Why 2023 Has Been a Year to Forget for Irish Boxing 

Over the course of the last decade, Irish athletes have been at the forefront of combat sports. Andy Lee became the country’s first boxing world champion in years when he knocked out Russia’s Matt Korobov in stunning fashion back in December 2014. Carl Frampton etched his name into the pound-for-pound list two years later when he outpointed megastar Léo Santa Cruz two years later in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. 

And it isn’t just the world of boxing where the Fighting Irish have shot to prominence. Within the world of WWE, Ireland’s Becky Lynch has become one of the most recognizable professional wrestlers on planet Earth. In fact, her star shone so brightly that she became the first woman in history – alongside former UFC champion Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair – to main event WrestleMania back in 2019. 

Conor McGregor Puts Ireland on the Map

And speaking of the UFC, any mention of combat sports wouldn’t be complete without a tipping of the hat to Dublin’s very own Conor McGregor. Throughout the late 2010s, the Notorious One became perhaps the biggest sports star on the planet with his brash trash talk and his exciting fighting style. His victories over pound-for-pound king Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez made him the first simultaneous two-weight world champion in UFC history. 

In recent years, however, his star has also waned. Despite remaining one of the UFC’s biggest stars, he hasn’t beaten a ranked opponent in almost seven years. McGregor is certainly no stranger to the bright lights and glamour of Las Vegas, and his love for the city’s vibrant nightlife and exciting gambling scene has been well-documented over the years, and maybe that has played some part in his downfall. 

He has been known to frequent some of the city’s most exclusive nightclubs and high-end casinos, including the iconic Bellagio and the luxurious Wynn Las Vegas. However, the MMA superstar has also shown a particular fondness for online video poker games, which allow him to enjoy the thrill of gambling from the comfort of his own home. In fact, McGregor was previously sponsored by one of the most popular online gambling websites in Ireland, and it is thought that this is where the hobby first emerged. 

McGregor is expected to return to action later this year and who knows how he will fare. But let’s hope he can improve Ireland’s disappointing 2023 thus far. 

Katie Taylor Loses Homecoming Bout 

Ever since Katie Taylor picked up an Olympic Gold Medal at London 2012, it was clear that she was destined for greatness. When she turned professional and signed with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing four years later, the sky truly was the limit. And she hasn’t just reached the sky, she’s touched the stars. 

She became a world champion in just her seventh professional fight when she defeated Anahí Ester Sánchez on Anthony Joshua’s undercard at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. Three years later, she ensured that she was the undisputed queen lightweight as she defeated Belgian Delfine Persoon via a razor-thin unanimous decision to secure all the gold. But it isn’t just on a personal level that Taylor has shone. 

The Bray-born icon has elevated women’s boxing to a level such that it is now perhaps on par with the women’s divisions in the UFC. Her April 2022 victory over American star Amanda Serrano was awarded the Event of the Year award by Ring Magazine. As such, her adoring Irish fans have been desperate for her homecoming however, unfortunately for them, things didn’t go as planned. 

Taylor returned home back in May for a relatively run-of-the-mill title defence against mandatory challenger Chantelle Cameron. It ended up being anything but. The English star managed to throw the Irish champion off her usual game to claim a unanimous decision victory and hand the now-former champ the first loss of her professional career. Promoter Eddie Hearn has confirmed that there will be a rematch later in the year, and that promises to be a make-or-break affair for the former undisputed queen of the lightweight division. 

Mick Conlan Knocked Out Again 

As was the case with compatriot Katie Taylor, Mick Conlan also featured at the 2012 Olympic Games, where he would pick up a bronze medal. Four years later, he famously quit amateur boxing after a controversial loss at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. He subsequently turned pro and embarked upon a 16-fight winning streak. 

That however came crashing down in March of last year as he was brutally knocked out by Leigh Wood in the final round of his maiden world title tilt in Nottingham, despite being ahead on the judges’ scorecards. He would bounce back with back-to-back victories over Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi, which put him in line for another title shot. This time, that would come against IBF Featherweight king Luis Alberto Lopez in Belfast. 

However, as was the case last year, his hopes of becoming world champion came crashing down in brutal fashion. Conlan was knocked out in front of his own fans by the hard-hitting Mexican champion, and it remains to be seen where the 31-year-old’s career goes from here. 

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com