The background to the McCarthy – McGuigan BEEF

It’s a grudge match but not as we know it!

Tommy McCarthy [18(9)-2(1)] has agreed to temporarily put his world title pursuit to one side, take ‘a step back’ and ‘bate the bollocks’ out of Chris Billam Smith [12(10)-1] in a bid to settle a unique grudge.

Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn confirmed a meeting of the title-holding cruiserweights will take place during the second instalment of Fight Camp, presumably in late July.

‘The Gentleman’s’ calling out of McCarthy got so under the skin of manager Mark Dunlop, that he got vocal about a match. ‘The Mac Attack’ also seems to have taken exception to such a degree he has agreed to take what he believes is a backward step to settle a grudge that appeared from nowhere.

However, there is more to his dislike of ‘CBS’ than some verbals and thus more reason for him to agree to the fight.

McCarthy revealed a strong dislike for respected coach Shane McGuigan after retaining his European title with the destruction of Alexandru Jur live on Sky Sports earlier this month – and makes Billam Smith guilty by association. The Commonwealth titleholder is coached by the former Ulster champion and son of Irish fight legend Barry McGuigan – and that’s enough for ‘Big Tommy’ to query his likeability.

“I don’t know Chris Billam Smith”, McCarthy said, “but his coach is an eejit and birds of a feather flock together and rats run in packs. So, I don’t like Shane and I don’t like Chris.”

Ever since, people have been querying where the grudge originated.

As a friend of Carl Frampton, McCarthy was always unlikely to be overly fond of the McGuigans, initially after the split and particularly after the court cases.

However, it runs deeper than that.

McCarthy turned down a chance to turn over with Cyclone Promotions with Shane McGuigan as his coach back in 2013. The Lenadoon double Elite champ and Commonwealth silver medallist Attack’ was hell bent on going to the World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Five years later and another issue arose. Cyclone offered Stephen Simmons a chance to step in for Matty Askins to face Craig Kennedy for the British title on a Cyclone Promotion – even though McCarthy ‘should’ have been next in line having lost to Askin in a final eliminator. Simmons then pulled out and a short-notice offer was made to McCarthy but it came too late.

Speaking at the time McCarthy said:

“Blaine McGuigan, the promoter, did not contact me or my manager Pat Magee. I was surprised and disappointed that he went to Simmons instead of me because I’m above him in the rankings and he wouldn’t box me in an eliminator [and BBBoC Celtic title fight] for the same title back in 2015.

“Then on Wednesday [March 1st] Pat received a belated phone call from Blaine to say Simmons was out and would I step in.”

This call came too late for McCarthy, who explained that: “Pat, Ensley [Bingham, coach] and myself discussed the offer and decided it was too short notice for a 12 round title fight. Blain was later informed of our decision and was told it was regrettable that he hadn’t contacted us on February 19th as I would have took the fight at that stage.”

Then ahead of David Haye vs Tony Bellew 1, McGugian, who has worked with Frampton, Anthony Cacace and Conrad Cummings, upset McCarthy further. The trainer, who currently works with another possible McCarthy opponent in world champion Lawerence Okolie, questioned the Bellew choice of sparring partners ahead of the pay per view fight.

As chief sparing partner the reigning European champion took offence and did hit back.

It may not be the juiciest of steaks but it’s beef nonetheless and there is no doubt Matchroom and Eddie Hearn will salt and sauce it up using it to add value to an already intriguing match-up.

It will be raised during fight week and if McCarthy does beat Billiam Smith it becomes a narrative in trying to force an Okolie clash.

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com