By Jonny Stapleton
From a 20 stone barman to a BUI Celtic light welterweight title challenger in three years.
Boxing, claims Sean Creagh, ‘saved his life’.
The Killinarden man notes how “the sport of boxing saved my life. I look back on my journey and I was 125kg on the scale for my white collar fight.”
That may certainly be the case and the Tallaght man’s story is certainly an inspirational one. He possibly didn’t have enough success in the ring to turn into a Cinderella Man=style movie but there certainly is a different kind of fitness book in there.
Upon being forced to retire early due to an eye injury, ‘Creaghsy Horse’ didn’t take time to bemoan his luck rather he reflected glowingly on the transformation boxing has brought about in his life.
However, while there is no doubting boxing was good for Creagh, it has to be said he was good for the game in Ireland.
Considering he came into the pro game with nothing but the limited experience white collar shows and novice amateur contests can provide, Creagh was meant to be more participant than mark leaver – yet he did have a significant influence on the game on a domestic front.
The fighter, who underwent his own personal operation transformation, didn’t quite win a title or have an odds defying innings. Indeed, in the ring he was gutsy, valiant, brave and strong but, while he was competitive, he needed more fights to refine his skillset – which was more than understandable considering his background.
A Creagh fight was always entertaining and the fighter added real value to any card he traded leather on but his true impact came outside the ring.
The now retired light welter, who moves to Canada later this year, came along at a time when a host of new talent was turning over.
The number of pros competing in the ring and for the limelight outside began to reach record numbers and as a result there were a host of shows with similar level fighters in similar level fights.
It was exciting yet all a bit dull at the same time. The general rule of thumb has always been to let fighters do their learning on the job, build a record and experience against journeyman opposition, before looking toward domestic titles and progressing from there.
That learning curve, which you could argue Creagh needed to follow more than most, usually played out down the card of a big fight, meaning fight fans could watch your journey while still have the excitement of a big fight to look forward to on the top of the card.
Yet in Dublin at the time, the majority of fighters were at the same place and fans spent their time watching 10 or so fighters beat journeyman opposition as expected before returning home with not much to shout about.
It became clear a new approach was needed and it seems Creagh was the man to try and usher in change.
A fighter, with little or no right by old school standards, to be calling out names, puffed out his chest and began roar for domestic fights.
The new to the game fighter was adamant he wanted to be in memorable fights and, maybe recognizing he wasn’t going to share the spotlight of a world title fight, set himself domestic goals.
The Tallaght puncher seemed all too aware that fans wanted to see all-Irish match-ups and knew that was the route to some form of notoriety.
Creagh craved the domestic and let everyone knew. He name-dropped with delight and, no less than two fights in, the former white collar puncher was letting people know he was here to fight not to pad out a record.
Stephen ‘Shortty’ Carroll was the first name to pass his lips and with such intent that what most would have viewed an irrelevant fight began quickly grew into a must see match-up which sadly never materialised.
There were others too, from Matthew Wilton to Conor Benn, and Creagh himself would become a target, being called out by the likes of Victor Rabei, Stephen Webb, and Francy Luzoho
Such was the thirst, promoters have begun to again see the value of the all-Irish fight. It’s become clear there is room for a second division, a bunch of fighters who can continually compete at domestic level, be in entertaining and fan friendly fights and pay the game a massive service.
The winner of early doors domestic fights could move on the loser could come again.
Not quite a new concept, of course, Anthony Fitzgerald and Robbie Long’s classic happened before both had fought five bouts while Stephen ‘The Block’ Reynolds versus Declan Trainor was another classic. However, Creagh’s desire for the All Irish came at a time when everyone was talking about building to world titles.
There is no doubt the fighter with little history in the game was shaking things up and it set a new tone. All the talk and all the names eventually reaped reward as Creagh secured a shot at the new call out king Tyrone McKenna and, after just four fights, would be contesting for the BUI Celtic title.
An injured Creagh missed weigh and was eventually retired by his corner versus the tall stylist, but his tough talk and balls out disregard for his opponent’s superior amateur background in the build up not only raised his stock but earned him respect.
In the wider context of things, although not too much consolation for Creagh, the win over an undefeated and vocal opponent enabled ‘The Mighty Celt’ to start a process that enabled him to earn the respect he deserved, not to mention secure more noteworthy fights.
It set a new tone and opened matchmakers’ eyes. The value of the domestic dust up became increasingly apparent and while Jay Byrne and others took it to a new level in more recent times, the early days domestic clashes we have seen of late and are currently being talked about, have roots in the brave and brash approach Creagh took.