The Little Things – Our 8 Favourite Small Moments in Irish Boxing from 2018


There was plenty to digest in Irish boxing in 2018.

Big wins, big losses, drama, controversy and oh so many talking points.

However, as always, some of the things that stand out in our mind are smaller moments – split-seconds that may go unnoticed by many but are the reason that writing about Irish boxing is a joy.

The things which might not make it into a fight report but are brought up over and over in discussions amongst ourselves – The Little Things

READ: 2017’s list here

READ: 2016’s list here

Here are our eight ‘little things’ from 2018:

The Wave
For a lot of fans in Dublin and Belfast, small hall cards are often a case of ‘get in, see your fighter, get out’. We have seen this year though that boxing in more regional locations is a bit different. Whether it is due to being starved or local pride, the venues are fuller earlier and the passion is everywhere. Take John Joyce for instance, the Lucan welter opened the Ring Kings show in Waterford in February in front of a large and loud crowd who cheered for him throughout. The straight-down-the-middle Army colonel even got in on the act himself in the final round of his clash with Ferenc Jarko, rousing the Waterford punters with some uncharacteristic showmanship.

The Realisation
Sometimes in boxing knockouts ‘happen’ before they actually happen. One punch, or a number of punches, can have a fighter ‘out on his feet’ and, such is the finishing prowess of the opponent, there is no way that the fight will continue much longer. If the fighter about to score the knockout is ‘your’ guy, it means there are a few seconds of surrealism – everything seems to be in slow motion, the celebrations have already begun, and your imagination goes into overdrive thinking about what could be next. It happened when Andy Lee hit Matt Korobov with that right hook and it happened again in May when James Tennyson won the European super featherweight title.

The Push
The rematch between Stephen McAfee and Colin O’Donovan for the BUI Celtic super featherweight title was this writer’s pick for ‘Fight of the Year’. Round 6 of the slugfest was the highlight and managed to encapsulate all we love about small hall boxing. A topsy-turvy stanza, Cork’s O’Donovan at one stage looked set to fall through the ropes and, in what is as ‘small hall’ as it gets, was pushed back into the ring by his brother who had jumped up onto the ring apron. O’Donovan would then fight back strongly following the pure mental moment.

The Mindgames
Normally, showboating when a fighter has their opponent hurt is seen as a waste but for Luke Keeler back in April it was arguably the pivotal moment of his fight with Conrad Cummings. His rule-bending slap after the bell was the ‘talking point’ but the Dublin underdog spent the entirety of that second round goading Cummings, teasing him verbally and waving him in. In the final seconds the stanza a big right hand caused the Tyrone man’s legs to wobble and rather than rush in on his retreating opponent, Keeler outstretched his arms, stamping down his superiority and perhaps landing a more important mental blow than the physical one – showing that he was the man

The Shorts
A professional debut can be a stressful and hectic time for a fighter. The mind is going a mile-a-minute and things can be forgotten. Carl Frampton forgot to bring his gumshield to his pro debut but ‘The Jackal’ was outdone in June by Conor Cooke. The Antrim cruiserweight managed to leave his SHORTS at home before his bow in Dublin on Celtic Clash 7 which led to a mad rush to try and source a pair to enable Cooke to make his debut. There was nothing spare but journeyman Radoslav Mitev, who was fighting later on in the card saw an opportunity – Cooke could wear his shorts…. at a price. €20 later ‘Da Crook’ had a pair of gaudy Bulgarian knicks featuring advertising for E-Lite cigarettes and we had a fight – and then a big KO.

The Belt
Karl Kelly took two of the cleanest right hands we’ve ever seen against Victor Rabei during their BUI Celtic light welterweight title clash in June and continued to march forward. However, it was the Monkstown puncher’s actions after the competitive ‘Celtic Clash 7’ scrap that impressed us most. Declared the loser, a smiling Kelly would applaud the crowd knowing he had done his utmost before taking the belt from the BUI official and wrapping it around Rabei’s waist himself. It gets bad press, but boxing can be a gentlemen’s sport.

The ‘oooooh’
Paddy Donovan went semi-‘viral’ in November. The Limerick welterweight’s knockout of Patrick Cullen in the Irish Intermediate Championships in November was watched over 100,000 times on social media as people were wowed by the Tokyo prospect’s elusiveness and finishing punch. However, the reaction of the few dozen in the National Stadium is what stuck out for us – no wild cheers or exclamations, just an ‘oooh’ both in awe of Donovan’s talents and in concern for Cullen, followed by a polite applause.

The Fall
There was an outpouring of emotion when Carl McDonald defeated Dylan McDonagh in ‘The Battle of Jobstown’ to claim the Irish super bantamweight title. Indeed, so much so, ‘The Cobra’ was temporarily off his feet. Upon the announcement of the result, McDonald ran to the turnbuckle but had not seen his celebrating son Jayden cross into his path. There was a momentary tumble as father and child hit the deck and a quick flash of concern as pandemonium overtook the ring. McDonald bounced up and onto the ropes and, in a hilariously heartwarming moment, was followed by his joyous son who showed no ill-effects from the fall.

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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: [email protected]