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Olympic stars, Carroll and Spike fly flag for Ireland on massive St Patrick's weekend Stateside

The American fight scene will be painted green this coming weekend, with a host of Irish boxing stars in key fights.

Michael Conlan, Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin and Paddy Barnes, all Olympic medalists for Ireland in 2012, fight as professionals in the States this Patrick's weekend.
Michael Conlan, Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin and Paddy Barnes, all Olympic medalists for Ireland in 2012, fight as professionals in the States this Patrick's weekend.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IN 2009 IT was Ireland who were chasing a Grand Slam against Wales in Cardiff in what proved to be one of the most famous days in Irish sporting history, Bernard Dunne’s crowning moment at The Point the cherry on top of a St Patrick’s weekend for the books.

A decade on, and while there is a less at stake for Ireland on the oval-ball front there is more at stake for Ireland’s protagonists in the squared circle.

No fewer than 10 fighters from these shores will take to the ring across the pond on an American fight weekend with a distinctly green theme.

There are two world-title fights, while four Irish Olympic medalists — all of them former team-mates — will partake in high-profile encounters on the East Coast.

John Joe Nevin, Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan show off their medals John Joe Nevin and Katie Taylor (L) will both take to the ring in Philadelphia this Friday, while Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan (R) will fight in New York on Sunday, St Patrick's Day. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Katie Taylor [12-0, 5KOs] occupies the intersection to that particular Venn diagram, and her world-title unification clash with Brazil’s Rose Volante [14-0, 8KOs] is the most significant of the lot.

Victory for Taylor at Philadelphia’s Liacouras Center will see her add the WBO World lightweight title to her WBA and IBF straps, but more crucially will set up a long-awaited showdown with Belgium’s long-reigning WBC queen Delfine Persoon for the undisputed title at 135 pounds.

Currently, only two other fighters in boxing across both genders — Cecilia Braekhus and Oleksandr Usyk — are unequivocal rulers within their divisions. The winner of a prospective Taylor-Persoon clash, pencilled in for Madison Square Garden for 1 June as previously reported by The42, would become the fourth: one of Claressa Shields and Christina Hammer will join Braekhus and Usyk in holding all four major belts after their landmark women’s superfight next month.

If Taylor can relieve Volante of her WBO bauble, she will become the first-ever Irish fighter in the four-belt era to hold three of those titles simultaneously.

Katie Taylor celebrates her victory after the fight Room for two more? Katie Taylor is two fights removed from holding all four lightweight world titles, which would see her considered the division's undisputed champion. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

On the same Philly bill, Dublin’s Jono Carroll [16-0-1, 3KOs] embarks on his maiden world-title tilt when he challenges hometown hero Tevin Farmer [28-4-1, 6KOs], the IBF World super-featherweight champion, in the headline act.

There has been little Brotherly Love between the pair in the lead-up, although Farmer did poke fun at Carroll’s “cousin” — Ireland’s James Tennyson, no relation — in joking that he was sick of beating Irish fighters at a press conference back in January.

The 26-year-old Carroll is a 6/1 underdog and justifiably so on paper, but that’s scarcely at odds with his career to date. The springboard for his ascent to world level was a Cinderella-like success in a Prizefighter tournament on Sky Sports in 2014 — one in which rookie professional Carroll entered as the 14/1 outsider and left with three scalps, the trophy and a cheque worth £32,000.

His fight and Taylor’s will both be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event in Ireland and DAZN in the USA (1:30am Fri night/Sat morn Irish time).

Taylor and Carroll will be joined on Matchroom USA’s Philadelphia bill by 2012 Olympic silver medalist John Joe Nevin who remains unbeaten in the pro ranks at 11-0 with 4KOs, but whose career thus far has been stop-start to the point of becoming purely peripheral.

Nevin, arguably the most talented Irish pugilist of his generation, faces Colombian Andreas Figueroa [9-3, 5KOs] in a bid to ignite his career on a major stage, with thousands of Irish fans expected to roar on their trio at the 10,000-seater arena on Friday night.

John Joe Nevin and Katie Taylor greet fans John Joe Nevin will share a professional card with Katie Taylor for the first time this Friday. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Saturday will scarcely be a quiet one, either, when the action shifts to Boston for Murphys Boxing’s St Patrick’s Clash at Beantown’s House of Blues.

Here, four Irish fighters feature, with two set to face each other in a tantalising domestic dust-up abroad.

In the co-main event, Cork’s Spike O’Sullivan [29-3, 20KOs] will continue to embed himself into the light-middleweight picture when she trades leather with local puncher Khiary Gray [16-4, 12KOs]. The Mahon man has moved down from middleweight and provided he’s victorious, could soon find himself in the frame to face the winner of April’s WBO 154-pound world title clash between compatriot Dennis Hogan of Kildare and highly-regarded Mexican upstart Jaime Munguia.

O’Sullivan’s Celtic Warrior gym-mate Niall ‘Bas’ Kennedy, the heavyweight Gorey garda, will also return to Boston for a stay-busy fight (opponent tbc) in a bid to improve his record to 13-0-1. Seven of Kennedy’s 11 professional wins to date have come inside the distance.

Spike O’Sullivan celebrates Spike O'Sullivan returns to the ring in Boston on Saturday night. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Murphys Boxing, the managerial-promotional outfit founded by Dropkick Murphys lead man Ken Casey in 2014, have put on three previous St Patrick’s Clashes in their hometown, all of which have featured a blend of Irish, Irish-American and Bay-Stater talent. The pick of the offerings in the fourth edition, however, is about as pure-Irish as it gets.

Cork and Dublin will collide in Boston when Macroom southpaw Noely Murphy [12-1-1, 2KOs] takes on Lucan soldier John Joyce [7-0, 4KOs] in what might transpire to be the most exciting encounter of the whole weekend.

In a fight essentially borne of an interview with Irish-boxing.com, Irish Army Corporal Joyce will fight outside of his homeland for the first time in what should be a memorable eight-round welterweight encounter with slight favourite Murphy, who is based in New York.

And it is to the Big Apple where eyes will turn on Sunday for another Irish boxing tradition.

For the third consecutive year, Michael Conlan will head a Top Rank bill at The Theater in Madison Square Garden, where he’ll be joined by a fellow Irish Olympic medalist and a former Olympic scourge.

Michael Conlan celebrates his win by TKO Conlan has made The Garden his home since making his debut on St Patrick's Day in 2017. Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Former amateur world champion Conlan [10-0, 6KOs] will once more turn the famous venue green when he fights Mexico City’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez [24-3-2, 10KOs], who went the distance with four-weight world champion and future Hall-of-Famer Nonito Donaire in 2017.

Conlan, now training in London under Adam Booth, is on course to break into the world title scene in the next 12 to 18 months, but will be aiming to make a statement in America where some of the jury remains unconvinced that his ability — near peerless in the amateurs — has fully translated to the punch-for-pay ranks since his high-profile transition in late 2016.

Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, who so eliminated Conlan from the Rio Olympics in such controversial circumstances, fights on the same Top Rank bill as he attempts to force a grudge match with Conlan in the pro ranks. It’s understood that Nikitin’s shot at vindication, or Conlan’s at revenge, could take place as early as this summer.

Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes Belfast's gruesome twosome will share a bill in New York. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Also fighting at the Hulu Theater will be Conlan’s close friend, former team-mate and fellow 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes [5-1, 1KO], who will be making his American debut in a first outing since suffering a stoppage defeat to Cristofer Rosales in a maiden world-title fight at Windsor Park last August. The 31-year-old will face Dallas native Oscar Mojica [11-5, 1KO] in a six-round contest at bantamweight.

Barnes was originally slated to join Conlan on the younger man’s debut card at the same venue two years ago, going as far as to don a Top Rank t-shirt and ‘confirm’ the fight himself in a bid to force the promotional outfit’s arm.

It wasn’t to be on that occasion, but the self-styled ‘Leprechaun’ will get his chance on a bumper weekend for Irish boxing this time around, as will Limerick welterweight Lee Reeves [2-0, 2KOs] who joins his compatriots on the MSG bill in a four-rounder against American Edward Torres.

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‘There were times when I didn’t even ask how much I was getting for the fights – I’d just find out afterwards’

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