The Honourary Irishmen

By Joe O’Neill

Ireland is going through something of a purple patch in terms of boxing recently with world champions in Andy Lee and Carl Frampton, soon to be world title challengers (hopefully) in Spike O’Sullivan and Tyson Fury, and a whole host quality prospects. However, there are also a number of other boxers who have fallen in love with the Irish way through living here and/or training in Irish gyms. With Irish friends, training partners, trainers, and sometimes even Irish citizenship, these honourary Irishmen deserve our support and adulation.

Mike Perez
Heavyweight
Possibly the most naturally talented heavyweight in the world today, Mike Perez [21(13)-1(0)-1] is knocking on the door of world titles. The supremely skilled southpaw was a 2004 World Junior Gold medalist before escaping his native Cuba and relocating to Cork to turn professional. Now 29, ‘The Rebel’ fights for both his native Cuba and his new adopted homeland. In 2011 he was responsible for one of the most impressive Prizefighter performances of all time when he stormed to victory in the 2011 ‘International Heavyweights’ edition. Now training with Robert Garcia, the WBC #2 has become a recognisable name across the Atlantic as he looks to become mandatory challenger for the raw Deontay Wilder’s title.

The Cuban Corkonian did suffer a setback when lost his unbeaten record last July in a world title eliminator against Bryant Jennings (who would go on to unsuccessfully challenger for Wladimir Klitschko’s heavyweight crown). In this fight Perez tired down the stretch and lost a tight split-decision. On Friday he again fights in a world title eliminator, this time against former champion, Alexander Povetkin [28(20)-1(1)], in the Russian’s back yard. Perez will enter the ring as underdog, however, by all accounts, he is in the shape of his life and could well spring a surprise. Regardless of the result on Friday, at 29, Perez is still a youngster in the heavyweight game and will surely fight for world titles in the post-Klitschko future.

Frank Buglioni
Super Middleweight
‘The Wise Guy’ certainly made a smart move when he relocated to Dublin after losing his unbeaten record, and WBO European title, to professional banana skin, Sergey Khomitsky. Buglioni [16(12)-1(1)-1] now lives and breathes boxing at Celtic Warriors Gym. Here in the ‘European Wild Card’ the Enfield man can avail of quality sparring from the likes of Luke Keeler and Spike O’Sullivan – as well as the expertise of Ireland’s Freddie Roach, Paschal Collins.

Under Collins, Buglioni is a revived fighter and reclaimed his WBO European title last November against the then-unbeaten Andrew Robinson. The 26 year old Londoner possesses real power and loves to get involved in toe-to-toe battles. In his most recent fight Buglioni was somewhat unlucky to be awarded just a draw after his Fight of the Year contender with Lee Markham. A rematch in the near future seems extremely likely.

Josh Pritchard
Featherweight
Portsmouth’s Pritchard [2-0] is the most recent addition to Cyclone Promotions’s growing stable of fighters. Signed after impressing in sparring against IBF super bantamweight world champion, Carl Frampton – ‘The Punisher’ is an exciting, top class prospect. The 20 year old made his debut in February on the undercard of Frampton’s first world title defence and had his second pro outing last Saturday, flooring Elemir Rafael three times en-route to an impressive points victory.

Cyclone CEO, Barry McGuigan, certainly believes that the former England international has world level potential. This belief has been bolstered by Pritchard’s performances in sparring against the then-WBC Continental Americas super bantamweight champion, Horacio Garcia, in the lead up to the Frampton-Avalos fight. According to McGuigan, Pritchard “dominated every spar across the three weeks he worked with him” and the “Horacio didn’t win one round with him.” McGuigan has an eye for amateur boxers who make excellent pros and Pritchard’s development will be watched with interest.

Moses Matovu
Cruiserweight/Heavyweight
Uganda’s Moses Matovu [5(0)-56(6)-4] has been a fixture of the Irish boxing scene for the last three years. In that time ‘The Black Mamba’ has been in with a veritable who’s who of Irish and British prospects. Difficult to hit and possessing a solid chin, Matovu represents a tough challenge for all novice pros. In addition, he is a real character and showman and, unlike most journeymen, he is willing to throw punches. Moses always guarantees an exciting fight.

Indeed such is the nature of the journeyman, Matovu deserves a much higher number in the ‘Win’ column as more
than a few close decisions have gone against him. Despite this, Matovu will keep on fighting nearly every month, showing youngsters the ropes and giving fans a good time while he’s at it. Now 38, Bangor’s ‘Black Mamba’ shows no signs of slowing down and while he may not win any titles, he is definitely the King of the 4 rounder.

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