By Joe O’Neill
Following on from Sundays article HERE, Irish-boxing continues its look at the island’s top prospects for the year ahead.
John-Joe Nevin – Lightweight/Super Featherweight
The 25 year old is arguably Ireland’s greatest ever male amateur boxer. His laundry list of achievements reads: Olympic silver (2012), World bronze (2009, 2011), European gold (2013), and EU gold and silver (2008 and 2009 respectively). Turning pro in late 2013, his career was temporarily derailed after suffering two broken legs in a vicious assault last April. Nevin would bounce bark remarkably quick however and was back in the ring within six months, knocking out Englishman Jack Heath in just 88 seconds at the 3Arena in Novemeber. Now based in the U.S. with GreenBlood Boxing, the amateur standout is a slick boxer with the added asset of having deceptively strong punching power. The Mullingar man has boldly claimed that he aims to shuffle his way to a world title in 2016. If this is to have any chance of occurring, manager Tom Moran must secure regular fights for Nevin in 2015.
Phil Sutcliffe Jnr – Light Welterweight
The Crumlin BC man fought only once during 2014 due to a succession of hand injuries and an operation which will hopefully alleviate such problems in the future. Sutcliffe returned with victory in September and manager Pat Magee is looking to get regular fights for the Dublin knock-out specialist. The first of these is due to be in the capital on February 20th at the Red Cow Moran Hotel. The 25 year old is, of course, not just a concussive puncher and has an extensive elite amateur background, winning bronze at the 2009 EUs. Magee had previously claimed that Sutcliffe would be European champion by the end of 2015. While injuries may delay the delivery of this prediction, the flame-haired fighter will be looking to progress quickly this year.
Jason Quigley – Middleweight
2014 was a whirlwind year for the Ballybofey middleweight. After winning World silver and European gold in 2013 he caught the eye of legendary former six-weight world champion Oscar De La Hoya who signed him to his industry-leading promotional label, Golden Boy Promotions. Quigley would make his debut at the MGM Grand in Vegas on the undercard of the Saúl Álvarez-Erislandy Lara bout before fighting again at the StubHub Centre in Carson City on the Shawn Porter-Kell Brook world title fight. None too shabby company for the 23 year old Donegal man. Incredibly quick and not one to shy away from a scrap, the confident yet likeable Quigley is extremely marketable to the U.S. audience. Now based in California, 2015 will hopefully see him continue to build his fanbase at home and abroad. This will start with his next fight, which is scheduled for March 12th in San Antonio Texas.
Conrad Cummings – Middleweight
Signed to Cyclone Promotions, Cummings trains in the esteemed company of IBF bantamweight world champion Carl Frampton at Shane McGuigan’s Battersea gym. ‘Dynamite’ has amateur pedigree and holds a win over Brazilian 2012 Olympic silver medalist Esquiva Falcao. The Tyrone man’s potential in the professional game was underlined with a string of impressive performances in the WSB with the Mexico Guerroes, culminating in a win against 2008 Olympic silver medalist Carlos Banteur of Cuba. Benefiting greatly from strength and conditioning training under McGuigan, the Coalisland box-puncher is as strong as an ox and is relentless in attack. Cummings will be looking to continue his development on the undercard to Frampton’s world title defence on February 28th.
Luke Keeler – Middleweight
Keeler was always somewhat overshadowed in the amateur ranks by Ireland’s bevy of talented middleweights. Blessed with natural power, he perhaps had a style too suited to the pro game for his own good. Unlike Quigley and Cummings however, Keeler would turn pro without the might of a large promotional company behind him and would initially have to work full-time to sustain himself. He would continue to quietly rise through the ranks and September saw the 27 year old headline his first ever show. Unfortunately illness hampered the Crumlin man’s preparations and he was somewhat lethargic in outpointing Laszlo Kovacs over six rounds in Dublin’s Red Cow Moran Hotel. Keeler however put this disappointment firmly behind him in November at the 3Arena where he knocked out durable Englishman Gary Boulden in the first round. This caught the eye of Matchroom head-honcho Eddie Hearn who promptly added the heavy-handed Dubliner to the Prizefighter Middleweights lineup for this coming February 14th. Now in a full-time training camp, ‘Cool Hand’ Luke aims to emulate his Celtic Warrior Gym buddy, Jono Carroll, in winning the Prizefighter trophy. If he achieves this, the Sky really is the limit.