Steve’s Shamrock Shorts: Issue 1

It’s great to see Carl Frampton keeping busy and fitting in a Commonwealth title defence on March 17. ‘The Jackal’ was impressive in his recent dismantling and brutal knockout win over Kris Hughes. Even though the Sky Sports commentary team were calling for a knockout all of a sudden mid-fight, I thought he was measured and controlled, using a good jab and some hearty body shots to weaken a cagey, awkward foe. Hughes wasn’t a particularly stellar fighter but Carl showed that he can deal with tricky opponents and that lessons have been learned from the Robbie Turley fight.

Frampton’s win was well received in the local press and he marches on towards a slot on the Sheffield undercard.

Eamonn O’Hara of the Irish News said: “A clinical finish to a superbly choreographed live TV display against Scotland’s Kris Hughes, the undefeated 24-year-old ‘Jackal’ sent a warning to his key rivals, British and European champions Scott Quigg of England and Spain’s Kiko Martinez.”

Both fights mentioned would be wholly acceptable throughout the coming year, with Bury’s Quigg gathering plenty of momentum alongside Frampton on Sky headliners and Martinez forever embedded in to the Irish boxing scene since that famous win over Bernard Dunne back in 2007. The Spaniard defends his European title on March 9 in Lyon, France against a man he has already beaten in Arsen Martirosyan. The first bout took place in Dublin’s National Stadium back in 2010 and Kiko showed that he was a better boxer than given credit for when outthinking the solid but unexceptional Martirosyan. Often rightly portrayed as a one punch knockout artist, Martinez showed an added dimension to his game that night but surely Frampton would be favoured to prevail were the two to meet for Martinez’s EBU crown. A fight between the pair would rest on Kiko beating his Armenian challenger next, which is away from home and no formality.

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I was down in Dublin last week with the News Letter’s boxing correspondent Nicky Fullerton to cast an eye over the Irish Senior Finals. The future of professional domestic boxing is in good health if this crop of talented amateur fighters is anything to by. Not that it is a given that any quality unpaid pugilist is always being groomed for the pro game but I always like to speculate on who would likely succeed if they were to ditch the headguard and vest.

The eagerly anticipated return of last year’s final between Joe Ward and Kenny Egan did not disappoint. Filled with intrigue and pre-fight suspense on whether we would see repeat or revenge, Ward ultimately cast aside any doubts as to who was the boss at 81kg with a masterful display. It was sad to see Egan dominated for large chunks of the contest but perhaps Kenny’s period of success is coming to a close as his superb ability to time opponents’ moves slowly diminishes.

Another return bout saw David Oliver Joyce again being outmanoeuvred by the unspectacular yet effective Michael McDonagh and one of my personal favourites Ross Hickey motored past Stephen Coughlan. I rate Hickey highly, yet Coughlan showed enough in his offensive capabilities –like a raking left jab for example- to suggest that he can come again at this level.

Meanwhile, down at 52kg Belfast’s Michael Conlan showed exactly why he has qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games, with a brilliantly elusive display against Ryston’s Chris Phelan. Conlan slips and moves in and out of range with relative ease and picks his punches so well. I would view him as a dark horse for the flyweight medals in London this summer.

And finally…a quick word for Tommy McCarthy who produced the knockout of the night, at 91kg. The only one as it turned out, but well worth the wait as he disposed of Christy Joyce in the third round. Planting a sharp right hand on to the chin quickly removed Joyce from his senses and as the St. Michael’s Athy man scrambled across the floor to try and continue it looked like the referee’s count was purely academic. Even though Tommy does not appear to completely suit the heavier weight class he has clearly retained his punch power.

“Tommy trained so hard for this, was in great shape, feeling very good and it was all about putting a performance together. He did that,” countered veteran coach Patsy McAllister.

McCarthy will now head to Turkey in April, alongside Paddy Barnes, Michael McDonagh, Ross Hickey, Adam Nolan, Joe Ward and Con Sheehan as the seven-strong group vie for a place in the Olympic Games.

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