They are both set for massive nights in Belfast over the next few months. Prizefighter plays support to Paul McCloskey on May 5 and Martin Rogan will try and knock out Tyson Fury on April 14. We take a look back to the when the popular heavyweight and the popular tournament came together. Its Classic Boxing 2008.
05 May 2008 – by Cormac Campbell
There is little doubt that Barry Hearn’s recent Prizefighter promotion in London was a breath of fresh air for the beleaguered British heavyweight division.
Eight boxers with nothing to lose and everything to gain, particularly the tasty £25,000 winners purse, fought with heart, urgency and desire. Among them was Belfast-born, former amateur standout Martin Rogan.
Aged 36 and appearing to be going nowhere fast, Rogan, a member of the Breen camp on Lombard St, powered to victory opening up a range of lucrative options and garnering a reputation as a crowd pleaser. Three victories in the space of one evening have changed Rogan’s life, but speaking to irish-boxing.com there was nothing overnight about his success.
“In my head I knew I had to win it,” he admitted over the phone. “Even amateur boxing I don’t think there are any events that you would have box three times in the one day – so we had to build a different kind of fitness.
“At one stage I was 17st 12lbs, so I trained very hard. I didn’t think with this competition being heavy would be a benefit. So John (Breen) thought it would be good to get down to 15st 4lb by the time of the fight. So there was a lot of long distance running and skipping, sparring, shadow boxing. So the plan was to prepare to have energy the whole way through the tournament.
“In the last few weeks everything fell in to place.”
Having something tangible to aim for was perhaps the greatest incentive to train for the 36-year-old taxi driver. After only one fight in the last year and a half – and only 51 rounds of sparring in the gym – Rogan took the opportunity with open arms.
“I couldn’t blame it on no fights or sparring and against those odds I still came out on top. I’ve always believed I could rise to the occasion in big fights and I was able to do that.”
The reaction to Rogan’s victory has yielded instant celebrity in his hometown, with the West Belfast star even asked to be Hearn’s guest of honour at a recent darts event at the Odyssey Arena in front of 10,000 people.
“I’ve had all the newspapers and TV stations on to me. It’s great that all the people of Belfast have a chance to come and support me. The support comes from all sections of the community. There are guys I know from the Shankill who I see taxiing in the town and they are hooting their horns and waving. It is really nice.
“I had guys come to me at a show in Dublin who were down from East Belfast. So it is just one community. Everyone just wants to see a winner from Belfast.”
Not it seems the small number of bigots who booed at the darts event as clips of a tricolour wrapped Rogan played on the Arena’s big screens. These of course are individuals Rogan does not have to worry about. Belfast boxing has long been devoid of any semblance of sectarianism, and as such Rogan can expect a large turnout from both communities at his next contest.
This of course begs the question: who, where, why and when?
“We’re hoping to be back in June or July, maybe in Dublin. There is also an option to go to America. I can’t say positive to anything just yet but there are options. Also, I think the Ulster Hall opens this October so as soon as it opens I’m hoping to put my face back in there.”
One individual who Rogan doesn’t expect to see in the opposing corner is Belfast rival Scott Belshaw.
“To be honest that fight (Belshaw), he is behind me, I don’t need to fight him. And he will stay behind me because he doesn’t have the tools. He hasn’t fought anybody of the calibre I have. He’s fighting cruiserweights, he needs to fight heavyweights.
“I wouldn’t rule out a fight with Scott Belshaw. I think he is a young kid with a lot to look forward to rather than a fight with me. He has already been beaten, if he fights me and loses where does he go?
“He’s 22-years-of-age. If I was him I would go to America. A realistic option it seems is fellow Irishman Prizefighter contender Colin Kenna.
“He, realistically would be the main man on my agenda for the Irish title. There have been offers coming in but we’ll have to just wait to see.”
Regardless of who he fights next, Rogan is confident that his corner team of John Breen and Eamonn Magee will formulate the gameplan that will ultimately lead to victory.
“They are both very good. John Breen has eight world champions under his belt. I’m sure the other boys were looking in to my corner with envy. Eamonn, who put Ricky Hatton on his backside. He has fought all over the world. As a coach, he was working me on speed. John was standing back and getting me to through heavy shots so we had every angle covered.
“Just to have them in your corner, knowing what they have done. For me to go in there now with them in my corner is such a boost. They get 60 seconds and you must listen, you must listen. You come as a team and it showed.
“The next fight people will get the opportunity to see how good a boxer I am but that was to show the fighter I am. You must have a proper gameplan.”