Boxing

Irish Boxing Has A Shaky Record When It Comes To Defending Titles

Irish Boxing Has A Shaky Record When It Comes To Defending Titles

It is doubtful whether Katie Taylor will ever hit the heights of Thursday, 9th of August, 2012 again.

Although a certain amount of expectancy surrounded her hopes of claiming an Olympic gold medal, the timing of it's arrival generated an incredible, nationwide reaction.

On that afternoon, Ireland came to a standstill.

RTÉ reported viewing figures of 1.1 million for the duration of the fight itself. That many watching were unlikely to yet be home, evidence of Taylor's appeal could be measured by the fact that the the million or so RTÉ covered related only to "home viewing and did not include audiences who may have watched ... at public venues, workplaces, pubs or online."

In true Italia '90 fashion, a nation had well and truly held it's breath for Taylor's decisive moment.

As a professional, technically representing Ireland no longer, the added exclusivity of the sport will make the likelihood of such an all-encompassing fight very unlikely looking ahead.

Advertisement

Yet, in trading medals for belts, amateurism for professionalism, Taylor embarks on a career that Irish boxing has an admirable, if not quite as dominant, tradition in.

In the women's game, Taylor has already surpassed the efforts of previous Irish female boxers - although the speed with which she has done this rests largely upon the caveat of the outstanding amateur career which preceded it.

Irish men have had a decidedly more pronounced impact on the professional game.

With a myriad of belts up for grabs, and numerous weight-divisions giving room for minor fluctuations, twelve Irish boxers have been professional world champions at one point or another.

While some (Steve Collins, Brian Magee, Eamonn Loughran) held their titles for a number of years and through a number of defenses, others (Andy Lee, Bernard Dunne, Carl Frampton) found the moniker "champ" a little more difficult to retain.

In Collins and Magee, Ireland has it's two longest-running holders of a belt; both men racking up seven defenses of their respective WBO super-middleweight and IBO super-middleweight titles.

Advertisement

For the Dubliner Collins, the vacating of his champion status came with his retirement in 1997. Having previously held the WBO middleweight belt (he vacated it in favour of pursuing the higher weight division), Collins' 36-3 record makes him Ireland's most successful professional boxer to date.

It is not inconceivable to imagine however that one of the current crop of outstanding male Irish boxers could yet reach Collins' heights.

Previously a unified World Champion, Frampton (30) is one boxer for whom another title shot is surely only a few more fights away.

Frampton's fellow Belfast man, Ryan Burnett (25), is currently a unified World Champion at bantamweight; he is yet to defend his IBF and WBA titles as a pair.

In Michael Conlan (26), a 5-0 professional record may not provide too many indicators yet of where the former World Amateur Champion may go, but, a promotion deal with Bob Arum and Top Rank tends to suggest that the people who know have high hopes for yet another of Belfast's boxing talents.

Advertisement

As Frampton has shown, becoming a World Champion rarely entitles one to believe they will stay there for long. Yet, if any Irish boxer is to touch Collins' impressive record for title defenses, now seems as good a time as any.

As things stand, with one title secure and designs on the remaining belts within her division, Taylor's maiden defense earlier this month gives her the greatest chance of surpassing Collins' outstanding record for professional Irish boxers.

In the Irish IndependentEwan MacKenna raised inescapable concerns however regarding the nature of Taylor's ascent through the professional ranks:

It's not her fault that her sport is shallow nor is it her fault that most of those she's being asked to beat up aren't very good.

But if we are to treat Taylor as the very good sportsperson she is, then she needs to be judged by the same standards as the rest and be asked the same questions as the rest.

Not to do so is condescending, and she deserves better.

Throughout Collins' seven successful defenses of his super-middleweight title, beating the likes of Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn (twice) particularly, lent the run a credibility that Taylor will naturally find difficult to replicate.

Given that women's professional boxing was not an outstanding concern in the Irish sporting community prior to Taylor's turning professional last year (just ask Christina McMahon), the "burden" of her incredible amateur career has inevitably followed her into the professional ranks; namely, nobody ever expects Katie to lose, so how excited can we be when she wins?

With her ninth professional bout set to take place in Dublin early next year, Taylor appears to have no intention of wasting time between fighting opponents.

While few would think it unreasonable that the Bray native could surpass Collins' record by 2019 at the latest, where would this achievement rank beside the Dubliner's?

Is in fact Taylor's only hope of gripping an Irish sporting community as she did in the summer of 2012 in the fulfillment of her own stated desire to "takeover" her weight division and become Ireland's first undisputed boxing champion?

See Also: 'If I Got To Meet The Guy Who Bullied Me, I Would Shake His Hand' - The Inspiring Rise Of Michael McKillop

Arthur James O'Dea

You may also like