Perfect for the Pros-current Irish amateurs made for the paid game

By Joe O’Neill

Perfect for the Pros

Last Saturday, Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming unsuccessfully challenged for Amnat Ruenroeng’s IBF world title. Turning pro at 32 – with a decidedly amateur style, many saw the move as a cynical ploy by Bob Arum and Top Rank to tap into the lucrative Chinese market. This backfired quite spectacularly at the weekend with the double Olympic gold medallist being outfought by the wily Thai boxer. With the, so-far, failed Zou experiment in mind, takes a look through Ireland’s current crop of amateur stars and picks a magnificent seven who have the potential to make it as professional boxers.

Paddy Barnes


The man beaten by Shiming in two Olympic semi finals would surely have a better chance of success in the pro game. The ferocious and outspoken 27 year old is one of Ireland’s most decorated amateur boxers with his two aforementioned Olympic bronze medals (2008, 2012), European gold (2010) and silver (2013), EU silver (2008), and two Commonwealth golds (2010, 2014). Barnes is currently en-route to a third Olympic games via the WSB where he fights for D&G Italia Thunder. A gold medal in Rio would leave him with little else to prove in the amateur ranks. However, the difficulty of finding opponents at the lower weights in Europe could pose problems if he were to turn pro. Nevertheless, Barnes, with his unbelievable engine, technical skill, and tactical nous, could easily be fast tracked. Indeed his best friend, and IBF super bantamweight world champion, Carl Frampton has stated that Barnes would be well able to fight for a European title on his professional debut – and a world title would surely follow.

Mick Conlan


A WSB veteran having boxed for the USA Knockouts, German Eagles and, currently, D&G Italia Thunder, Conlan has all the tools and experience to make it in the pros. Equally adept at boxing at range or getting into an old-fashioned scrap, the 23 year old has strength that belies his wiry frame. Whether it be through the WSB or more traditional means, Conlan will surely represent Ireland at the 2016 Olympics where he will look to add to his medal tally which includes an Olympic bronze (2008), European silver (2013) and Commonwealth gold (2014). However, after this, it seems extremely likely that he will enter the paid ranks and the Belfast man has already attracted the interests of Golden Boy and Matchroom. Conlan himself believes that he would be a world champion within three years of turning over and it will be exciting to see if he can fulfill this prediction.

David Oliver Joyce


Having come agonisingly close to qualifying for the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, Joyce is currently doing his utmost to qualify for Rio 2016 through AIBA Pro Boxing and the 28 year old is now just two fights away from an Olympic berth. A triple EU gold medalist (2008, 2009, 2014), the come-forward St. Michael’s Athy man has perhaps the most professional style of any boxer on this list– a style honed in the WSB where he has fought for the Istanbulls and German Eagles franchises, and on the APB circuit. Joyce would be a welcome addition to the Irish pro scene and would bring excitement to any bout he is involved in.

Ray Moylette

Light Welterweight 

A charismatic figure, the 24 year old would make an entertaining pro. Moylette is a mercurial talent who has been known raise his game for big fights and this talent would certainly come in very handy in the paid ranks. He became Ireland’s first ever World Youth gold medallist back in 2008 and followed this up with a senior European gold in 2011. Moylette lost out in a tight contest against Michael Nevin in this year’s national final – a decision he disagreed wholeheartedly with. An assault on the pro ranks may now seem attractive to the Mayo man.

Steven Donnelly


Anyone who has seen the 27 year old puncher fight in the World Series of Boxing will know that he is perfect for the pro ranks. The Commonwealth bronze medallist (2014) is currently unbeaten after three fights for the Rafako Poland Hussars in this season’s tournament, where he has exhibited a range of skills from clever counter punching to gritty inside-fighting. His success in the WSB means that Rio 2016 is by no means out of the question, however the hard-punching Ballymena man will certainly be making waves on the professional scene at some stage in the future.

Connor Coyle


The 24 year old Derry man would be a great addition to Ulster’s booming professional scene. Winner of a bronze medal in last year’s Commonwealth Games, the St. Joseph’s BC man has a measured, pro style as well as notable power. With the slick and skillful national champion, Michael O’Reilly, looking likely to be the man the IABA backs to obtain Olympic qualification for 2016, a foray into the paid ranks may be an attractive option for Coyle. Here he would look to follow in the footsteps of another Derry middleweight, Eamonn O’Kane, who is on the cusp of a world title shot.

Joe Ward 

Light Heavyweight

While Ward may not have the most professional style, it has certainly improved from his time with the British Lionhearts in the WSB and on the AIBA Pro Boxing circuit (where he recently defeated Spas Genov, a seven-fight unbeaten professional cruiserweight). With it seeming like Ward has been around forever, it is easy to forget that he is just 21 years old. Strong as a bull elephant and teeming with natural talent, the Moate man has limitless potential. There is little doubt that, with the right team behind him, Big Joe could be moulded into a highly successful pro. The World bronze (2013) and European gold (2011) medallist will be targeting gold in Rio, however an assault at the pro game is a viable option afterwards.


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years