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Examining which Irish boxers, if any, will appear on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard

The CEO of Mayweather Promotions wants another Irish fighter on the card, but who would make the most sense, and who’s available?

IT REMAINS TO be seen if Floyd Mayweather’s feverishly hyped boxing match with Conor McGregor on 26 August will eclipse his 2015 superfight with Manny Pacquiao.

That was a generation-defining showdown which, in spite of its anticlimactic nature, generated north of $600m gross revenue. Mayweather-McGregor is something different; a crossover of two crafts with the capacity to underwhelm, but the potential to generate even more cash for combat sport’s two most transcendent personalities.

But while most boxing purists and many observers of separate sports may recoil at what strikes as an irredeemably one-sided main event, one aspect to ‘MayGregor’ which will in all likelihood surpass Mayweather-Pacquiao is the pay-per-view undercard.

Mayweather’s relatively straightforward unanimous decision victory over his generational rival from the Philippines was preceded by horribly lop-sided bouts on the paid portion of the card two years ago. Two-time Olympic gold medalist and current challenger to the pound-for-pound throne Vasyl Lomachenko cruised to a ninth round stoppage of Puerto Rico’s Gamalier Rodriguez, while Leo Santa Cruz – who would fight Carl Frampton for the first time just over a year later – scarcely lost a round versus fellow Mexican Jose Cayetano.

Neither scrap would have warranted PPV status beneath any other fight which hadn’t been rabidly anticipated for five years, but the stench of the main event would ultimately overwhelm the garbage which had come before.

Lessons have seemingly been learned, however. Perhaps in an effort to appease boxing fans left dissatisfied with the sheer concept of Mayweather-McGregor coming to fruition, Mayweather Promotions will run the undercard in its entirety, and the company’s CEO Leonard Ellerbe has promised far superior undercard fights this time around.

“I guarantee you I’m not looking to put on high-level mismatches,” Ellerbe told Kevin Iole in Yahoo Sports. “I can promise you this will be a tremendous undercard. We’re going to put real, competitive, good fights on there. I can’t say this enough: It’s going to be a tremendous undercard.”

Ellerbe insists that the bouts in question will be of ‘main event or co-main event status’ which, given the event in question, doesn’t quite render four-time boxing world champion Adrien Broner’s callout of UFC star Nate Diaz redundant.

However, while the undercard will likely feature two Mayweather-signed fighters, Ellerbe is also understood to be keen to include an Irish boxer in the mix as further inducement for McGregor fans.

Given Mayweather Promotions regularly co-promotes with a chief competitor in Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, undefeated Donegal middleweight and current North American champion Jason Quigley would have been an ideal candidate, but is currently recovering from hand surgery and won’t have sufficient time to stage a camp.

In truth, the timing is hardly ideal for a number of Ireland’s top-calibre fighters. Carl Frampton – the optimal co-main event candidate given the success of his two throwdowns with Leo Santa Cruz live on Showtime – confirmed his homecoming fight in Belfast on 29 July mere hours before Mayweather-McGregor was announced. Ireland’s only current world champion in Ryan Burnett, too, will require a longer break after undergoing plastic surgery for a cut suffered during his IBF world bantamweight title victory two weekends ago.

There remain, however, a number of names which have and will be thrown into the mix. We’ve broken them down in order of their likelihood of appearing on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard.

Katie Taylor, 5-0 (3KOs)

Source: Lawrence Lustig/INPHO

With a homecoming world title shot tentatively scheduled for November, Taylor’s summer is all but free. Her promoter Eddie Hearn has stated on a number of occasions that her next fight will take place on American soil, and it’s understood he has Taylor penciled in on the undercard of Adrien Broner’s eagerly anticipated bout with potential pound-for-pound star Mikey Garcia at Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, next month.

That could well be ditched in favour of bigger and better exposure to the American masses, but there are a couple of extenuating factors which will likely dictate that Taylor doesn’t appear on the Mayweather-McGregor show.

It has already been confirmed that Savannah Marshall, the 2014 Commonwealth Games middleweight champion who recently signed to Mayweather Promotions, will make her professional debut at the T-Mobile Arena. It’s unlikely that her promoters would be willing to see her bow in the paid ranks overshadowed by a significantly bigger name in Taylor.

Add to this the fact that Mayweather-McGregor will likely be broadcast on BT Sport (or a pay-per-view extension of BT Sport) in the UK and Ireland, whereas Taylor’s own promoters, Matchroom, work almost exclusively with Sky Sports when it comes to TV rights on this side of the pond. It seems a long shot that Taylor will take to the ring in Las Vegas this August.

Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, 25-2 (17KOs)

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Cork middleweight bomber O’Sullivan is rarely in a dull scrap, and has sparred Conor McGregor on numerous occasions at The Celtic Warrior Gym in Corduff, Dublin. There, O’Sullivan’s coach Paschal Collins has trained McGregor in the sweet science prior to major UFC fights. The connections between both camps run deep.

‘Spike’ is currently without a date having creased a stay-busy opponent in Boston last month, and would bring both nuclear power and quintessentially Irish scallywaggery to the Vegas party.

It might be in his interests to start firing shots on Twitter just as he did to manufacture his ill-fated scrap with Chris Eubank Jr 18 months ago. Mayweather Promotions’ light-middleweight Chris ‘Young King’ Pearson suffered a stoppage defeat last February, but may be on the comeback trail. Former IBF World light-middleweight champion Ishe Smith, too, will be seeking inclusion on the bill, and would provide an intriguing stylistic matchup.

However, given O’Sullivan’s relative anonymity on America’s west coast, he’ll be required to make a lot of noise to be heard above the din of suitors for a lucrative slot on the T-Mobile Arena undercard.

Niall Kennedy, 8-0 (5KOs)

The Gorey heavyweight is Massachusetts State champion, and has sparred multiple rounds with McGregor’s SBG gymmate John Phillips.

Given his relative lack of prominence, Irish number one Kennedy would likely have to settle for a spot on the free-to-air section of the undercard, but even that would provide a massive boost to his profile on either side of the Atlantic.

Like the aforementioned O’Sullivan, Kennedy is also trained by Paschal Collins, who will likely be drafted in to assist in McGregor’s training for his upcoming professional boxing debut.

Michael Conlan, 2-0 (2KOs)

Source: Tom Hogan/INPHO

Ireland’s most decorated male amateur fighter has made quite the splash in the paid ranks, and has already confirmed that he’ll at very least be part of McGregor’s team on 26 August.

‘The Notorious’ of course walked his compatriot to the ring for Conlan’s professional debut at Madison Square Garden’s ‘Theater’ on St. Patrick’s Day, and while Conlan will likely return the favour – or vice versa, depending on which way you look at it – there are significant obstacles which might prevent him from fighting on the card.

Floyd Mayweather’s own grievances with Conlan’s promoters Top Rank, and more pertinently their CEO Bob Arum, render it unlikely that the Falls Road man will lace up on 26 August. It’s equally unlikely that Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe would bother to attempt to mend that bridge for the sake of getting Conlan on the card. He may wish to appease Irish fans, but he won’t bend over backwards to do so when the vast majority of the world’s fighters – from all codes – would probably fight on the card for free.

Still, the timing is ideal, and Conlan is well on course to becoming a familiar name to US boxing fans. On 2 July he’ll fight as chief support to Manny Pacquiao, live to a massive audience on ESPN. By 26 August he might well be a fighter in demand, and while improbable, it’s not impossible that Ellerbe and Top Rank will come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

Andy Lee, 35-3-1 (24KOs)

Source: Ed Mulholland/INPHO

Lee has said he’ll only be tempted back into the ring for the right offer, and for a major fight. This, while not providing the headline nor co-main event slot he might covet, could be described as pretty major.

Familiar to pugilistic enthusiasts in the States, the former WBO World champion – if squared off with the right opponent – could provide the perfect curtain-raiser for the pay per view section of the card. Peter Quillin would be one suggestion having fought Lee to an entertaining draw back in April 2015. ‘Kid Chocolate’ hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan – the hometown of one Floyd Mayweather – and is on the comeback trail having been destroyed by he and Lee’s mutual friend Danny Jacobs 18 months ago.

Furthermore, his original bout with Limerick’s Lee, complete with its four knockdowns, features in popular new Netflix boxing documentary CounterPunch. With memories refreshed and neither man currently scheduled to do battle, the timing could scarcely be better for a rematch from a boxing standpoint. The winner would be propelled to world title contention once more, while the loser would in all likelihood retire.

There are, however, two potential barriers to Lee appearing on the card. Firstly, he’s due to become a father for the first time this month, and would be required to leave his wife and newborn baby almost instantly in order to train for a fight on 26 August. Secondly, he’s never been overly fond of the Mayweather-McGregor circus – or any boxing circus, for that matter – and might well view the event as one to sit out before returning later in the year.

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