The Rinty Monaghan Fighter of the Year – 2016

19 categories have been released and now it’s time for the big one – Fighter of the Year.

Reading through the list one can see the depth of top talent on this island. All boxers nominated, as well as every other boxer that calls these shores home, deserves endless credit for stepping into the ring and it has been a privilege for us here at Irish-Boxing.com to be able to cover each and every fighter.

The award is named after former World flyweight champion and Belfast legend Rinty Monaghan.

And the nominees are…

Ryan Burnett – Bantamweight
The talented North Belfast man claimed a points win over French gatekeeper Anthony Settoul on the Frampton-Quigg undercard in February, before another points win over Mexican Cesar Ramirez during the Summer. The big one came in October however when he defended his British title on hostile ground against Ryan Farrag in Liverpool, putting in a career-best performance against the former European champion and putting himself on the cusp of a world title shot in 2017.

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Jamie Conlan – Super Flyweight
The Belfast super flyweight won the first major title of his career, stopping champion Anthony Nelson in the eighth round of a knockdown-filled war in London in April to take the Commonwealth title. Two easy wins in keep-busy bouts would follow and Conlan has now had a WBO world title final eliminator confirmed for 2017 as he looks to take the next step.

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Christina Desmond – Middleweight
The Cork boxer has this year announced herself as one of the stars of the new generation of Irish boxing. The young Leesider caused a stir in April when she defeated European champion Nouchka Fontijn, and Desmond would later add her first pieces of senior silverware to a medal cabinet already full of underage achievements. First there was the World University Championships in Thailand where the Rebelette took bronze, becoming Ireland’s first ever medalist at the tournament. Then, just weeks later in Sofia at the European Championships, Desmond claimed another brilliant bronze.

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Carl Frampton – Super Bantamweight & Featherweight
Potentially the worldwide Fighter of the Year for 2016 and has already won the BBBoC version of the award. In February Frampton unified his IBF 122lbs belt with Scott Quigg’s WBA strap in a long-awaited pay-per-view showdown at the Manchester Arena. Following the relatively comfortable win, ‘The Jackal’ moved up to featherweight and jumped straight into a WBA title fight with three-weight champ Leo Santa Cruz, inflicting a first ever defeat on the Mexican-American and entering the pound-for-pound Top 10.

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Kelly Harrington – Light Welterweight
The inner-city Dub won a fantastic silver at the World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. Here she stormed into the final with wins over Austeja Auciote (Lithuania), Cindy Rogge (Germany), Zarina Tsoloyeva (Kazakhstan), and Sara Kali (Canada), before being edged out by China’s Yang Wenlu. Further underlining her class, the Glasnevin fighter would later defeat World Championships bronze medalist Skye Nicolson of Australia twice in international bouts. Harrington is now aiming to move down to lightweight and is targeting a spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

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JJ McDonagh – Super Middleweight & Light Heavyweight
The Mullingar puncher defended his Irish title against Darren Cruise in April, taking a narrow points win after ten competitive rounds. The Westmeath southpaw then jumped up in weight for a short-notice bout against Jake Ball in November. Here he scored a sensational shock first round knockout over the Matchroom prospect, and the Westmeath man is now looking to build on this win in the new year.

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Jason Quigley – Middleweight
Two huge wins in 2016 now see Jason Quigley approaching the fringes of world title level. The Donegal fighter dominated James De La Rosa on the Canelo-Khan undercard in May, taking a lopsided points decision in the first real test of his pro career. This level of opposition was sustained for his following fight against Puerto Rican knockout artist Jorge Melendez, where Quigley would give an exhibition of his own punch-power with a first round demolition of the Caribbean boxer.

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Katie Taylor
By her, insanely high, standards, it was probably the worst year of the Wicklow woman’s career. However, she still claimed World Championships bronze in Kazakhstan, a great achievement regardless. Taylor has since turned pro, racked up two quick wins, and is seemingly near to a world title fight.

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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: joneill6@tcd.ie