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The 10 best ‘journeymen opponents’ we want to see against Irish boxers – 2018 UPDATE

At the start of last year we ran one of our favourite pieces – ‘The 10 best ‘journeymen opponents’ we want to see against Irish boxers in 2017‘.

The list looked at some of the away fighters who had caught our eye. Opponents who come in not to just spoil and survive, but to win.

The well-respected fighters all provided proper tests to Irish boxers and many would later go on to visit these shores again. Just last weekend Rafael Castillo was involved in a six-round war with Feargal McCrory, Innocent Anyanwu gave Ray Moylette a real test and was a statement win for Anto Upton, Sergio Abad was edged out by just a point against Jay Byrne, and Kamil Sokolowski even defeated Sean Turner.

‘Journeyman’ is sometimes viewed as a slur – we view it as a badge of honour, and some boxers with unattractive records have contributed to some of the best fights in Ireland over the past year.

With 2017 being one of the busiest years in recent Irish boxing history, a number of new away fighters have caught our attention and it is now time for an updated list as well as suggestions for who these game visitors could face in 2018.

Alain Alfred
Light Middleweight
Record at start of 2018: 2(1)-5(1)-1
The French fighter gave Craig O’Brien a real scare last year, dropping the Dubliner in the opening round of their BUI Celtic title clash. While O’Brien would go on to win the bout on the cards, he had to remain wary of the heavy-handed Breton who explodes out of the crouch with big overhands
A perfect opponent for:
Sonny Upton – A stiff test for Upton who has not fought since losing to Matty Ryan last March and also a chance for comparison with O’Brien – whom he has recently called for a fight with.
Dylan Moran – The Waterford welter is keen for tests and Alfred, who is a small light middle, would certainly provide that.


Iago Barros
Record at start of 2018: 2(1)-9(0)-2
The short Spaniard shocked Swiss amateur champ Julien Calvete last year and ran Crumlin’s Martin Quinn very close, perhaps being unlucky to lose and drawing applause from the entire National Stadium at the conclusion of the bout. A real character, the Galician throws big shots relentlessly and laughs off anything that comes back in return
A perfect opponent for:
Niall O’Connor – Two fighters with personalities and who play to the crowd, this would be a real entertaining scrap.
Victor Rabei – A fighter keen on having comparisons drawn, a clash with Barros would allow Rabei the chance to make a statement.

iago barros

Przemyslaw Binienda
Light Heavyweight
Record at start of 2018: 2(2)-15(6)
The young Polish fighter has proper ambitions when in the ring. The Eastern European hardman was on-course for at least a draw with debutant Chris Mullally in September before the Kildare fighter rescued a win with a final round knockdown – and then went on to give Steven Ward probably the toughest fight of his career so far on the Frampton Reborn card, staying in his face for the full six rounds.
A perfect opponent for:
Steve Collins Jr
– The Wolfhound is still rebuilding under new coach Steven O’Rourke, and the come-forward Binienda could provide the next step.
Paddy McDonagh – Soon to return from injury, Binienda would test McDonagh’s matador capabilities and help shake off any rust.


Mwenya Chisanga
Light Welterweight
Record at start of 2018: 1(0)-3(2)
The long-armed Zimbabwean gave Joe Fitzpatrick a good test in October, being stopped standing in the sixth and final round of a competitive fight. He would then would provide a real scare for teenage prospect James Cahill, hurting the Wicklow welter early in their bout and forcing ‘Chopper’ to make a strong comeback to grab the win
A perfect opponent for:
Jake Hanney – When the Dubliner returns to the ring he will not be looking for soft touches and Chisanga could provide a good comeback foe.
Sean Creagh – The Tallaght fighter is keen on domestic dust-ups, and soon – however, should they not immediately develop, Chisanga would be a good next step.


Anthony Fox
Super Middleweight
Record at start of 2018: 3(0)-10(1)-4
Strong as a bull, Fox places himself on an opponent’s chest and just pumps out straight shots for the entirety of the bout. Always game and currently on a two-fight win streak, the English fighter held Vladimir Belujsky to a draw in ‘The Slovak Rebel’s’ debut and also gave Chris Blaney a real scare.
A perfect opponent for:
Vladimir Belujsky – The debut draw hurt the Cork fighter who has been impressive since. A chance to avenge this is top of his wishlist.
Padraig McCrory – The Belfast man is keen to be moved fast and Fox could be the perfect opponent for his first six-rounder.


Juan Hinostroza
Super Flyweight
Record at start of 2018: 6(3)-8(0)-1
The Peruvian southpaw was the first man to stain the record of Prince Patel, being unlucky to only secure a draw against the controversial English boxer. He then provided Paddy Barnes with a good test in Glasgow in October – his ambition allowing Barnes to impress and score the first knockdown of his career, a knockdown Hinostroza recovered extremely well from.
A perfect opponent for:
Regan Buckley – Decent tests at the lower weights are so hard to find in Europe and Hinostroza would provide great experience for the young and ambitious Wicklow boxer.
Dylan McDonagh – The Tallaght fighter’s first two opponents have been reluctant to engage – understandably, due to the volume of shots he throws. Against Hinostroza he wouldn’t have this problem.


Ross Jameson
Light Welterweight
Record at start of 2018: 2(0)-10(2)-1
A good amateur in his youth, the Middlesbrough man has taken the journeyman route and was one half of one of the best Irish small hall fights of 2017 when he went to war in a furious four-rounder with Belfast’s Tony Nellins in March. The tough as nails Englishman has not fought since last May when stopped in the sixth round of a Northern Area title fight against Darren Surtees with a broken jaw and cheekbone, but he has vowed to return to the ring and we hope to see him back soon.
A perfect opponent for:
Tony Nellins – The Belfast man is desperate for a rematch against the man responsible for the only blot on his record.
Sean Creagh – Another guaranteed war.


Damian Lawniczak
Super Featherweight
Record at start of 2018: 4(0)-26(3)-1
Such are the silky skills and fantastic footwork of Eric Donovan who defeated the Pole in 2016, we didn’t realise the qualities of Lawniczak until the end of last year. The veteran Poznan puncher became an Irish regular, with three consecutive bouts against new fighters, giving Aiden Metcalfe a real scare, going to war with Karl Kelly, and pushing late on against Victor Rabei. Tough as nails and up for a fight, there are plenty more fights for Lawniczak in Ireland and more further comparisons to be made.
A perfect opponent for:
Ciaran McVarnock – The Belfast fighter has a hugely exciting attacking style, throwing plenty of shots which would no doubt rouse a response out of Lawniczak.
Allan Phelan – The Kildare fighter was involved in a fire-fight with Lawniczak’s stablemate Krystzof Rogowski, and this would be a perfect next step.


Darryl Sharp
Record at start of 2018: 5(0)-28(0)
The Kieran Farrell fighter is the definition of ‘fight anyone, anywhere, anytime,’ taking fights sometimes on just days’ notice. One such fight was against Chris Blaney during the Summer where the ultra-durable southpaw ran through everything thrown and constantly looked to engage. When given a camp he can really provide a huge test and has even won the BBBoC Central Area title.
A perfect opponent for:
Darren Cruise – The Roscommon man’s career has seen him be the away fighter to a name or the home fighter against a journeyman. Sharp could offer something in the middle.
Craig McCarthy – The Waterford fighter is always developing as a pro and Sharp could be a good step-up later in the year, perhaps as the headline fight of the next Ring Kings card.


Jorge Vallejo
Light Middleweight
Record at start of 2018: 5(3)-4(0)
The Spanish Scott Quigg lookalike provides a full package. ‘El Tiburon’ (‘The Shark’) comes to the ring to a customised Jaws theme tune and, like most Spanish opponents, marches forward for the entirety of a bout, fighting to win. Well-conditioned, the Riojan was Craig O’Brien’s comeback opponent last February and had success late on against the Dubliner.
A perfect opponent for:
Sonny Upton – Much the same as Alfred, an opportunity for comparison and a game comeback foe.
John Hutchinson – If the Donegal boxer ever fights back in Ireland again it would be good for the bout to be a memorable one rather than against an opponent void of opposition.


Photo Credits: Ricardo Guglielminotti and Laszlo Geczo


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