Boxing isn’t always glory and titles – indeed it is more often disappointment that reigns supreme.
Despite the tough nature of the sport, there are plenty of Irish fighters who have shown dedication, commitment, and bravery above and beyond the call of duty.
We like to recognise the efforts of these sometimes underappreciated stars of the Irish fight family with The Steve Collins Warrior of the Year – for fighters who just keep going when many others would stop.
And the nominees are…
Alec Bazza – Light Welterweight.
The Belfast Spartan’s search for a first win continued in 2016 as the gamest journeyman around suffered five defeats and a draw on away territory. While the draw may look like some reward for the aggressive fighter, it came due to a cut suffered from a head clash whilst his opponent was hurt. The gash then ruled him out of a ‘home’ fight in Belfast and a chance to grab a much-deserved win. Bazza aims to move down to lightweight in the new year and, with Alio Wilton looking to run numerous shows, we may finally get to see him claim victory in 2017.
Casey Blair – Light Middleweight
The Bangor brawler fought 16 times in 2016 and scored a glorious victory in November. Fighting in front of a large home crowd in Belfast, including his children, the 37 year old outpointed Iranian Alireza Alimohammadi over six to post his first win in two years.
Sean Creagh – Light Welterweight
A breath of fresh air in the domestic division, Sean Creagh jumped into a high profile fight with the talented Tyrone McKenna in just his fifth fight. Despite a huge disadvantage in height, skill, and experience, the Dubliner kept swarming forward, sustaining a torn bicep in the process, before being compassionately pulled out by his corner in the fifth. While he lost his undefeated record, and faces a spell on the sidelines, Creagh won the respect of many for both taking the fight and his performance that night in Belfast.
Jamesy Gorman – Light Welterweight
After almost eight years away, Gorman returned to boxing this year in the role of a durable journeyman. ‘The Chin’ fought 20 times in 2016, the majority of which where as the away fighter, but he showed that there is plenty of life in the old dog yet in November in an eight-round battle with Shortty Carroll in Belfast. The veteran pushed Carroll all the way over eight rounds, losing a narrow decision and proving that he can still mix it at domestic level.
Lynn Harvey – Flyweight
If you want a pure visual representation of fighting pride you should look at Lynn Harvey’s six-round battle with Mary Romero in Dublin in November. Hopelessly outsized, the Kilbarrack puncher just kept marching forward, refusing to quit despite taking some huge shots – and always throwing back, finishing the stronger of the two fighters. For Harvey the loss looks like it will be but a minor blip, and the Dubliner won many fans with her insanely brave display.
David Oliver Joyce – Lightweight
The St Michael’s Athy fighter fulfilled his dream this year. After seven failed attempts, some under dubious circumstances, the Kildare puncher qualified for the Rio Olympics in Turkey in April. Joyce then won his opening bout against Andrique Allisop of the Seychelles in one of the few bright spots of a disappointing Games.
Christina McMahon – Super Flyweight
Boxing can be cruel, and McMahon knows this more than most. The Monaghan woman lost a dubious decision to Zulina Munoz in Mexico in March and was then engaged in a lengthy battle with the WBC regarding the anti-doping procedures, among other failings. With a rematch not forthcoming, McMahon seemed to have caught a break with a Dublin world title fight in December against Linda Laura Lecca – however this would fall through in another cruel blow. McMahon though continues to soldier on, and now looks to have secured a much-deserved World title shot for next year.
Shaun McShane – Light Welterweight
The Donegal boxer challenged for the vacant Scottish title in March against Eddie Doyle, losing a hugely debated decision to the home fighter. The Rosses fighter was given a second chance against Doyle in October but was edged out again. The Ulsterman plans to return to Ireland in the new year and is looking for the opportunity to fight at home after so long off the radar.
Darren O’Neill – Heavyweight
The Kilkenny former middleweight had moved up to heavyweight to attempt to qualify for a second Olympic Games. The Paulstown puncher’s best chance however was extinguished at the European Olympic Qualifier in Turkey where he was extremely harshly adjudged to have been beaten by #1 seed Abdullayev Abdulkadir of Azerbaijan – a fight in which Katie Taylor described O’Neill as having been ‘robbed blind.’ Despite Tokyo 2020 being, in all likelihood, a bridge too far for O’Neill, he intends to keep boxing for the immediate future and is aiming for the Seniors in February and, potentially, one last hurrah on the international stage in 2017.