The 5 Biggest Disappointments in Irish Boxing

After the crushing sadness that overcame us when news of the postponement and change of venue of Andy Lee’s Thomond world title defence broke, we decided to recall some of the many, many, other times when things just didn’t go the way they were supposed to for Irish boxers and boxing.

Tissues at the ready.

Barry McGuigan – Steve Cruz
A true titan of Irish life and sport, Barry McGuigan won the WBA featherweight title back in 1985 after he defeated legendary Panamanian Eusebio Pedroza at a packed Loftus Road in London. ‘The Clones Cyclone’ was the man to finally wrestle the crown off Pedroza after a record nineteen defences, and it seemed like the ferocious Monaghan man would go on to have a similar reign.

Two successful defences followed, before McGuigan attempted to break America. A sweltering Caesar’s Palace car park in June was the venue where McGuigan faced unheralded Texan, Steve Cruz, on the undercard of a Thomas Hearns world title fight. McGuigan was winning the fight at half-way before the 43 degree heat began to take its toll and the severely dehydrated Irishman was decisively dropped twice in the fifteenth round to give Cruz a narrow points win. McGuigan would neither fight in America again, nor reclaim his title.

Kenny Egan – Zhang Xiaoping
After a 16 year medal famine for Irish boxing at the Olympics, 2008 signaled the re-emergence of the Emerald Isle as an international boxing powerhouse. At the Beijing Games, a High Performance-inspired Ireland won three medals in the ring, most notably through Neilstown BC light heavyweight Kenny Egan who took home silver – however, with different judges, it could have been so much better.

The Dubliner roared through his first four bouts, with an aggregate score of 50-7, before facing China’s Zhang Xiaoping in the final. People all over Ireland set their alarms to cheer Kenny on against a boxer who, both before and after, did little else on the international scene. Egan however heartbreakingly lost 11-7 – though this scoreline does not tell the full story.

Many scoring shots landed by the Irishman against the home boxer were not acknowledged by the judges. Indeed there were enough legitimate blows to swing the bout that most believed Egan to have won – including Paddy Power, who paid out on all bets on Egan to win gold..

Bernard Dunne – Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym
In one of the greatest fights in Irish boxing history, Neilstown’s Bernard Dunne climbed off the canvas twice to score an 11th round knockout over Ricardo Cordoba at the Point Theatre back in 2009. This victory over the rangy Panamanian won Dunne the WBA super bantamweight title, and Irish fight fans immediately began to think of Las Vegas super-fights with the likes of Mexican legends Israel Vázquez and Rafael Marquez. First, however, Dunne had to deal with his mandatory challenger, Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym of Thailand.

On that September night, Dunne began well, using his boxing skills to stay out of danger. However a few heavy warning shots from the Thai slugger landed towards the end of the second round signaled that the tide was starting to turn. Indeed it would only get worse as Poonsawat would have Dunne on the floor thrice, and – while ‘The Irish Rover’ valiantly arose each time – the bout was waved off with Dunne retiring soon-after

Joe Ward – Bahram Muzaffer
Back in 2012 Joe Ward was in the form of his life, he had beaten Kenny Egan in successive National Elite Senior Finals and won gold at the 2011 European Championships – at the age of just 17. A contentious loss to Iran’s Ehsan Rouzbahani in the World Championships meant that Ward would have to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic via a European Qualifier in Turkey.

Qualification for Ward, one of the Olympic gold medal favourites, seemed a formality until he drew a Turkish boxer, Bahram Muzaffer. The Moate light heavyweight ‘won’ a clear decision over the Turk, however the judges somehow conceived to give the decision to the home boxer.

The Westmeath man’s family undertook a desperate eleventh hour appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, but this was rejected and Ward had to look on from the sidelines.

As for Muzaffer, he lost his opening bout at Olympics and was eliminated.

Andy Lee – Matt Macklin – John Duddy
Between around 2007 and 2010 Ireland was blessed with three top class middleweights all in and around World level. Sadly though, none of the exciting trio would ever share the ring. In the minds of all three and their teams, All-Ireland world title unification fights possibly dissuaded them from getting into the ring – but, as we all know, the best laid plans rarely come to fruition in boxing.

A shock loss to Bryan Vera in 2008 led to Andy Lee to undergoing a period of rebuilding. Duddy would lose his unbeaten record, and a lot of lustre, to Billy Lyell in 2009 before losing to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and retiring afterwards. During this time, Macklin was ripping men apart as European champion.

Reams of articles were written and, despite the exciting mesh of styles, and the fact that any bout between the three would have immediately became one of the biggest fights in Irish boxing history, it was not to be

On a more hopeful note, after three failed world title shots, Macklin is aiming for one last hurrah and hopes to slingshot himself into title contention soon enough, could a bout with WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee finally happen after all these years?

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: [email protected]