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The story of the Irishman who handed Malignaggi his first ever defeat

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On Saturday night in New York, two-weight World champion Paulie Malignaggi boxes Gabe Bracero on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s World title challenge against Leo Santa Cruz – but that’s not the Magic Man’s only link to Ireland.

Eighteen years ago this October Malignaggi graced the canvas of the National Stadium, but came a cropper against a young lad from Crumlin by the name of Aaron Dempsey.

The bout was part of show ran by two-time Olympian Phil Sutcliffe Snr which pitted his Crumlin side against a New York select made up mostly of fighters from the famous Gleason’s Gym.

Dempsey and Malignaggi opened the show that night and the Irishman shocked the future World boxing star and took points win.

Aaron spoke to about that night and recalled how “it was a good start to the night to get the win.”

“Phil only informed me afterwards that Malinaggi was a Golden Gloves champion and that he hadn’t told me in case I gave him too much respect!”

“There was some cracking fights on that night and a brilliant atmosphere in the Stadium.”

Indeed Malignaggi wasn’t the only future World champion to box on the card, as Dempsey explained how “another clubmate of mine, Adam Whiston, fought and beat Luis Collazo who went on to win a WBA Welterweight Title and had fights with Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Amir Khan, Victor Ortiz and most recently Keith Thurman, so a great name to have on the CV for Adam who was a very good and strong boxer.”

Last year another Crumlin man, top cutman Andrew O’Neill, enabled Malignaggi and Dempsey to be reunited in Vegas during the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight week.

Dempsey described how “Andrew was working the corner for Chris Pearson on the undercard of the Mayweather fight and told me he bumped into Malignaggi and mentioned about him being in Crumlin all those years ago.”

“He seemed delighted and asked Andy to organise for us to meet the next day.”

malignaggi signing aaron dempseys glove“We met in the MGM and we sat and watched the fight on YouTube and had a great chat about what we had both been up to since, and his career.”

“He remembered so much of the fight and his time in Crumlin.”

“We got a few pics and he signed a glove for my son. He was a really nice guy and I still keep in touch with him.”

Dempsey had to be the bearer of some bad news for Malignaggi though as the Brooklyn slickster “informed me it was his first ever loss and afterwards his coach has reassured him by telling him that I was undefeated!”

“We had a good laugh when I told him I had as many losses as wins!”


Dempsey had a busy amateur career but never really hit the heights. On his time in the ring he detailed how “I boxed for 10 years, three years with Mount Tallant and seven years with Crumlin BC.”

“I gave up too soon at 24, the usual story!”

“I never got to that coveted Irish title unfortunately, the furthest being a couple of National Intermediate Semi-finals. I boxed a few lads that went onto box well at Senior Elite level, Karl Brabazon, Fergus Turner, Fergal Redmond.”

“In Crumlin though we had some cracking sparring partners at that time, Paul Griffin, Glen Stephens, Gavin Brown, Bernard Dunne, Jamie Moore, Leon and Tony Senior to name only a few.”

Now working in the printing business, 38 year old Dempsey has stayed involved in boxing and tells how “besides cheering on Phillip Sutcliffe Jnr’s career, I help Phil Snr. out with some coaching for the current batch of champions and indeed future champions.”

“There is some really good talent in Crumlin BC at the moment and some boys and girls that will go very far in the game. Irish Champions William Hayden, Craig Kavanagh, Cian Doyle, Jamie Edwards, Michael Myers, Courtney Daly and future champs Calvin Murray, Cameron Elliot McLoughlin, Ben Farrelly, Ryan Bolger, Luke Hill, Nu Erikas and Shelby Myers to name just a few.”

A real boxing man, Aaron Dempsey will always be able to look back on October 3rd 1998 with fondness. Miguel Cotto may have been the first fighter to beat Malignaggi in the pros, but a young fella from Crumlin was the first to taste victory over the Magic Man.

Watch Aaron Dempsey v Paulie Malignaggi in full below (featuring a nine year old Phil Sutcliffe Jr as flag-bearer).

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: