20 November 2017
By Bryan Smyth
Looking at Cork greats as we move into a new age of boxing
Ireland has always been well known as a boxing nation. Producing so many top-class fighters throughout the divisions, Cork is one of the big contributors to Ireland’s sterling reputation for producing and moulding exciting boxing talent. Boxing is in the midst of a great renaissance, with the sport finally returning the headlines thanks to talented fighters coming through and thrilling match-ups being battled on a regular basis. Particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the popularity of boxing – and mixed martial arts – is at the highest that it’s been in a long time.
Legends of Cork boxing
It was only last year that Cork celebrated 70 years of boxing greatness with a celebration of the past and present boxing champions. At the event in September 2016, plaques to Tommy Hyde – won 1946 Irish Senior title – and Paddy ‘The Champ’ Martin – Irish international boxer in the 1950s – were unveiled on the Boxing Wall in Bishop Lucey Park. 2016 also happened to be the year that Cork claimed a record 30 All-Ireland titles, with those champions also recognised at the event for their incredible achievement, per IABA. This year, Cork also celebrated another boxing great in the late Albie Murphy, unveiling a plaque dedicated to the famed coach on the iconic Boxing Wall.Cork has long enjoyed boxing success, with one of its children currently battling their way towards a world title. Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, who was born in Cork and made his professional debut at the Neptune Sports Arena in Cork, has been battling towards a middleweight world title throughout his career. With 28 fights under his belt, the only blemishes on the Cork-native’s record are a 2015 loss to rising star Chris Eubank Jr, and to now middleweight world champion Billy Joe Saunders in 2013, which was for O’Sullivan’s WBO International Middleweight title. Now fighting mostly out of America, the 33-year-old has strung together a four-fight win streak to try and get back into world title contention. But none of these great Cork boxers would be anything without Cork’s famed boxing gyms, such as the recently reopened Glen Boxing Club. After the community rallied around the sporting institute, they were able to open the doors once more to grow and develop Cork’s next batch of boxing stars.
Boxing going back to where it belongs
In the decade leading to this, and for some years after, it would be fair to say that boxing slipped down the priority list for most sports fans and sports news outlets. The top end of the sport had gone mostly stale without enough strong contenders to garner interest in the most popular divisions. But that’s all changing now thanks to superstars emerging from within the sport on both the men’s and women’s sides.
Let’s start off with the main attraction of boxing right now: Anthony Joshua. The unified heavyweight champion of the world and former super heavyweight gold medallist at the 2012 Olympics has gone from strength to strength, defeating any opponent put in front of him in spectacular fashion. Having exclusively fought in the UK so far, people may assume that his appeal has been quite restricted, but experts States-side have said that he could be the ‘second coming of Muhammad Ali,’ per The Telegraph. After a huge year in the ring, Betway Insider sees Joshua as the favourite to join the elite-ranks of Barry McGuigan, Henry Cooper, Lennox Lewis, and Joe Calzaghe as a SPOTY winner. In all honesty, it’s hard to see past the boxing champion after his legendary bout with Wladimir Klitschko, which was the best boxing event ever, according to Boxing News, let alone his other triumphs throughout the year.
Accompanying Joshua at the peak of the resurgence of boxing is Ireland’s own Katie Taylor. After fulfilling her destiny to become an Olympic gold medallist, Taylor turned pro to ignite a new excitement in boxing. Her immense skill and nothing held back attitude quickly became a fan-favourite on the card, now sitting at 7-0-0 with the WBA World female lightweight title wrapped around her having defeated Anahi Esther Sanchez in a thrilling bout. Despite only having seven fights under her belt, Katie Taylor already looks set to rule the division. Once she’s battled the incredibly talented American Jessica McCaskill and defends her title in December 2017, she can set her sights on the other title holders, like the dominant 39-1-0 Delfine Persoon, Victoria Noelia Bustos, and Yohana Belen Alfonzo to bring Ireland a unified world boxing champion.
As Cork continues to find and develop new boxing talents, it’ll be interesting to see who emerges onto the scene during boxing’s surge back to the top. It would be safe to say that we can expect more international greatness from Cork in the coming years, ready to do battle with the best that the divisions have to offer.