02 July 2008 – by Mark Doyle
Peter McDonagh is a frustrated man – and it is easy to understand why.
On January 28, 2006, the Galway-born, London-based fighter claimed the Irish lightweight title with a shock stoppage win over Michael Gomez. McDonagh, understandably, felt as if he had finally arrived, as if his career was about to take off.
However, two years on McDonagh is still struggling to get where he wants to go.
Part of that is due to the controversial nature of the Gomez win. Gomez was the overwhelming favourite to triumph that night and, after edging the early exchanges, he seemingly lost interest in the bout and simply stopped throwing punches, resulting in an unanswered flurry of punches McDonagh which left the referee with no other option but to stop the fight.
It should have been a terrific moment of glory for McDonagh, but his achievement was completely over shadowed by the performance of his opponent.
Steve Collins, who was working for RTE at ringside, spoke for many when he said, ‘I smell a rat’.
However, the Boxing Union of Ireland enquiry which followed simply found that Gomez, as he later admitted, had merely decided to retire on the spot.
So, in essence, not only had been McDonagh’s victory been completely overshadowed, it has also been stripped of real value, meaning that the doors that he thought would open up remained firmly shut.
There were other factors in his failure to build on his Irish title success, though.
McDonagh claims that he was not only let down by promoters but also that nobody of real significance wanted to fight him, explaining that the other negative to come out of the Gomez win was that it made people wary of him.
It was an almost farcical situation: on the one hand, people were saying he was not a worthy winner; yet on the other they were saying he was a man to be avoided.
McDonagh takes up the story: “I can’t get a fight over in England anywhere, certainly not at lightweight anyway. I’ve had to keep moving up weights. I’ve gone after everyone: Jonathan Thaxton, Lee Meager, anyone. And I don’t want meaningless six-rounders; I want proper fights, but I can’t get them.”
And that’s why, on July 12, he returns to fight in Ireland to defend the title he won in such controversial circumstances against Gomez.
His opponent will be undefeated Cavan native Andrew Murray, who is dropping down to his preferred weight to hopefully add the Irish lightweight title to the light-welterweight title he currently holds.
It looks a difficult fight for McDonagh but that is exactly what he has been craving for the past two years.
“It’s my first fight in Ireland in two years and I’m glad to be home, defending my Irish title, he enthuses in an exclusive interview with irish-boxing.com.
“Despite the controversy of the Gomez fight, I have nothing but good memories of that night because I took the Irish title away with me. And it’ll be the same again on July 12: I’ll be defending the title, bringing it away with me and then hopefully going for the European title.
McDonagh is desperate for European glory. He stepped up to light-welterweight to challenge for Giuseppe Lauris EBU crown in February of this year but it ended in heartbreak, with the referee rather harshly deciding to call a halt to the contest because of a cut above McDonaghs eye.
However, because of the rather unfortunate outcome of that challenge, McDonagh has been promised a shot at the lightweight crown provided he defeats Murray.
So, this is a massive fight for McDonagh given what is at stake. However, there are other motivating factors.
“The Irish title means so much to me, much more than the British title, because it’s where I’m from, he explains, whilst puffing out his chest, which is covered by a Galway GAA jersey.
I haven’t got the accent but I’m Irish through and through. I’m very proud of my roots. So, I can’t wait really. I’m looking forward to this fight so much.
Of course, beating Murray is easier said than done, and McDonagh knows this only too well.
“I’ve done a lot of sparring with him over the years but sparring means nothing, he argues.
He’s a good fighter and they’re really building him up over here but I don’t mind that. Let them build him up even more because when I knock him out it’ll just make me look even better!”
Of course, when two fighters know each other well it can lead to both adopting an overly-cautious approach and result in something of a stalemate.
However, McDonagh does not envisage such a scenario unfolding in this particular instance.
“I certainly won’t be taking a backward step anyway, he promises. ‘ll just keep coming forward: that’s the game plan.
The Irish crowd love a fight and that’s what they’re going to see on July 12. I steal the show the show wherever I go.
I stole the show the last time I fought on the same bill as Bernard Dunne was top of the bill so I plan to do the same again. And if I do, hopefully that’ll get RTE interested in the European title fight, and the next time Im here I’ll be bringing a bigger title back to Ireland.”
From speaking to McDonagh, it is obvious that he is a man in a rush, a man hoping to make up for what he sees as lost time.
He can, in his eyes, ill afford to hang about. The bout with the highly-rated Murray is all about making a statement and getting that European title shot.
Indeed, so clear is his focus that he is not really interested in a potential clash with Oisin Fagan, who is also set to feature on July 12 and is being widely tipped to fight the winner of McDonagh-Murray.
“I’ll sit down afterwards with Brian and see what he says but I would love to get that shot at the European title,” he says passionately, making his intentions very clear.
“If I defend the title successfully at the Stadium, I will have beaten two really good, credible opponents in Gomez and Murray and there’ll be no questions left to be answered.
“No disrespect to Oisin Fagan I would fight him but I want to go for the European title. Maybe if that doesn’t work out, I could take a step back and fight him then.
“But if I get a good win here, I want to move on because all I’ve done is stood still since the Gomez fight, so it’s onwards and upwards from here.”