A look back at Ireland’s European champions – will Tommy McCarthy become #15?

Tommy McCarthy could join a special continental catalogue of fighters tonight.

‘The Mac Attack’ takes on Belgian Bilal Laggoune for the vacant European cruiserweight title behind closed doors on Sky Sports Box Office.

Victory in London will see McCarthy become only the 15th Irish fighter to conquer Europe and be crowned continental king.

The 29-year-old Mark Dunlop managed fighter could put his name alongside fight legends such as Carl Frampton, Barry McGuigan, Charlie Nash, Rinty Monaghan, Freddie Gilroy and more with a win.

Interestingly enough Ireland has less European champions than world champions and here we take a look back at those blue belt winners.

James Tennyson
McCarthy’s MHD stablemate was the latest to buckle the blue belt around his waist and did so after the most dramatic of wins.

The recent lightweight British title winner consulted the canvas after Martin J Ward caught him with the perfect body shot in the second round of their fight on the undercard of Tony Bellew versus David Haye pay-per-view heavyweight clash at the O2 Arena in May of 2018.

The Tony Dunlop-trained fighter rose to his feet, fought his way back into the fight before taking out his super featherweight rival in the fifth.

‘The Assassin’ went on to challenge for a world title, losing to Tevin Farmer before moving up in weight.

Carl Frampton
A packed Odyssey Arena rose to its feet as a game Kiko Martinez fell on his arse on the original Night of the Jackal.

Carl Frampton moved toward superstardom as he stopped the Spaniard, who himself has been a servant to Irish boxing, to become European super bantamweight champion on a special night in February of 2013.

‘The Jackal’ stopped the fighter, who at that time was famed in Ireland for winning the exact same title by stopping Bernard Dunne within a round, in the ninth round.

The win saw the Frampton journey move from national road to motorway and propelled him toward a world title win against the same opponent just two years later.

The Belfast fighter, the second Irish winner of the super bantamweight European title, went on to become a two weight world champion and could become Ireland’s first three weight world champ before 2020 is done.

Willie Casey
Ireland was going to have a new European champion barring an unlikely draw on another magic night involving the EBU title back in November of 2010.

Willie Casey and Paulie Hyland meet for the strap that not too long before decorated the waist of Dublin’s favourite son Bernard Dunne.

It was a brilliantly built first ever all-Irish European title fight that delivered for the RTÉ cameras.

A raucous Limerick crowd rejoiced as ‘Big Bang’ exploded out of the blocks, took the safety catch off and punched his way to a win over a renowned stylish talent.

Casey went on to fight for a WBA regular world title against one of the greatest ever amateurs Guillermo Rigondeaux, but that night in University Limerick proved to be the highlight of his career.

Brian Magee
Brian Magee produced one of the greatest Irish away performances to win the European tile.

Magee mauled Mads Larsen in a Denmark to start what would prove a lucrative relationship with the Scandinavians.

The Belfast super middleweight took over the fight from round three on and began to seriously hurt his foe as the rounds progressed, before he ultimately forced a seventh round stoppage.

Magee would defend the belt once, in Dublin, stopping Roman Aramyan.

Matthew Macklin
After sometime rebuilding from defeat to Jamie Moore in one of the greatest British title fights of all time, Matthew Macklin claimed the European title.

A knockout British middleweight title win over fellow Birmingham fighter Wayne Elcock in March of 2009 paved the way for a European title shot.

He followed up his three round demolition derby win over Elcock with a another destructive victory.

Finn Amin Asikainen was taken out in a round at the MEN in Manchester.

‘Mack The Knife’ fought in Dublin soon after, but had vacated the title and became a two-time EBU titlist in his next fight this time defeating Shalva Jomardashvili for the vacant strap.

Paul McCloskey
It’s a period not many harp back on, but the late 2000s were the Paul McCloskey years.

The Derry light welterweight became a Sky regular and big Belfast bill-topper during that period – and the European title had a lot to do with it.

Having taken a late notice fight against Colin Lyons and winning the British title, ‘Dudey’ went on to win the blue belt.

Following one domestic defence, McCloskey won the vacant European light welterweight title in November 2009 when he defeated Spanish boxer Daniel Rasilla after original opponent and champion Souleymane M’baye withdrew due to injury.

Two home defences, one against Giuseppe Lauri in the Kings Hall and another against Scot Barry Morrison in Letterkenny followed. Those in turn set up a massive and ultimately massively controversial fight with Amir Khan.

Bernard Dunne
Bernard Dunne brought boxing back to The Point Theatre in 2006 and claimed the European super bantamweight title on the first of many sensationally atmospheric Dublin nights during a golden era for capital boxing.

The late, great Brendan Ingle brought Esham Pickering to town promising to upset his fellow Dubs.

However, a sold-out crowd weren’t to be left disappointed as the Clondalkin man out pointed the Sheffield native to claim a famous win.

Big nights and wins over Yersin Zhailauov and Reidar Walstad were to follow, before one Kiko Martinez, a man who was the play a key role in other Irish European title fights, rolled into town.

Damaen Kelly
Damaen Kelly was the fastest Irish fighter to a European title win and the first to win it this century.

The Belfast little man was a blue strap owner after just a dozen fights.

Kelly claimed the flyweight crown by beating decorated Russian Alexander Makhmutov in a closely contested fight in Sheffield.

After a successful defence against Jose Antonio Lopez Bueno in Belfast, Kelly went the IBO world title route.

In 2006 the Belfast fighter tried to become a two weight European champ but twice came up short against Italian Simone Maludrottu in controversial circumstances.

Ray Close
Ray Close almost became the first man to defeat Chris Eubank, holding him to a draw before falling to a split-decision defeat

The fight before that and the one that secured the Belfast super middleweight the shot was a European title win.

In 1993, he defeated former world champion Vincenzo Nardiello to win the EBU European title in Italy.

Close stopped the Italian in the 10th round to win the title at the second attempt having lost the previous year in another away day to Frenchman Frank Nicotra.

Barry McGuigan
That night in Loftus Road and a sensational world title win is the fight Barry McGuigan is most remembered for.

But there were special moments and fights before that for ‘The Clones Cyclone’, one of which was a European title win.

In November in 1983, Italy’s Valerio Nati boxed McGuigan for the vacant European featherweight at the Kings Hall in Belfast, and the Irishman won the crown with a knockout in the sixth round, much to the delight of a partisan crowd.

Charlie Nash
Nash managed to win the European lightweight European title in his home county of Derry on another magical Irish blue strap night.

Th popular Foylesider outboxed three time challenger Andre Holyk of France for a title Jim Watt vacated in 1979.

Scottish legend Ken Buchanan was the man Nash had to defend against first and he out pointed the former world champ Brondby, before losing to Watt in a world title challenge.

Nash regained the EBU title in Dublin in 1980 beating Spaniard Francisco Leon in the Burlington hotel.

Freddie Gilroy
The European title is the most prestigious title one of Ireland’s finest fighters won.

The Olympic medal winner from Belfast followed up his domestic title success by claiming the blue belt in 1959.

Gilroy took the bantamweight title from Italian Piero Rollo in a narrow fifteen round points decision in Wembley, London before defending against Billy Rafferty in Belfast and losing the belt to Belgian Pier Cossymens.

John Kelly
John Kelly was another to claim European success for Ireland with a magic Kings Hall win.

Kelly challenged Peter Keenan for his British and European titles in October of 1953 and came out victorious after 15 rounds.

Rinty Monaghan
Rinty Monaghan became Ireland’s first ever European champion when he claimed the flyweight version of the strap in 1949.

Just three fights short of retiring with a record of 52-9-8 defeated French operator Maurice Sandeyron at the Kings Hall to claim the Continental Crown.

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 sport for a living for 19 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: [email protected]