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Where could McGregor vs. Mendes rank among the greatest Irish fights of all time?

McGregor headlines the UFC 189 in Las Vegas next weekend.

IN LESS THAN a week, Conor McGregor will return to the octagon to headline what promises to be the UFC’s biggest card of the year.

The organisation spent a record sum marketing McGregor versus Jose Aldo, and UFC president Dana White believed it had the potential to become the company’s highest-selling pay-per-view of all time.

Aldo may no longer be his opponent on 11  July, but McGregor will still leave Las Vegas as a champion — albeit an interim one — if he’s victorious against new opponent Chad Mendes.

But where would a McGregor win rank among other Irish attempts to clinch gold? 

1. Barry McGuigan vs. Eusebio Pedroza (1985)

Source: morf yrgna/YouTube

Barry McGuigan became Ireland’s first world champion boxer in 35 years when he beat Eusebio Pedroza in 1985. ‘The Clones Cyclone’ won the WBA world featherweight title by unanimous decision after 15 fascinating rounds.

Pedroza had successfully defended his title 19 times before that fight, but with 27,000 Irish fans in attendance at Loftus Road, there was only ever going to be one winner.

At the end of the 14th round, cutman Paddy Byrne reportedly told McGuigan: “You have three minutes left to beat the best featherweight champion this century. In three minutes you will be the champion of the world.”

2. Steve Collins vs. Chris Eubank 1 (1995)

Source: Boxing Fights/YouTube

Steve Collins is one of the most underrated Irish sportsmen of all-time. People forget that he beat two of Britain’s greatest ever fighters in Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn — twice each.

The first fight with Eubank for the WBO super middleweight title was huge. All the great fights in boxing history had hype and a storyline going into the fight. This one had a little bit of everything. There were mind games, hypnotists, an undefeated record and, of course, the small matter of a world title.

Eubank came in as a big favourite over the Dubliner but it was Collins who won the decision — to the delight of the home crowd. Collins should have had two even bigger fights but bouts with Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr failed to materialise before he retired.

3. Katie Taylor vs. Sofya Ochigava (2012)

Source: Julien Behal

The only amateur bout included on this list, it was impossible to rank the greatest Irish fights without mentioning Katie Taylor — considered by many to be Ireland’s all-time greatest athlete.

In 2012, Taylor beat Russia’s Sofya Ochigava to win Olympic gold for Ireland in London. It was the first Olympic Games in which women competed inside the boxing ring and the fight attracted huge national and international attention.

4. Andy Lee vs. Matt Korobov (2014)

Source: HBOBoxing/YouTube

Lee was a huge underdog going into his fight with Russian Matt Korobov for the vacant WBO middleweight title and trailed on all scorecards after five rounds. Then, after an exchange in the sixth round, Lee wobbled Korobov with a huge right hook. That the only invitation Lee needed as he rained down over a dozen unanswered punches before the referee waved off the fight.

Lee is now scheduled to defend his title against Billy Joe Saunders in Thomond Park on 19 September — a fight that has all the ingredients to be a historic night for Irish boxing.

5. Bernard Dunne vs. Ricardo Cordoba (2009)

Source: Brian Peters/YouTube

Bernard Dunne became the WBA super bantamweight champion by knocking out Panama’s Ricardo Cordoba in one of the greatest fights ever held on Irish soil. Few believed that Dunne could win, especially after his first-round loss to Kiko Martinez in 2007.

The Dubliner defied the odds and stopped the champion in the eleventh round. It was an explosive back-and-forth contest, with Cordoba being knocked down in the third and Dunne hitting the canvas twice in the fifth. After already being knocked down twice in the eleventh round, Cordoba bravely picked himself up but was backed onto the ropes and collapsed under a devastating left-right combination.

The 3Arena erupted… Ireland had its first world champion in 13 years.

6. Carl Frampton vs. Kiko Martinez (2014)

Source: IRISHNK/YouTube

Carl Frampton was crowned IBF super bantamweight champion last year when he defeated Kiko Martinez in a resounding unanimous decision in front of 16,000 supporters in Belfast.

This was the second time the two had fought, with Frampton also victorious in their previous bout for the European title. A ferocious right hand sent Martinez to the canvas during the fifth round but the Spanish fighter showed great heart in making it to the final bell. It was a comfortable decision for Frampton in the end — 119-108, 119-108 and 118-111.

7. Wayne McCullough vs. Prince Naseem Hamed (1998)

Source: Boxing Knockouts/YouTube

Wayne McCullough took on two of boxing’s biggest punchers in 1998 when he challenged champions Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales. The fight with Hamed was particularly big, with the Sheffield fighter’s star on the rise.

Hamed’s famous ‘thriller’ entrance saw him walk through a ‘graveyard’, in which each tombstone carried the names of his previous victims.

Source: Gifsoup

Hamed bragged that he would defeat the ‘Pocket Rocket’ within three rounds. Easier said than done. McCullough easily made it through 12 rounds but was criticised for being over cautious.

Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes?

Source: AP/Press Association Images

From the UFC’s perspective, a fighter’s ability to sell an event is just as important as his skills as a fighter. Fortunately, in McGregor, they have found someone who has the rare combination of being able to self-promote and then back up that talk in the octagon. After just five fights, he has become one of the company’s biggest stars.

McGregor has almost single-handedly brought mixed martial arts to the mainstream media’s attention in Ireland. He has even been the subject of a documentary series for RTE — now spanning two seasons. None of the other fights on this list had the prolonged media attention and hype this fight has received.

A win for McGregor will drive up the potential sales for an eventual showdown with Aldo and continue the Irishman on his path to becoming the sport’s biggest name. For that reason, a McGregor interim title win would have to be challenging for top spot on this list.

Where do you think McGregor versus Mendes could rank among the greatest Irish fights of all time? Are there any fights that you think should be added to our list? 

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About the author:

Donal Lucey

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