Champion year for Irish boxing

Champion year for Irish boxing

2014 was the first time Ireland has had two world champions since the days of Steve Collins and Wayne McCullough in the 1990s.

Since then, we've only had one champion at any one time. Carl Frampton won the IBF super bantamweight title from Kiko Martinez in September and Andy Lee became WBO middleweight champion in December. Lee is also the first Irishman to win a title in America for 70 years.

In women’s boxing, Katie Taylor is almost like the Babe Ruth or Pele of her sport. She’s at another level to the rest of the women, who are closing the gap thanks to all the publicity and funding women’s boxing is receiving.

During this boom, Katie has reigned supreme. Her eyes will now be focussed on Rio 2016 and becoming to first Irish person to win two gold medals at the Olympics.

My fighter of the year is Andy Lee. Lee has had two high-profile, high-octane knockout wins in front of a US television audience. The second gave him a world title, the first Irish middleweight champion since Steve Collins.

Andy has come back from being almost written off after the loss to Julio Chavez Jr in 2012 and had a tough time following the death of his trainer, the legendary Emanuel Steward, later that year.

Andy relocated to London and had to establish a new relationship with his new trainer Adam Booth. It culminated in a world title — it’s the stuff of Rocky movies.

Carl Frampton produced a masterclass against Kiko Martinez to win the IBF super bantamweight world crown. Carl fought in front of 16,000 in a temporary ring built in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast.

It was the pair’s second fight, with Carl having previously beaten Martinez in 2013 for the EBU European title. Carl done brilliantly to become world champion.

Andy Lee wins my knockout of the year — but not for his win against Korobov. Before he fought the Russian, Andy took on John Jackson at Madison Square Garden. Andy had been sent to the canvas in the first round and was behind on all of the judges’ cards.

He was under severe pressure in the fifth round and was pinned against the ropes. As Jackson moved in to finish the fight, Andy unleashed an almighty right hook that knocked his opponent out before he even hit the ground. I’d say that knockout would be regarded as one of the three best in the whole sport this year.

My prospect for 2015 is Luke Keeler. He’s well known on the boxing scene but he’s been overshadowed by fellow Celtic Warrior gym members like Spike O’Sullivan, who are a bit more developed in terms of their career.

In the last couple of months, though, he put down a marker including an impressive win on the undercard of Matthew Macklin v Jorge Sebastien Heiland.

Macklin himself was the biggest disappointment. People were talking about how he could rebuild Irish boxing as an arena sport but after his loss to Heiland, he may never fight again.