The Best Irish Boxers of All Time

In recent memory, it seems some fans of the sport have been feeling things are… Slipping away from what they used to be. Boxing, while still a show that fighters have to sell one way or another, used to be THE combat sport for the masses, for many reasons. Mainly because of how accessible it is to begin, unlike other sports like racing or tennis where massive amounts of money are necessary to begin, with boxing you can get started in a local gym with just a little bit of passion, look at the story of Savannah Marshall for example. Small town girl from the North East of England. But she made it to the big stage.

Today we’re going to be taking a look at some of the best Irish boxers of all time, there have been many big names from Ireland in the sport and they deserve some recognition. Don’t worry, we won’t be counting Conor McGregor in this list, though he is arguably the best Irish Mixed Martial Artist of all time. It still blows my mind that he just decided one day he was going to box Floyd Mayweather and then… Did it? Though it does seem like Floyd will fight anybody these days, so it shouldn’t be too surprising should it?

Jimmy McLarnin is known as one of the grandfathers of Irish boxing and for good reason. Source: Wikipedia

Jimmy McLarnin

Starting off with the REAL OLD SCHOOL boxers and the guy who most people know as the greatest Irish boxer of all time. Jimmy McLarnin is an international boxing hall of famer, he’s a two time welterweight world champion, on the BoxRec rankings, Jimmy is currently listed as #4 ranked pound for pound fighter in history, behind Ray Robinson, Floyd Mayweather Jr and Muhammad ali. However, he is also listed as the #1 Canadian boxer of all time given his family moved to Canada when he was young, so I guess they just kinda claimed him?

Though many younger fans may not have heard of him, Jimmy is so highly rated for a reason, one of his most famous fights was against Louis “Kid” Kaplan in 1927. Many people fett like Jimmy wasn’t quite ready for this kind of step up, but it was now or never. Jimmy felt like he would be able to out pace and keep his distance from Kaplan, but with the first punch of the fight, Kaplan broke Jimmy’s jaw, not only that but this saw him knocked down for the first time in his career, his 41st PROFESSIONAL FIGHT. 

The hardships never stopped there though, Kaplan continued to pressure and keep Jimmy down, until the 4th round when fatigue set in. As he starts to tire Jimmy takes the front foot and turns the tables, keeping Kaplan down. At the start of the 8th, Jimmy rushes Kaplan as he is leaving his corner and gets the KO. This is the fight that REALLY fired Jimmy into the world’s eye AND got him a shot at the lightweight titles in 1928 against Sammy Mandell.

Speaking of Jimmy McLarnin and his title shots, now is as good a time as any to take a look at some of the BIG fights that are for all the marbles, starting with a fight for the WBO Welterweight title, as a past Welterweight champion (albeit NYSAC, NBA & The Ring, not WBO) it makes sense to start here right? Terence Crawford was supposed to fight Errol spence Jr, but the negotiations fell through in the end and his new opponent will be David Avanesyan on Sunday, 11th December. Jimmy retired with a record of 69 fights, 55 wins (21 ko’s) , 11 losses and 3 draws. Rest in peace, Jimmy.

Looking at what the experts think, nobody here is really giving Avanesyan a chance. Terence is HEAVY favourite at -1400, meaning a $5 stake will return only $5.35, so if you’re wanting to stake on this one it’s probably best to put it as part of a parlay, UNLESS you have faith in Avanesyan, in which case you can get +650 which returns $37.50 from the same stake, not too bad honestly.

Another huge fight that is coming up is Tyson Fury fighting Dereck Chisora for the WBC Heavyweight title, with Daniel Dubois vs Kevin Lerena for the WBA regular Heavyweight title as the co-main event. Starting with the main event, checking caesars sportsbook illinois lines, you can get Fury at -2000…. Yeah, I know, $5.25 from a $5 stake, with Chisora being +900 underdog, $50 return. Dubois is  -1200 so $5.41 return and Lerena is +600 so $35 return. The parlays here aren’t even that good either, -770 on a Fury/Dubois double returning $5.72, but an underdog double is wild at +6900 returning $367.25, if you’re feeling spicy!

Steve Collins became a two weight world champion, middle & super middleweight. Cementing himself as one of the all time Irish greats. Source: Irish News 

Steve Collins

Steve Collins, known as the Celtic Warrior, is considered one of the greatest Irish boxers of all time, not just because he was a two weight world champion, which will always help put your name among the greats, but because of WHO he beat to become known as one of the greats. Collins would win 26 Irish titles fighting as an amateur before moving to Boston where he turned pro in 1986. He struggled to get hold of a belt in the states however and upon moving over to Britain would find himself with his first belt after beating Chris Pyatt in Sheffield, earning himself the WBO middleweight title.

It was his step up to super middleweight however where he REALLY took the world by storm. Given a chance against Chris Eubank, he went on to win on points, ending Eubanks reign AND his unbeaten run, they went on to have a rematch which he also won on split decision. Collins would also go on to win TWO fights over Nigel Benn. He wouldn’t ever physically lose his belt, instead he decided to hang up the gloves after having to pull out of a scheduled fight with Joe Calzaghe due to injury, retiring with a record of 39 fights 36 wins (21 KO) and 3 losses.

So, Boxing fans. It’s time to get a bit of a discussion going! Firstly, let’s talk about the FUTURE of the sport in general. Do you folks think that, particularly in the heavyweight division, the fans are getting the fights they WANT to see? Or would you agree with the general public, that it’s more the top guys just divvying out the money between them? What about in comparison to other combat sports, does it make sense that boxers make as much money as they do STILL given the seemingly decreasing popularity of the sport versus MMA? Or is it only a matter of time before it falls off in place of MMA?

Next, some questions about current fighters. Who would you folks say is THE BEST Irish boxer out there right now? Any weight class, any gender, even someone from the amateurs perhaps? Then what about in terms of fighters currently fighting OR fighters that are just breaking into the pro scene, are there any names you think people NEED to look out for? Anybody who could potentially be in future iterations of this article in 10, 15, 20 years time? People are always on the lookout for the next big thing after all!

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