In 2018, Irish boxing burgeoned from a grim low-point. A sport that lacked presence and personality rediscovered both, to not only survive but thrive over the past 12 months.
It is an impressive list of accolades. A new World Champion. Two pro cards on terrestrial TV for the first time since August, 2011. A thrilling youth department that included James Power, Aaron and Stephen McKenna, Dylan Moran as well as European gold medalists Kaci Crowley and Ellie Mai Gartland in the amateur ranks. Now things are good but the future looks better still.
10 - European Junior Boxing Championships
A historic high of third place amongst 31 counties and a record haul of two gold medals, three silvers and eight bronze. Ellie Mai Gartland and Lauren Dempsey both topped the podium. Fighters aged between 15-17, proudly progressing Ireland's history of talented amateur pugilists.
Ireland's 13 medallists at the European Junior Championships
GOLD: Ellie Mai-Gartland, Lauren Dempsey
SILVER: Paddy Myers, Sinainn Glynn, Lisa O'Rourke
BRONZE: Jon McConnell, Barry O'Connor, Mickes Donoghue, Leanne Murphy, Leah Gallen, Kaitlyn Doyle, Breda Quilligan, Kori Goad pic.twitter.com/ONoMssw0fb
— Irish-Boxing.com (@Irishboxingcom) October 17, 2018
9 - TJ Doheny wins a world title
Portlaoise native TJ Doheny won the IBF super-bantamweight world title after beating champion Ryosuke Iwasa on home soil in Tokyo. It was a deserved triumph for a boxer who has worked extremely hard to get there.
8 - Roy Sheahan shines
After three years away from the sport and toiling away on a building site, Sheahan's Last Man Standing success live on TG4 was a truly extraordinary moment that heralded pro boxing's return to the capital and television and rekindled the Irish love affair with the sport. Sheahan jokingly cited a bout against Conor McGregor after his triumph, something the UFC star seemed keen on.
7 - Carl Frampton's homecoming
His 2018 ended in disappointment as he lost out in the IBF featherweight world title against Josh Warrington but one of the greatest in the history of Irish boxing fulfiled a life-long dream when he headlined a show in Windsor Park. A deserving celebration of a remarkable career.
6 - Aaron McKenna impresses boxing royalty
Monaghan teen Aaron McKenna continues to make waves stateside under the astute stewardship of Golden Boy Promotions. He certainly has their owner, former Olympian and world champion Oscar De La Hoya impressed:
Aaron McKenna is one of Golden Boy’s most promising future stars. Aaron has demonstrated in just two professional fights so far that he is a fighter to be feared and respected. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
One of McKenna's 2018 ventures saw him saw him land his third straight stoppage at the 'Big Fighters, Big Cause' Charity Boxing Night card, held to benefit the Sugar Ray Leonard Foundation. In his heyday, Sugar Ray collected world titles across five weight divisions and is universally regarded as one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was ringside as McKenna forced Darrel Harris to retire on his stool and told balls.ie he was hugely impressed with the prodigy's performance:
What I saw that impressed me about Aaron when he competed at my charity event was his focus and his body attack. I want to tell to Aaron to keep it up, stay in shape and don’t ever take anyone lightly in that ring. I see a great future in Aaron!
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5 - Dennis Hogan gets his chance
Ten years ago, Kildare man Dennis Hogan lost to Kenneth Egan in the Irish Championships. He left for Australia, overcame a drinking problem, started a family, got back boxing and took off. Last December, he beat Welsh fighter Jamie Weetch and won the IBF Pan-Pacific title, defending his WBO Inter-Continental title and earned a huge 2019 shot at the WBO world title in the process.
4 - Katie Taylor reigns supreme
2018 saw Taylor claim the IBF female lightweight title to add to her WBA title. She would go on to defend them three times, including a masterclass career-best performance against Eva Wahlström live in Madison Square Garden. It sets up a make-or-break 2019, with blockbuster bouts against Rose Valente and Delfine Persoon a crucial next step.
3 - Ray Moylette's homecoming
The result was a disappointing one but it is imperative to take this night in context. A pro card live in Mayo sold out and produced an enthralling main event. Moylette's ability to muster a fight to the end despite being floored twice in the fifth was remarkable. It was a serious setback that can be surpassed.
2 - Caomhin Agaryko's inspirational comeback
In 2017, Belfast boxer Caomhin Agaryko was the victim of a scandalous incident when he was viciously attacked by a gang of men and stabbed in the neck. It occurred on a night in Belfast city after Agyarko had just accompanied his girlfriend on a night out. They decided to go to McDonalds before heading home. Then he was attacked.
The knife came within an inch of his artery and left him requiring over 30 stitches. His family only discovered his phone and wallet were missing when he was brought to the hospital. No one has ever been charged or identified for the assault.
He told Balls.ie earlier this year about the toll this took on him.
I was out for five months after that. That was a dark and lonely place. At the time, it changed my life massively. It felt like they took boxing away from me. It was very difficult. I try to look at things now as either a blessing or a lesson. Now maybe going through it made me realise things. If there is anything I want to do in life, I have to do it because something like that can happen. I will do what I have to do to make me happy.
It’s hard. It depends. With me getting stabbed I was angry and hurt. I still am angry and hurt. It is was so tough to be attacked but on top of that, the justice system didn’t do anything. They didn’t find anyone.
In 2018, he completed an inspirational comeback to sign with promoter Frank Warren and fight twice as a pro.
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Job done good 6 rounds under the belt good performance and good to get the ring rust of been out of the ring since April, was in against a tough experienced kid with over 75 fights! Hurt both hands in the first round so had to adapt to the fight but over all happy with my performance! Big thank you to all your support means the world can’t reply to all the messages but thanks very much! Also hug shout out to all my sponsors Hynes plumbing and heating Queensberry mercury security cut n edge barbers and dedicated fitness & dan the man from USA your support is much appreciated ??
1 - Kellie Harrington wins gold
The Dublin lightweight beat Thailand’s Sudaporn Seesondee on a split decision to win a gold medal at the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships.
It is was just reward for Harrington, who joins an elite and exclusive group of Irish fighters to win gold at the World Championships. Only Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan have done so previously. She also joins Katie Taylor and Joe Ward as the only Irish boxers to compete in more than one World Championship final.
It was a fitting triumph to cap a sensational year for Irish boxing.