The Assassin and Red Promotions show brought boxing back to Irish terrestrial television via TG4, provided a format and platform that captured casual attention, provided fans die hardened and not with entertaining and meaningful fights, and helped create some names within the sport.
However, the victor of the tournament and the €25,000 winner’s cheque points out a massive positive that may have been overlooked.
Seven weeks ago Roy Sheahan was an EU gold medal winning and four-time Irish champion amateur working on a building site. At 33 years of age and working full time, entering the National Elite Championships wasn’t even an option, turning pro was considered and discussed, but just wasn’t practical.
The Athy fighter was all too aware that trading leather isn’t like trading goods or services, making money especially in the early days wasn’t on the cards. Considering his age he wasn’t prepared to sacrifice two years worth of wages to build a record with victories over journeymen in the hope that big fights would then come.
In that regard, we would have never known whether or not the talented amateur could adapt to life without the vest and, while his amateur achievements would never have been forgotten, the top addition to the pro boxing family could have fallen by the wayside.
However, the Last Man Standing format and the cash it offered was enough to tempt the St Michael’s Athy amateur into taking the risk. At the very least he would take a six-week career break and at most he could leapfrog a year’s worth of four rounders and position himself in a place from which he could potentially earn a living.
Anyone that watched Sheahan [4(1)-0] from ringside or live on TV knows the potential the paradoxically fresh to the pros veteran fighter has. There are certainly some big nights ahead for ‘The Joker’ and without Last Man Standing, Irish fight fans and the fighter himself would never have gotten to experience them.
“I was on about going pro for a while. My mates Eric Donovan and Davey Oliver Joyce they had already done it. I was in talks about going pro, but I needed a wage to support the family and it is hard for pros to make money,” Sheahan said after the fight.
“This tournament was different. It’s an eight man set up and you get money no matter what and I was getting help with my travel so it was an opportunity for me to get into the pros. The winner was promised an Irish title so it was money and progression. I know I can’t go straight into a title shot because I need six and eight round fights. Now I can get fights and if I want to leave work I can continue boxing and see where the journey takes me. We can see how far I can go.”
The money on offer was a massive factor in enabling Sheahan to take part, but the quality of opponent he knew he would face also interested him.
The eventual Last Man Standing knew he could gauge his own potential by sharing the ring with unbeaten fighters, Irish champions and hungry young up and comers.
“These lads are pro for the last six or seven years. The lad I fought in the final was 10-0, JJ McDonagh is an Irish champion, Chris Blaney is trained by Ricky Hatton and has a good record. There were no journeymen in there, they are brilliant boxers and I came out on top.”
“We had the tactics right and big thanks to Steven O’Rourke for helping me with those. Everything went to plan and we got the jobs done. That’s me now the winner.”
“This was to see if I was good enough and I think now I can continue on and get a few title fights. I am 33, I don’t want to be fighting journeymen, I want to be fighting around the top. That is why I said I’d come into this tournament to fight some fighters pushing toward the top and gauge myself.”
Now he is the Last Man Standing, Sheahan doesn’t want to stand still. He wants the Irish title and much like his former amateur club mate Donovan, he sees that as a stepping stone to European success.
“I think I have more to offer and let’s see how far I can go. If I can get an Irish title and then look at the European title. I’ll go ’till I can’t go anymore and I feel right now like I can. I feel like I am up there not just with the best in Ireland, but in Europe too.”
“I am only off a building site the last six week – okay I trained hard but, if I put more time and learn more about the pros, who knows where I can go?”
The ‘what’s next’ question was always going to rear its head but Sheahan, whose gloves were taken off by reporters from RTÉ and Newstalk’s Off The Ball, was content to bask in his success in a Stadium where he ruled as an amateur.
“I am just buzzing. I’ll tell you the truth, I couldn’t wait the last few weeks just for this moment,” said Sheahan before describing his transitionary period at St Michael’s Inchicore.
“It was about seven weeks ago I left work, I got leave off my boss Dan Cotters and it was a big help. I traveled up and down to Dublin training six days a week twice a day. They brought me in and it was like a family. All the boys were great and they took me as one of their own.”
“You could see in the ring the things we were working on, myself and Steve. He is a brilliant coach and it all worked out perfect. I am over the moon tonight.”
“I won the EUs here in 2007 and that was a brilliant night. A gold medal for Ireland here that night and I beat a good lad in the final too. This is brilliant and I have to say thank you to the crowd, not just from Athy but from everywhere.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)