By Marc Gorman
PRO BOXING ON THE EMERALD ISLE
With the professional boxing scene in Ireland experiencing a slight lull in the past couple of years, 2014 saw an Irish boxing revival for the sweet science. The amateur scene, brimming with world class talent had been outshining the Pro ranks off the back of a hugely successful London Olympics. Ireland, always present on the world scene in boxing had been without a world champion since Bernard Dunne in 2009. It was a slightly false reflection of the talent pool here with a number of boxers knocking on the door of the world scene and sometimes falling slightly short.
September saw Belfast’s Carl Frampton (19(13)-0-0) capture the IBF Super Bantamweight Championship. Frampton, managed by former Featherweight world champion Barry McGuigan beat Spain’s Kiko Martinez for the second time. Frampton had been coming up the ranks the right way, an excellent amateur, he won Commonwealth, European and IBF Inter-Continental honours before capturing the World Championship belt last year. He is now looking to push on through the division and is chasing WBA Champion Scott Quigg for a unification fight.
SPIKE AND FITZY
Fights are often described as “grudge matches”, this was certainly true of the match up between Corks Gary “Spike” O Sullivan and Dublins Anthony Fitzgerald. Spike had lost to Billy Joe Saunders by decision in July 2013, a fight that I firmly believe was lost due to ring inactivity for Spike, he looked to revive his career against Fitzgerald. There was genuine needle between both fighters in the build up to this fight with exchanges coming from both camps at press conferences and interviews. Rumours of this fight happening had been circulating for quite some time, we were obliged by Matchroom Sport and the fight was on. Fitzgerald had mixed in better company than Spike having taken former world champ Hassan N’Dam the distance and taking Andy Lee all the was also. Spike however had been getting some world class sparring and was hugely focused on bouncing back from the Saunders loss (Taking a tune-up fight in Boston in June against Jose Medina). The bout produced a candidate for KO of the year with Spike taking centre of the ring and stunningly Knocking Fitzgerald with a beautiful uppercut in the 1st round. This was just the statement Spike needed to put himself in line for bigger fights. 2015 should be a promising year for the Cork Middleweight.
GOOD GUYS CAN FINISHED FIRST – ANDY LEE
A roller coaster ride is what could be used to describe the career of Irish middleweight Andy Lee. An Olympian in the 2004 Athens Olympics, lee was snapped up by Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward and moved to his Kronk Gym in Detroit. Lee was matched well in the states under Steward’s guidance and was expected to beat Brian Vera in 2008 when he was beaten by the American via TKO. He rebuilt (eventually beating Vera 3 years later) and was given his first World Title shot against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
in June 2012. Chavez, renowned for piling on over 20 lbs after the Friday weigh in, stopped Lee in the 7th round. Lee was left without a trainer when Emanuel Steward passed away in 2012. He moved to London and began training by Adam Booth, he began the long road back to a World Title shot, wins over Anthony Fitzgerald and a stunning KO over John Jackson, a fight in which he was losing put him in a position to fight for the vacant WBO title against the unbeaten Matt Korobov. Korobov, an amateur world champion twice and coming into the fight at 24-0 with 14 KO’s was the favourite against Lee. The fight was a cagey affair, with Korobov’s superior work rate being the dividing factor. However, Lee became more and more comfortable letting Korobov be the aggressor in order to use his counter punching to wear his opponent down. Wobbled in the 3rd round, Korobov came back to control the pace before being caught with a beautiful counter right hook which again wobbled the Russian, however this time Lee followed up with a flurry that rendered Korobov defenseless, Kenny Bayless stopped the fight making Lee the first Irish boxer to win a world title in America since 1934.
CORKONIAN MANAGED POUND FOR POUND TALENT
With Irish boxing going from strength to strength inside the ring, outside Ireland is making noise at world level also. An unlikely pairing of Cork man Gary Hyde and Cuban sensation, double Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of boxing’s success stories in the last 5 years. Rigondeaux, with 475 wins as an amateur is one of the best pound for pound boxers in the world capturing the WBA Super Bantamweight Title in just 9 fights. He is managed by Hyde under the Nowhere to Hyde banner and is now looking to capture every belt at 122lbs. A great success story both inside and out of the ring, it is testament to the current revival of the Irish Boxing scene.
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