The Irish Eye 2018 preview special: Part 1
With very little boxing taking place in January, The Irish Eye has decided to preview an already jam-packed Irish boxing schedule to give our readers an in-depth look at what we can expect from our local promoters and pugilists across the island in 2018. From the small-hall shows to the big Arena events, The Irish Eye has it all covered as 2018 looks to be the biggest and best year yet for 'The Fighting Irish' up and down the country, starting with two shows running on each side of the border on 3 February ...
Mark Dunlop and MHD Promotions return to the Europa Hotel, Belfast on 3 February for the first time in a year with the aptly titled 'Assassin's Creed' show headlined by 'The Assassin' himself James Tennyson.
The hard-hitting Belfast super featherweight has been on a tremendous upward trajectory since his last performance in the famous Belfast hotel two years ago. He enjoyed three televised stoppage victories in 2017 over Declan Geraghty, Ryan Doyle and Darren Traynor respectively, picking up the Irish title for a second time along the way, as well as the WBA International title that has propelled the Belfast banger to the verge of a world title shot with a lofty ranking of No. 4 within the organisation.
The 24 year-old's team recently revealed to Belfast Live that they turned down the chance to challenge Mexican WBC world champion Miguel Berchelt [32(28)-1(1)] in Cancun on 10 February following the advice of Matchroom head honcho Eddie Hearn. Tennyson's manager Mark Dunlop explained that: "on paper this would appear to be a dream come true for James after all the hard work he has put in to reach this stage of his career. But after talks with Eddie Hearn we were advised that the fight was worth treble what was on the table.”
Instead, Tennyson [20(16)-2(2)] will now face tough Nicaraguan Arnoldo Solano [14(0)-14(2)] on Saturday over eight rounds.-Solano has gone the distance with Jeremy Parodi, Gamal Yafai, Jazza Dickens, and former IBF world champion Stuart Hall and seems a sound choice for a 'keep busy' fight for the Poleglass Puncher as he continues to pave the way to a WBA world title tilt later this year
On the undercard, Coalisland super feather Feargal McCrory [7(3)-0] will square-off against another tough Nicaraguan in Rafael Castillo - who went the four-round distance with Tennyson back in 2016 - in a six-round contest as McCrory looks to continue his unbeaten run in the pro ranks.
The John Breen trained fighter has been progressing steadily and picked up four impressive wins in 2017 - even fighting through sickness in his final bout of the year - and will be looking to put on a big performance for his loyal County Tyrone following who always travel in numbers to the capital to cheer on the all-action southpaw. After this bout he will be looking to step up to title contention later on in the year.
Elsewhere on the undercard, there's a return to the ring for Belfast lightweight Daniel 'Insane' McShane [9(3)-1(1)] after a three-year absence from the sport. Last time out McShane picked up the first loss of his career when he dislocated his shoulder in the second round against Hungarian Zoltan Horvath [3(2)-40(5)-1], but, upon his return the Belfast man will immediately have the chance to avenge that loss and set the record straight, as he jumps straight back into a rematch with the ultra-durable journeyman in a four-round contest.
On a night of returns, Ards featherweight Stevie Quinn Jr [8(2)-2(0)] will step back through the ropes for the first time in just over two years to take on the tricky Edwin Tellez [12(6)-34(4)-5] over six rounds. Tellez has Europa Hotel previous having been stopped by Derry's Tyrone McCullagh back in 2016 at the same venue, and southpaw Quinn Jr will be hoping for a similar result as he looks to resurrect his career, and move himself into a position to challenge for a title.
Also on the undercard, Dublin lightweight Karl Kelly [1(0)-0] will take a massive jump in class in just his second pro bout as he takes on the undefeated Englishman Lucas Ballingall [8(3)-0] over six rounds. Finally, Scotland's former British title challenger Ronnie 'The Shark' Clark [19(10)-4(1)-2] returns in a six-round contest against England's Dean Evans [6(4)-17(2)-2].
Irish fight fans and media alike will be spoilt for choice on Saturday, as SK Promotions return to the City West Hotel, Dublin, with 'Collision Course' featuring a number of MTK fighters and local prospects. At the time of writing, there was yet to be any opponents named for the away corner, so we will have a look at the home fighters and what 2018 has in store for them.
Irish middleweight champion Luke Keeler [13(5)-2(1)] makes his first appearance since picking up his maiden title in July last year after a razor-thin points win over Darren Cruise.
The Dubliner will be hoping to avoid any bad cuts or injuries as he is due to fight MTK stablemate Conrad Cummings on the Frampton vs Donaire bill in Belfast on 21 April in one of three North vs South bouts pencilled in for the bumper undercard.
Dublin light-heavyweight Steve Collins Jr [12(4)-1-1] will be looking to continue his rebuilding process and pick up his third straight win since losing out to Paddy McDonagh in his own Irish title quest in July last year.
The MTK fighter picked up two successive points wins over Edgars Sniedze and Istvan Orsos respectively towards the end of last year, and will be hoping that another win on Saturday night can help push him back towards a title shot.
Undefeated Dublin light-welterweight Stephen 'Shortty' Carroll [7(1)-0] will be hoping for a busy 2018 after signing up with MTK Global. The Ballyfermot fighter picked up the Celtic Nations title towards the end of 2016 with a win in Belfast over local fighter Jamesy 'The Chin' Gorman, before travelling to Scotland to clock one of the best away wins for an Irish fighter in 2017 as he outpointed Scottish champion Eddie Doyle in Motherwell. A win on Saturday could set-up an all Irish encounter with fellow Dubliner Sean Creagh later in the year.
'Creaghzy Horse' Creagh [7(2)-1(1)] is also in action and will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2017 after bagging himself three points victories, all coming in his home city. The Dublin light-welterweight has shown himself to be a 'fight anybody, anywhere' type of fighter and is no stranger to calling out many of his local rivals, and will be hoping that since teaming back up with MTK, that 2018 will bring him the big fights he craves.
Rio Olympian Davey Oliver Joyce [5(4)-0] has impressed massively since turning pro last summer, and will be hoping to position himself to challenge for titles at some point through 2018. Like stablemate Luke Keeler, the 30 year-old MTK fighter will be hoping to exit the ring on Saturday unscathed, as he is also due to appear on the Frampton vs Donaire bill in April before possibly challenging for a belt of some sort on the rumoured Michael Conlan homecoming card in the summer.
Naas lightweight Gary Cully [3(2)-0] is another 'one-to-watch' after three impressive wins in his debut year. The 6' 2" southpaw impressed both Eddie Hearn and Frank Warren in 2017 with wins over Josh Thorne and Kane Baker on Burnett and Frampton undercards at the SSE Arena, and will be hoping that a win on Saturday night will see him return to the Arena shows in 2018 where the ultra-confident MTK prospect can showcase his impressive skills.
Tallaght featherweight Liam Gaynor [2(0-0] will be looking to build on an impressive start to his professional career. The Kilnamanagh B.C fighter came through a tough test in his debut last year as he took on Belfast's Alec Bazza in the National Stadium, before picking up his second win on S.K Promotions inaugural show over Polish journeyman Krzysztof Rogowski - who holds an amateur win over Carl Frampton, and will be looking to step up once again on Saturday and put on a performance for his home crowd.
The first debut for an Irish fighter in 2018 will come from another student of Stephen Kavanagh's Kilnamanagh boxing club, in the shape of Kildare's Eoin McGrath. The 22-year old super flyweight comes into the professional ranks after a successful amateur career that seen him pick up three Leinster titles, as well as three All-Ireland titles, and will be looking to make a statement come Saturday night that makes him stand out on a card stacked with home-grown talent.