The future of Irish boxing looks bright, with a number of pro prospects posed to take the world by storm.
For clarification, this category is open to pro fighters who are yet to box in a scheduled eight, ten, or twelve rounder.
The award is named in honour of Belfast’s Eamonn Magee Jr who was tragically taken from us last year at the age of just 22.
And the nominees are…
Paddy Barnes – 1(0)-0 – Flyweight
The double Olympic bronze medalist made his long-awaited move to the pros this year. A disrupted camp meant that Barnes could not make his debut at the level which he would have wished, but the Ardoyne man still created a huge atmosphere for his pro bow at the Titanic Centre in Belfast in November. A negative debut opponent in Stefan Slavchev, who was eventually disqualified, meant we could not see Barnes at his most ferocious and the former Elite amateur is looking to jump straight into title contention in the new year.
Chris Blaney – 4(2)-0 – Super Middleweight
The Ginger Ninja has been busy since making his debut, as the headliner, in Dublin in June. Training in Manchester under Ricky Hatton, the Navan man has racked up the wins, and scored an eye-catching stoppage on his return to Dublin in November. Four four-rounders in the bag, Blaney is looking to make a step up n 2017, and could contend for domestic titles.
Jay Byrne – 2(1)-0 – Welterweight
The ambitious Loughlinstown boxer debuted at the National Stadium in June against a dangerous opponent in Gabor Ambrus, where he scored a second round stoppage win. The Dubliner then got the rounds in against the durable Liam Griffiths in Belfast in October. 30 years old, Byrne is not keen to wait around, and is aiming to crank up through the levels in 2017.
Steve Collins Jr – 9(5)-0-1 – Light Heavyweight
The Wolfhound was a busy man on the US East Coast this year, racking up four victories, three of which came by stoppage as he continued his move from bulky rugby player to streamlined light heavyweight boxer. The Celtic Warriors Gym puncher was then meant to headline the November Red Corner show in a ste up only to suffer an injury, the prognosis is not too bleak however and the Dubliner hopes to be back in the new year.
Connor Coyle – 2(1)-0 – Light Middleweight
2014 Commonwealth bronze medalist made the big move to Florida a coach Jim McLoughlin for his pro career. A quickfire debut win on US television over Euris Silverio saw him start his career perfectly before a trip home and an appearance in Dublin in November where he took a points win over Santos Medrano at the National Stadium.
Rohan Daté – 2(1)-0 – Welterweight
The Waterford welter turned pro this year in exotic Dubai. On his debut in June Date, a noted puncher in the amateurs, scored a stunning third round stoppage against Gerald Dah before dominating the very game Stephen Okine last month over four rounds. An Irish homecoming is hoped for in 2017.
Eric Donovan – 2(1)-0 – Super Featherweight
Eyebrows were raised when former amateur star Donovan made his move to the pros at almost 31 years of age, however the Athy fighter looks set for a huge 2017. Understandably rusty for his Dublin debut in June versus Damian Lawniczak, ‘Lilywhite Lightning’ then looked absolutely sensational against Krzysztof Rogowski in November, demolishing the tough Pole like few others ever had. On the fast track, Donovan is aiming for domestic titles in the new year.
Joe Fitzpatrick – 6(4)-0 – Lightweight
The Dragon got three wins under his belt in 2016. Starting off with a facile KO1 win over Ruslans Berdimuradovs, Fitzpatrick then took on the very dangerous Jordan Ellison and took a count en-route to a tough points win. The Belfast youngster rounded out the year with a points win over Gyula Tallosi in Dublin and is back out again in February.
Niall Kennedy – 7(4)-0 – Heavyweight
The popular Gorey Garda grabbed four wins this year. Two quick stoppages in Boston led in to a step up against Henry Namauu in October, which he won widely on points, before a knockout Dublin homecoming at the National Stadium. The Wexford big man now looks in line for US State titles in the new year as he leaves the prospect stage of his career.
Feargal McCrory – 3(1)-0 – Lightweight
The well-supported Coalisland fighter marked himself out as one of the most fan-friendly fighters on the island this year. Fearless Feargal outpointed Peter Mellar in Belfast over four in an entertaining scrap to start the year before returning to the Europa in October for an all-out war with Ivailo Boyanov.
Tyrone McCullagh – 5(4)-0 – Super Bantamweight
White Chocolate made his Irish debut in February, quickly stopping Antons Zacests in Belfast before going four with Aleksandrs Birkenbergs in Dublin during the Summer. The Derry then took a step-up in rounds and opposition to score a statement fourth round stoppage win over durable Nicaraguan Edwin Tellez in Belfast in October.
Noely Murphy – 7(2)-0 – Welterweight
The New York-based Cork boxer endured a frustrating enough 2016, fighting just twice, but scored a dominant win in his toughest test to date, knocking down and widely outpointing Mohamed Allam in November. The Lou DiBella-promoted prospect has two dates lined up for 2017 already, a Dublin debut and a spot on the DeGale-Jack undercard.
Gary Sweeney – 3(3)-0 – Cruiserweight
The Connacht cruiser has looked sensational in his debut year, scoring three knockouts. Developing a very fan-friendly style, Sweeney throws bombs (with good technique) and his first round stoppage of Jarek Prusak on the Belfast Boxnation show in November was one of the highlights of the night.
Katie Taylor – 2(1)-0 – Super Featherweight
The Bray boxer made her high-profile entry into the pro side of the sport last month, destroying Karina Kopinska inside three in London in a performance described by Adam Smith of Sky Sports as one of the best debut he had ever seen. The Wicklow woman then took a big leap up to face Viviane Obenauf in her second fight on the Anthony Joshua v Eric Molina pay-per-view undercard, scoring a comfortable six-round points win and leaving us excited for a seemingly inevitable world title fight next year.
Sean Turner – 9(6)-0 – Heavyweight
A frustrating year for Big Sexy who suffered a double disqualification no-contest in May as well as further fights falling through – one such instance where his opponent weighed in too light. A September win in Marbella over Valeri Semiskur got him back on track before a controlled six-round points triumph over step-up opponent Ivica Perkovic in Belfast in December.
Steven Ward – 2(0)-0 – Light Heavyweight
The 2010 Commonwealth silver medalist made his move to the pros this year and debuted in front of a huge crowd in Belfast in November where he comfortably outpointed Merdjidin Yuseinov. ‘The Quiet Man’ then scored a dominant second win over high-level journeyman Remigijus Ziausys in Coventry to set him up for a big 2017.
Honourable Mentions: Bernard Roe, John Cooley, Larry Gleeson, Carl McDonald, Ciaran McVarnock Gerard Whitehouse
All of the above scored one win this calendar year.