Such is the long history of emigration from this island, there are a large number of boxers around the world who claim Irish ancestry.
Many, to varying degrees, embrace their Irish roots and below we recognise the achievements of these Wild Geese.
This award is named in honour of ‘The Greatest,’ Muhammad Ali, who passed away this year. Ali’s maternal great grandfather, Abe O’Grady, emigrated from Ennis, County Clare in the 1860s.
And the nominees are…
Matt Conway – 7(4)-0 – Welterweight
21 year old Conway, of Cork stock, enjoyed a big 2016. The West Virginian scored two early points win before drawing with Chris Alexander in July – a result which was later overturned due to his opponent failing a drugs test. ‘Sweet Child’s’ big win came in November, where, after five knockdowns, he scored a fourth round stoppage of Zack Kuhn to take the West Virginia State welterweight title.
Michael Devine – 15(5)-5(2)-1 – Lightweight
The Luton boxer, intensely proud of his Wexford and Irish roots, lost a disputed decision to Ismail Anwar in his opening bout of 2016, but bounced back brilliantly. Chunky made his Irish debut three weeks later, outpointing Vitalijs Usovs over four before becoming a two-weight BBBoC Southern Area champion in December. Here Devine scored a stunning second round stoppage over Ben Day at the York Hall, and the 27 year old has Irish title ambitions for 2017.
Ryan Doyle – 14(8)-1(1)-1 – Featherweight
Dublin descendant Doyle built on his 2015 English title draw against Isaac Lowe with three wins. A quick stoppage of Ismail Anwar lead into a July title fight with Ian Bailey for the English title vacated by Lowe. Doyle had been stopped by the same opponent in 2014 but there would be no repeat this time round as he knocked Bailey down in the first en-route to a comfortable ten-round points win. Doyle then rounded out the year with another headline appearance at the Victoria Warehouse in November, where he stopped Tamas Laska in the second.
Cam O’Connell – 14(9)-0-1 – Lightweight
The Red Deer Rebel enjoyed a successful second half to 2016, winning four fights in six months. The rising Canadian 135lber defeated Hungarians Bence Molnar and Norbert Kalucza before beating Mexican’s Abraham Gomez and Juan Bedolla Orozco. 28 next month, O’Connell is aiming for titles and big domestic fights in the new year.
Danny O’Connor – 27(10)-3(1) – Welterweight
A man that deserves recognition, O’Connor returned to the ring this year following his devastating first round knockout to Gabe Bracero in October 2015. The Framingham fighter however was not back for personal glory, instead returning to raise funds for his children’s mentoring programme – Off The Canvas. In his sole bout of the year, O’Connor came in as the away fighter against Jerry Thomas in Topeka, Kansas in August and emerged a split-decision winner after eight.
Joe Smith Jr – 23(19)-1(1) – Light Heavyweight
‘The Irish Bomber’ has had a sensational 2016. Following a win over Fabiano Pena, the Long Islander was plucked from relative obscurity to face the world title-chasing Andrzej Fonfara in June. Meant to be a showcase bout for the Chicago-based Pole, Smith scored a stunning opening round knockout at the UIC Pavilion in one of the shocks of the year. The New Yorker secured another big fight off the back of this and was brought in to be the opponent for the final fight of the legendary career of Bernard Hopkins. Again Smith would upset the odds and rewrite the script, claiming an eighth round stoppage in LA.
Dillian Whyte – 20(15)-1(1) – Heavyweight
The Brixton-based big man posted four wins this year. The Jamaican-born Whyte, whose grandfather hailed from Cork, defeated Ivica Bacurin and the popular Dave Allen before winning the vacant British title in October against Ian Lewison, forcing a tenth round retirement. Earlier this month he engaged in a bad-blood bout with Dereck Chisora. A fight that somehow managed to live up to the pre-fight hype, Whyte took a split decision win after a twelve-round war with the grizzled veteran.
Honourable mentions: Seanie Monaghan, Hughie Fury, Luke Watkins, Josh O’Reilly, Aarron Morgan, Dan-Dan Keenan, Liam Conroy, Jamie Cox, Gary Corcoran.