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It’s Showtime – Stephen McAfee cements status as domestic star

A pro less than a year and with just four fights under his belt, Stephen McAfee should but negotiating four-rounders on undercards.

Instead, after racking up knockouts which went viral online and broke the ribs of foreign imports before two consecutive slugfests, McAfee has arguably become a major name in Irish domestic boxing.

“It looks like it, doesn’t it?” smirked a bloodied McAfee [3(2)-0-1] when this was put to him by Irish-Boxing.com in the dressing rooms of Good Counsel GAA club in Drimnagh.

The Sallynoggin super featherweight had just gone through eight rounds of war with Colin O’Donovan and emerged the other side a split-decision victor with the BUI Celtic title in tow.

A rematch of their six-round epic at the National Stadium in December, the pair surpassed this at the weekend in a guaranteed Fight of the Year, with McAfee showing supreme heart and grit to battle back down the stretch to take a points win on the narrowest of margins.

Looking back after the breath-taking ‘Celtic Clash 5’ headliner, McAfee described how “I remember at the start, I won the first round, then I was picking him off with the jab a lot better than in the first fight.”

“I was finding my distance and range so I was happy enough with that. I was landing more clean shots.”

“It’s just in me to be honest, that grit and hunger – and I like a little tear up now and again.”

“My camp was good, I was happy enough with it. There’s always bits and bobs but I got my training in. It’s tough, it’s not easy, but it’s not easy for anybody.”

With ‘Showtime’ emblazoned across his shorts, McAfee was right at home in the spotlight. A big character, the 26-year-old is not one for undercards.

McAfee recalled how “with the first ones [pro fights], I remember thinking that I don’t like fighting early on shows, it’s hard to build yourself up for it.”

“I said to myself that I’d be a main event fighter but, to be honest, I didn’t think it would be that quick!

A gruelling fight, McAfee is expected to take a few weeks out before deciding on what’s next. By virtue of the BUI Celtic title now wrapped around his waist, the Dubliner will be ranked in the Top 4 at super featherweight and may start working towards the Irish title vacated by James Tennyson last year.

Others will call for a third fight with O’Donovan [1(1)-2(1)-1] following two close and entertaining contests already. The two’s styles just seem to mesh perfectly, ensuring action whenever they meet.

A born entertainer, McAfee wants to do just that.

“It was better than the first one, wasn’t it? I enjoyed it!” he said.

I’d be open for that [a trilogy fight], I’d do anything. Whatever the fans want.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielinotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)


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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