Indeed, ‘Sugar Ray’ seems to be relishing the pressure that brings.
Boxing outside of Belfast on this island has been struggling to a degree for some time now. Granted there are more pros than ever, an abundance of talent for promoters to cherry pick from, and a rather healthy small hall scene outside of Belfast.
However, the fight game and the mainstream are no longer bedfellows and besides some star names who fight in Belfast or abroad. neither the casual fan or ‘big media’ have been fluttering eyelids the way of our fighters.
The fact ‘The Bernard Dunne Days’ are discussed in rueful rather than celebratory terms among fight fans proves just how far boxing – again outside of a thriving Belfast – has been distanced from the big time.
Gone are sold out arenas, back page headlines and massive TV ratings, but that could be about to change as TG4 return to the sport on Friday.
The Irish-language station did successfully dip their toe back into the water in March when they broadcast the Last Man Standing card. However, a concept fight night and casual friendly tournament made that choice all the easier.
Now the terrestrial television station return with a more traditional card and want to build with Ray Moylette.
While there is talk of a four-show 2019 deal with Assassin Promotions that may see other fighters headline, TG4 have stated they want to build with the Mayo man to bring bigger and better fight nights to a national audience.
It seems they believe the lightweight prospect, who fights Christian Uruzquieta for a vacant WBC International rankings title in Castlebar, is perfectly shaped to fill a Bernard Dunne-sized hole.
It’s pressure on Moylette [11(4)-0], but pressure the media-friendly 28-year-old welcomes.
The European gold medallist has to focus on himself, but knows a successful night for him personally will only whet the public’s appetite for more shows which will have a knock-on effect for those populating the undercard particularly along with the general pro population of Ireland.
“I am laughing at it now and you asking me that,” an excited Moylette answers when questioned if he is aware that a win for him is a win for Irish boxing.
“I didn’t realize how important this was for Irish boxing until you [Irish-boxing.com] put up article that TG4 wanted to follow me as long as I keep winning. Don’t get me wrong of all the great articles you write that is one of the favourite ones you have ever written about me – and I didn’t even give an interview!”
“It’s good pressure. I love the hype and what is at stake.”
— Irish-Boxing.com (@Irishboxingcom) November 27, 2018
Moylette seems to have learnt his next fight is a big step for him and a possible turning point for a sport that is not just craving more mainstream coverage but is in a place numbers, talent and even domestic rivalry-wise to entertain the masses.
It’s a platform he always craved and one he can’t shy away from.
Moylette declared that “I want to be the one to bring Irish boxing back, put it on the map and back on TV where it belongs. I want to get the hype back again.”
“This is a turning point. It’s a new era and my name is at the forefront. Of course there is a lot at stake and that brings pressure. I think that will kick a lot more as the fight draws close.”
“For now I am loving it. I am loving the build up and the hype. You watch these things from a far for years and want to be involved in them so you have to enjoy it I suppose. I am also loving what can happen. This could be a great journey for me and one that can help Irish boxing,” he continued before admitting he is ahead of schedule career wise.
“I had a plan, but things are happening quicker than expected and when it is finally playing out it’s hard to comprehend still. This is what I wanted my whole life and now it’s front of me you think is really this happening.”
While Belfast is booming, and fighters like Carl Frampton and Ryan Burnett are known globally, it’s strange that our two reigning world champions Katie Taylor and TJ Doheny are from Wicklow and Laois yet neither have ever fought in Ireland and there are there is a noticeable lack of ‘big’ shows outside of the Titanic Cty.
Despite proving itself as a ratings success, TV companies claim it’s too expensive to broadcast, while the MTK boycott means a host of talent are not permitted to fight outside of Northern Ireland and the fact they are not allowed talk to the Irish media prevents them from keeping in touch with the casual fan down south. Those factors aligned with bad taste left by Olympic robberies and the current AIBA situation have made it difficult for pro boxers to develop a relationship with sports fans that will enable progression past the small hall without travelling abroad.
However, Moylette believes there still is love for the sport out there and feels the public will get behind a man clear of all that politics. He certainly hopes he can be that man and is grateful for the platform to be able to sell the sport and it’s virtues again.
“The way boxing is at the minute it’s lagging behind at the back. The likes of rugby and GAA are flying and even soccer is the biggest sport in the world. Now with all the turmoil in boxing this is a chance for someone to get to the top and a chance for Irish people I suppose outside the boxing community to have a career they can follow.”
“For instance, those that don’t go to shows might now see myself and the other lads on TG4 and they can have a boxer as well as a team to support.”
“The people are starved they want someone they can relate to and support – now, that person has to have talent too, hopefully I have enough of that. I think I can relate to a lot of people. I feel I am genuine, straight and down-to-earth. What you see is what you get with me. I think people see that honesty in me.”
— Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh (@EoinLuc) December 2, 2018
A host of fighters were tipped to bring back those mourned Dunne days. Willie Casey fought on RTÉ as well TV3 and saw his progression violently halted by Guillermo Rigondeaux, Andy Lee was bringing a world title fight to Thomond Park only for that to fall through, Matthew Macklin did get Sky back, but suffered an untimely reverse on what was meant to be a rebirth, Spike O’Sullivan was one win away from getting Matchroom and Sky back, Stephen Ormond was mooted to have the style and talent to become a star of his city, while Katie Taylor looked a cert to pack out the 3Arena.
However, for various different reasons, none brought regular arena shows south and the sport, in terms of the ‘big time’, has struggled.
Moylette is aware that he is fortunate to have been given a TV platform but promises that, while there is a ‘stars aligned’ element to proceedings, he isn’t in this position by chance alone.
“It’s not by chance that it is me that hopefully can do it, but I am lucky in terms of some things,” admitted Moylette.
“I am lucky I signed with Assassin Promotions and they put in the work to get TV on board, but it’s not coincidence that I find myself in this position.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)