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Second Coming: Epilogue – The Irish Title Strikes Back

Amazingly, Saturday night at the National Stadium saw the first Irish title fight of the year – and we are over 85% through 2015! In fact we were only two weeks short of a year since Dee Walsh won the light middleweight belt in the most ‘recent’ title bout.

Perhaps a sign of the times with boxers and promoter looking to protect records and, in the case of fighters born in Northern Ireland, elect for the more lucrative Celtic and British route. It is certainly a shame we do not see more Irish title fights, and this seems especially pertinent when one reflects on the absolute barnstormer of a clash between Peter McDonagh and Dean Byrne for the Irish welterweight title at the weekend – with Galway’s McDonagh emerging victor after ten entertaining rounds.

The clash for the green belt brought out the best of Irish boxing at the South Circular Road venue. It was East versus West, it evoked the tribalism of the respective fans, summoned passion from the fighters, and rewarded the winner with a tangible, memorable, prize that no Inter-Continental interim Youth belt can give.

It is therefore to MGM’s credit for making McDonagh v Byrne, stumping up the sanctioning fee, and putting the Irish title back in the limelight. Indeed, we believe that such a sparky Irish title fight being given headline billing on a television show has the potential to reignite interest in the Irish belt.

Not everyone can be Carl Frampton, and that’s okay. Did people care that Peter McDonagh has 28 losses? Boxnation and MGM certainly didn’t, and had no problems allowing him to top the bill in Dublin – because rivalries and national titles sell, they mean something, there’s passion, and – most importantly – they more often than not result in exciting fights.

If MGM were not already sure of this, they certainly are now, and we predict that there may be a few more Irish title clashs on their shows next year. There is a demand, a market, the fights are special. Jamie Conlan-Junior Granados was an amazing fight – but it would have been better if Granados was from Mayo rather than Mexico.

Admittedly the belt has lost a bit of it’s lustre in recent times, but there is nothing shameful about an Irish title being the pinnacle of one’s career. Ireland is different to our neighbours in Britain where there is a deeper pool of fighters and where the British title is seen as a stepping stone to world titles and is therefore now almost exclusively in the possession of boxers ‘on their way up’ – so to speak. Callum Smith, who won the British title on Saturday, will fight for World titles in the future. Peter McDonagh will not. But if you were to ask the two whose win meant more to them, there is no doubt what the answer would be.

Hopefully Irish fighters and promoters will have seen the emotion of Peter McDonagh winning his third Irish belt. Hopefully it will have struck a chord. Hopefully they will be more open to making Irish title fights. Hopefully we will see this reflected next year.

Jamie Conlan and New Beginning may have saved Irish boxing, and now Second Coming has the potential to reinvigorate Irish boxing’s #1 prize.

Keep an eye out on irish-boxing.com over the coming days where we detail potential Irish title fights for 2016.

Photo Credit Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie