Who is Ireland’s Greatest Ever Male Amateur Boxer?

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Joe Ward claimed an absolutely magnificent third European gold medal on Saturday

The Moate light heavyweight, still only 23 years old, defeated Russian Muslim Gadzhimagomedov in Kharkiv to claim top prize at 81kg.

A monumental achievement which is undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in Irish sporting history.

Something which is a lot less significant, although perhaps something entertaining to debate, is where Ward ranks among his Irish peers.

With three European golds, two World Championships medals, not to mention two underage World golds, the Westmeath big man certainly has a strong claim to being Ireland’s greatest ever male amateur boxer.

How do you quantify it though?

Is medaling on the Olympic stage essential to being ‘the best’? Many will argue that the World Championships is a tougher tournament to win. Indeed would Ward need to rule the world in this respect to lay claim to the mantle of ‘Ireland’s Greatest’?

There are a number of contenders –

Does Michael Carruth’s Olympic gold in 1992, alongside World bronze in 1989, mark him out?
Is Michael Conlan’s World Championships gold, alongside his glut of other medals at all levels, proof that he is number one?
Is the longevity and medal haul of double Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes cause to call him the best?
What about John Joe Nevin, who has medaled at all levels?
Then there is Kenny Egan, another with an eye-watering medal tally and one who perhaps should have had Olympic gold himself?

It is, in essence an almost unanswerable question. A debate that will be had in Leonard’s Corner for many a year, and opinion will be split, with personal preferences and individual tastes seeing a wide spread of answers.

Achievements can’t really be quantified, with the different and ever-changing circumstances preventing the creation of a model. However, we have tried to do just that.

Not intended to be taken hugely seriously, more just an interesting debate-starter, Irish-Boxing.com have come up with a points system to score boxers on their international achievements.

It went as follows:
EU Championships/Commonwealth Games Bronze – 1 point
EU Championships/Commonwealth Games Silver – 2 points
EU Championships/Commonwealth Games Gold – 3 points
European Championships/Games Bronze – 3 points
European Championships/Games Silver – 4 points
European Championships/Games Gold – 5 points
World Championships Bronze – 5 points
World Championships Silver – 6 points
World Championships Gold – 7 points
Olympic Bronze – 6 points
Olympic Silver – 7 points
Olympic Gold – 8 points

Obviously this system isn’t perfect. The EU Championships only ran for a short period of time and the World Championships are relatively new, it doesn’t factor in international achievements at Youth or Junior level or National Senior titles, and it doesn’t differentiate between the opposition faced.

Nevertheless, just to apply it to Ireland’s top boxers as a guide, the results are as follows

1 – Paddy Barnes (29 points)
Olympic bronze x2, European gold and silver, Commonwealth gold x2, EU silver

2 – John Joe Nevin (27 points)
Olympic silver, World bronze x2, European gold, EU gold and silver

=3 – Joe Ward (26 points)
European gold x3, World silver and bronze

=3 – Kenny Egan (26 points)
Olympic silver, EU gold x3, silver, and bronze x2, European bronze x2

5 – Mick Conlan (25 points)
World gold, Olympic bronze, European gold and silver, Commonwealth gold.

6 – Michael Carruth (13 points)
Olympic gold, World bronze

=7 – Darren Sutherland (12 points)
Olympic bronze, EU gold x2

=7 – Jim McCourt (12 points)
Olympic bronze, European bronze, Commonwealth gold

=7 – Michael O’Reilly (12 points)
European Games gold, World bronze, EU silver

10 – Jason Quigley (11 points)
World silver, European gold

=11 – John McNally (10 points)
Olympic silver, European bronze

=11 – Fred Tiedt (10 points)
Olympic silver, European bronze

=11 – Wayne McCullough (10 points)
Olympic silver, Commonwealth gold

=11 – Terry Milligan (10 points)
European silver and bronze, Commonwealth gold

=15 – Darren O’Neill (9 points)
European silver, EU gold and silver

=15 – David Oliver Joyce (9 points)
EU gold x3

=17 – Damaen Kelly (8 points)
World bronze, European bronze

=17 – Paul Griffin (8 points)
European gold and bronze

Then, of course, there is Katie Taylor, who has 98 points by virtue of 5 World gold and one bronze, Olympic gold, European Games gold, 6 European gold, and 5 EU gold

Who do you think is Ireland’s greatest ever male amateur boxer

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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