheralded bantamweights in Dublin last December changed Tommy Egans outlook on Irish boxing forever. Colin Moffett and Eugene Heagney fought with a fortitude and machismo that normal folk like you or me can barely comprehend.

All for that belt – the Irish title. Tommy Egan therefore has a vision. The Stepaside, Dublin native insists that there is no reason why the title should not have the same kudos as its British counterpart. For this reason, Irish championship fights will be the main attraction for his professional boxing cards.

Entitled Big Time Boxing, Egans first show will be broadcast on TV3 live and exclusive from the Tallaght Basketball Arena in July.

We all know how prestigious a Lonsdale belt is in Britain. Why shouldnt we build ours up to be the same? Irish titles should be an honour that every fighter in the country should aspire to.

For that reason, Big Time Boxing will always have Irish title fights, will always showcase the cream of Irish talent and will give up-and-coming Irish fighters a chance to fight on a national television station, TV3.

Tommy Egans first card is beginning to look like it is indeed big-time. Currently, former British and Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Jamie Moore will top the bill. Negotiations with his management are ongoing as Moore is currently the Number One contender for Zaurbek Baysangurovs European crown. He is waiting for a firm date to be approved for that fight before he can commit to an Irish fight.

If the European Boxing Unions clears the Salford thrill machine to fight, Moore will compete for the Irish light-middleweight title against Ciaran Healy. Moore qualifies through his mother, who hails from Tulleroan, County Kilkenny.

“Ideally I would have liked to have confirmed Jamie by now. I know his management have to wait for an EBU date, but I have sponsors and television to placate. I can’t promote a show in secrecy. I didn’t want to reveal anything in public about negotiations with his management, but unfortunately I can’t delay promoting my card any longer. I can tell you this: Jamie is a smashing young lad – a promoter’s dream. Irish fans will love him.

A family man, he is respectful, humble and is a pleasure to deal with. As a fighter, he is the most exciting in Britain. Not many men, if any, will knock out Matthew Macklin in his career from now on. Jamie Moore did in one of the greatest fights I have ever seen.”

Despite this coup for Irish boxing, Tommy Egan is adamant that this is only the start. Also scheduled to appear are Patrick Hyland, the 10-0 Irish featherweight champion, and his brother Paul, who is 11-0 and campaigns at super-bantamweight. Martin Rogan, the Belfast heavyweight and the winner of the inaugural Prizefighter on Sky recently, will play a prominent part in Egans shows. Jonathan OBrien, the cruiserweight from Dublin and Gary Spike OSullivan, the hard-hitting light-middleweight who is turning heads in Cork, are confirmed.

Egan says this kind of commitment to Irish fighters and titles is paramount to the sports future in Ireland.

When it comes to the national amateur finals in Ireland, you will always get a full house. It is one of the most important occasions in the Irish sporting calendar and rightly so. We want to see the same level of enthusiasm for Irish professional boxing titles. When the fans leave the show, I want them to think they have witnessed something special, something extraordinary. Building the Irish titles to the status they deserve will enhance the quality of professional boxing here. Title fights have meaning, it gives fighters that extra edge.

As to the boxers themselves, Egan is delighted with the quality that will be on offer in the National Basketball Arena and beyond.

The Hylands are very exciting – they thrilled the fans at the National Stadium last month. Now they will get the opportunity to showcase that talent on TV3.

Martin Rogan isnt called the Entertainer for nothing. Fans who didnt see the Prizefighter tournament are in for a treat – Rogie is a wholehearted fighter, a real crowd pleaser. We also have a date set in September for the Kings Hall. Belfast fans are among the most loyal and knowledgeable around – we want them to have the opportunity to see their own on a Big Time Boxing show.

I have high hopes for Gary Spike OSullivan, he looks an awesome prospect. He has that same intensity as Barry McGuigan and the body-punching to boot. Well be going to the Neptune Stadium, Cork in October, where Gary will perform in front of his huge base of supporters. The idea is to bring the shows where the fans want us to go.

Egan insists that it is the supporters who deserve the credit for the resurgence in Irish boxing as well as the fighters themselves.

I am a fan first and foremost myself. I have made my money already, its not about profit for me. Obviously I want it to be financially successful but my primary reason in getting into promoting is because I want to give the fans what they want; what I want. Tickets for Big Time Boxing will start at 30 – I dont like to see fans priced out. Thats real value. Boxing is a working mans game. I wouldnt want to be priced out of it, so why should I do the same to fans?

Unfortunately for fans, it looks like they could be forced to choose between two professional boxing cards on the same night. Brian Peters has a show down for July 12 in the National Stadium, the same as Big Time Boxing in Tallaght. Egan says that as his priority is the fans, he will be looking for a solution.

I had the show in Tallaght booked months ago for July 12. I was first to book that date. If a rival promoter wants to force fans to choose between the two, then it is to the detriment to Irish boxing. I wont let that happen. Its not fair and I am already looking at a solution to the problem. Fans wont be left high and dry by me, I can guarantee that.

Tommy Egan has pedigree in the ring himself. Starting at 12, he stopped boxing at 17 when he went off to sea. Yet he never lost that desire to get back in the ring.

Once its in you, it never goes away. When I stopped boxing in 1960, JFK was just settling into the White House, the Beatles were still known as the Quarrymen, Eddie Cochrane was Number 1 in the charts with “Three Steps to Heaven” and a young upstart from Louisville, Kentucky called Cassius Clay has won gold at the Olympics.

I made a comeback after 46 years on a white-collar show. I beat my 27-year-old opponent, a stockbroker from New York, in front of 500 fans at the Mansion House in Dublin, and I put him down in the second round. I have it on DVD. That ring has a magical hold on people.

His last words are spoken as a fan. Amateur star and Olympic contender Ken Egan is a relation.

Ken Egan is my second cousin. His grandfather was my uncle and died as a young man. I can tell you, he would have been so proud to see Ken achieving so much. I cant wait to see all the boys do well out in China. Ill be glued to that television.

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