The Celtic Clash returns to the place it all began for the series this weekend. Nearly six years since the first installment of what has become a staple of Irish boxing particularly at that of the smaller scale in recent years Boxing Ireland return to the Devenish on Saturday night.
The presence of the show in the Belfast venue yet again will get people reminiscing about it’s first appearance there – and as a result possibly the greatest all Irish title fight of all time.
It certainly got us thinking- and we took time to reflect on the night Stephen Reynolds, who will populate Aaron Gethins corner tomorrow, took on Declan Trainor.
This wasn’t just a small hall classic – it was one of the greatest Irish fights of all time. To say those who left the Devenish on the night of the 14 of September in 2013 felt as privileged as those who left The Point theater five years earlier after Bernard Dunne beat Ricardo Cordoba is only a slight exaggeration.
The few hundred that witnessed this Celtic Clash 1 headline bout hadn’t, like the thousands that packed into the Dublin docklands venue, seen a man realise a World title dream, but they had seen a similar all action awe-inspiring do-or-die blood-and-guts battle.
Unlike some of domestic duels, this one provided little in way of verbal sparring. Both were respectful and matter of fact in the build-up, but the fact there was no needle made what happened in the ring all the more special. There was something wholesome and beyond-samurai honourable about two men going to those depths without being able to draw on a grudge in tough times.
Regardless the fight didn’t really need trash talk it had a ready made narrative. It was the young power punching prospect against the oldest old-school fighter in town.
While Trainor nowhere hit the baddie heights of Ivan Drago there was a real Rocky IV feel to this one. A personal trainer, the Warrenpoint man was going to use all his fitness knowledge to get marginal gains for the fight, while put simply you could imagine former Senior Champion Reynolds running barefoot up mountains and punching trees on the way down as he prepared for the Celtic Nations cruiserweight title fight.
Reynolds was the epitome of no-frills right down to his short simple black shorts, unshaven chest, speckles of grey hair and a face that told a story of countless hard spars, while Trainor wore sunglasses at the weigh-in, was cut, slick and handsome. The narrative set itself and people were interested to see how the fight would play out.
However, even the most optimistic optimist couldn’t have predicted how the story would unfold. In a hot, atmospheric, and compact Devenish, Reynolds and Trainor produced more action and drama over five-and-a-half rounds than Bruce Willis managed in all his 47 Die Hard films.
The fight had everything – guts, cuts, knockdowns, heart, skill, and more. The first four rounds were back-and-forth with both shipping big shots and coming back for more.
There was enough in those 12 minutes to make this one a memorable fight, but what happened over the next four-and-a-half minutes made it the best fight a host of show veterans had ever seen.
With the tension and atmosphere starting to smoother the ring, the fifth saw ‘The Block’ force the Ulsterman to the canvas with a series of big shots not long after he had survived a barrage of blows. At that point, we looked set for a dramatic ending but it was just chapter one of one of the most dramatic few minutes an Irish ring had seen.
Trainor rose to unsteady feet and looked set for the taking. The Sligo man sprinted in Carl Lewis-style to apply the finish, Brendan Irvine flirted with stepping in but within seconds Reynolds was on one knee. The Sligo man walked onto a right hand and it looked as if momentum may have swung back in Trainor’s favour.
The veteran hardman somehow managed to recover and war resumed.
Ironically the round looked to have taken more out of the younger man by no less than 15 years. Trainor looked done in the corner, blood streaming from his chin of all places as he battled hard to catch his breath.
He somehow managed to get up off the stool for the sixth, but a possessed Reynolds wasn’t long about putting him out of his misery. The Block hunted down his foe in the sixth and forced the referee into a compassionate stoppage amidst scenes of pandemonium.
Unfortunately, that was both fighters third and final fight. Tranior has flirted with comebacks without lacing the gloves up again, while Reynolds never went on to fight for the Irish title, a fight that he always said would have been his last.
Still despite the fact neither had long careers both and their fight will live long in the memory of those that attended.