Fomer WBU welterweight champion of the world Eamonn Magee has had both a life and boxing career more memorable than most. He’s been shot, stabbed, beaten, exiled and jailed (as per his own admission on Twitter) but the journey isn’t over yet. Soon, he’s bringing out his own book to tell this once off story of highs and lows.
While Eamonn is currently working on his book and having followed his career closely growing up, I wanted to find out his opinion on some of the memories that stood out for me on his career, namely his epic battle with Britain’s Ricky Hatton in 2002 but also, what he thought of modern day Belfast boxing great Carl ‘The Jackal’ Frampton.
Here’s what he told us.
In your famous fight against Ricky Hatton, how close did you think Hatton was to going when you dropped him?
“I dropped him inside a minute, but for the only time in my career I didn’t go in for the kill. He was only 23, eight years younger than me, so I knew he’d recover from that one. I actually cursed my luck that I’d caught him so early in the fight. Had that happened midway through, I would have finished him.
In fact, I believe I should have finished him in the second when I hurt him badly and he was struggling. But as I made my move, Micky Vann inexplicably stopped me and gave him a few vital seconds to recover. That was the moment to go for the kill.”
I remember hearing you took elaborate measures to prepare for Hatton’s body shots in the build-up to the fight, with people in the gym hitting you in the body with bamboo sticks – was that true?
“Absolutely true. Hatton was famous for his body punches so John Breen, Vinty McGurk and Tommy Kelly took it in turns to beat my stomach and sides with a broom handle.
Every day in the gym they’d line up and take full swings at me until they ran out of breath.”
(Hatton vs Magee full fight video back in 2002)
Is it possible to put into words what the Ricky Hatton body punches felt like – were there any fighters that compared to him you shared the ring with for body punches?
“I can honestly say that Ricky never hurt me once, to the body or anywhere else, during our 12 rounds together. I was a very slick fighter and in my whole career I was too cute to ever let anyone land a clean, direct hit on me.
You can ask Ricky yourself. In fact, he put it in his book. He said that he was used to hearing his opponents let out little gasps or screams of pain as he whaled on their body, but there wasn’t a peep from me in 36 minutes.”
Did you look up to any boxer as an inspiration growing up?
“My inspiration growing up and throughout my whole career was watching my three older brothers box. Seeing how good they were, and seeing all the success they had, drove me to try and emulate them. Patrick won a load of amateur titles.
Terry the same and then the Irish title as a pro, while Noel beat Steve Collins twice as an amateur and then became Commonwealth champ in the paid ranks. In terms of global names, it was always Marvin Hagler. He was a southpaw like me and he could both fight and box. He was very, very good and I based some of my style on him.”
Finally, do you think Carl Frampton can become the greatest Irish fighter ever?
“Carl still has a few years to reach his full potential, but in my mind he needs a couple more massive wins to get past Dave Boy McAuley as the greatest Irish fighter. McAuley is criminally underrated and underappreciated in boxing circles. People forget what he achieved.
He was a 10/1 underdog when he went to Wembley and beat the three-weight world champ Duke McKenzie for the world title. He then defended it five or six times, often getting up off the canvas to win wars. Had he come along a few years before McGuigan rather than after, Dave Boy would have been the superstar and not Barry.”
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