by Steve Welllings
It’s full steam ahead for the Irish Professional Boxers Association (IPBA) and their co-promoter Chris Rock, with June 18 fast approaching and the chance to showcase some of Mid-West Ireland’s boxing talent to an eagerly awaiting Galway public. The bill is being tweaked all the time, as fighters move on and off, but Rock is convinced that his show will get the ball rolling and pave the way for a series of IPBA events later in the year and beyond.
“We’ve been getting great local and national publicity,” enthused Rock. “There’s a potential crackers on the bill.”
Chris and his team have opened up the arena balcony, releasing a batch of €25 tickets in the process. The more affordable price range takes capacity up to around the 1200 mark and it is expected to be full, or thereabouts, come fight night. 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Bobby George (who competed as an amateur under his birth name of Boris Georgiev) has now been added to the roster, as the Luton-based light-welterweight looks to build on his only pro win so far, a first round knockout over Lanquaye Wilson way back in June 2009.
“Bobby George is a great addition and we want to bring boxing to local fans who until now have had to travel up to Dublin or over to England to see their heroes in action,” Chris further explained. “I’m friendly with [former Olympian] Francie Barrett who ran Galway’s first professional card [a five-fight attraction in April 2009] and it’s fair to say that boxing in Ireland does not make any money but we’ve seen an area where we can run shows and break even. It’s so far, so good really and we recently got a couple of sponsors on board.”
While JJ McDonagh was always the preferred headliner, his original opponent was supposed to be Ballymena’s Joe Rea but after that fell through it was decided that Belfast battler Tommy Tolan would be the ideal replacement. Tolan, however has since decided to fight Eamonn O’Kane on the Lurgan show the week after. The undercard in Galway has changed around too, but at the time of writing JJ’s boxing sibling Paddy McDonagh is also on the bill, alongside debutant Martin Hannan, a returning John Waldron, Michael Sweeney, Alan Donnellan and Colm Keane.
Many boxing fans may not have previously heard of Chris Rock, so the fledgling promoter explains his own history in the sport: “I boxed for a couple of years myself but never had the talent to turn pro,” he honestly professed. “I’ve been involved in promotions out in America and a bit of white collar boxing. We really saw a niche in the market and formed the Irish Professional Boxers Association (IPBA) as a result of that.
“This is my way of giving something back to the sport and offering the boxers a platform to showcase their talents. Long term we plan to run 4-5 shows a year in the boxers’ backyards. We would be delighted to run a show in the North and if you take all 32 counties alone then there are some great fights to be made. Any fighter can get involved in this project, if any are interested then give us a shout. We are not managers but we are there to offer fighters help and advice or give someone a start if they want to turn pro, things like that. We are totally non-profit and the guys involved are volunteering their time.”
Rock has enlisted some solid names to help live out his dream and his brand of communist boxing (as it has been amusingly branded in some quarters) will offer a refreshing shot in the arm to pugilists struggling to get a fight.
“We have people like Ken Moore and Tom Ward on board, good boxing people,” he added. “We are doing it for the love of boxing and looking to publicise the fighters because they are the main focus here.”