By Robert Coster
The Irish boxing scene is on a high at the beginning of this new year with an exciting slew of boxers attracting eagers fans and ambitious plans by the indefatigable Irish promoter Brian Peters, assisted by his dynamic matchmaker Tomas Rohan. The standard bearer of Irish boxing is of course junior featherweight contender Bernard Dunne (27-1,14 KOs) the most popular Irish battler at the moment. Dunne has rebounded well from a surprising loss to Spaniard Kiko Martinez in September of 2007 and is said to be nearing a title shot which, if it happens, will likely be in Ireland, an event which promises to fire up Irish boxing fans.
“The Martinez fight is behind me,” says Bernard, “and I am hoping for this momentous event in any boxer’s career: a chance at the world title. I believe this is the year it will happen.”
Apart from Bernard Dunne, there are other figures emerging to the forefront of the suddenly very exciting Irish boxing scene. Paul McCloskey (18-0, 8 KOs) had a great year in 2008, winning the British junior welterweight crown and is moving steadily toward contender status in the 140lb division.
Welterweight Stephen Haughian (16-1, 6 KOs) is fighting for the Irish belt on February 7th and looking beyond to the European crown.
Middleweight Andy Lee (16-1. 13 KOs), like Dunne, suffered a temporary setback last year but he has the talent and two-fisted power to rebound. Exciting fights are said to be on the works for Lee.
Lightweight Andy Murray (13-0, 6 KOs) is yet another Irish prospect steadily improving his level of competition and looking for a regional belt to wrap around his waist in the coming months.
Middleweight Matthew Macklin (23-2, 16 KOs), unbeaten in the last two years, won an inspiring victory in 2008 over former world champion Yori Boy Campas and will be challenging for the British crown soon.
Finally, another piece of good news for promoter Peters is the return to the ring, after a 2 year hiatus, of former Amateur star, undefeated lightweight Michael Kelly (6-0).
Says Brian Peters, “We have worked hard to raise Irish boxing to its present level. A few years ago it was a very risky gamble to take considering that the game was all but dormant in Ireland. Well, I’m happy I took the gamble.”