(NOV 25) Friday promises to be
another ‘unique’ night in the annals of Irish ‘amateur’ boxing
as the Women’s Elite finals take place at the National Stadium
The 60kg lightweight title will
feature one Katie Taylor from Bray aiming to take her fifth
Irish crown but this time facing an ‘up and coming’ challenger
and it is that bout which has attracted most media attention in
Ireland this week.
True she has held the title by walk-over on four occasions but
on Friday she welcomes the challenge set by the young 21 years
old ‘pretender to the throne’ Shauna O’Keeffe from Clonmel BC in
Reigning Olympic, World &
European lightweight champion Taylor (who also holds the
European Union and inaugural European Games crowns), has
positively welcomed the chance to fight for the Irish title for
the first time.
“I’m delighted to get the opportunity to box for an Irish title
and I’ll be taking absolutely nothing for granted,” said Taylor,
who created history here at the National Stadium in 2001 when
she fought Alanna Audley-Murphy in the first officially IABA-sanctioned
women’s bout in Ireland.
The then 15 years old Taylor defeated the young Belfast 16 years
old Alanna Audley (27:12). They were to become close friends and
members of the Irish team in major World and European
championships in the years that followed with both taking medals
in different weight divisions at home and abroad.
“I’m looking forward to actually boxing for the title this year
– it’s been a long time coming,” said Taylor in a series of
Irish media interviews promoting the Championships in recent
“It’s something I’ve wanted for years, to get a bit of
competition in the National championships and I haven’t boxed
since the European Games so it’ll be good to get a fight under
“I need to stay busy and get a few fights,” she said. “I
definitely don’t like being out of the ring for so long.”
So who is Shauna O’Keeffe? The 21 years old southpaw is the
current Irish Intermediate champion, who saw off the challenge
of Clare’s Kayleigh Murrihy-McCormack in the semi-final last
Friday, on an unanimous decision. She also won the Celtic Box
Cup gold in Dungarvan in September. This is a huge step up for
her, but she is undaunted by the challenge that lies ahead.
Speaking to WBAN before her semi-final against the Clare woman,
she commented : "I've been dreaming of meeting Katie Taylor
since I was fourteen.
“I became a boxer at the Clonmel Boxing club when I was 14,
exactly 7 years ago and it’s the best decision I ever made, I
found a love for the sport before I joined from watching my two
brothers who were in boxing at the time. They gave me the
confidence to join and I soon knew this is what I wanted to do.”
“We have a great team in our club that starts with our fantastic
coaches Martin Fennessy, Rob Scanlon, Keith Galvin, John Mackey
and our female coach Jade Fennessy, all great coaches dedicating
their life and time to the sport and everything I’ve
accomplished wouldn’t have happened without them”.
Clonmel BC coaches Fennessy and Scanlon will be working her
corner against Taylor, an AIBA Ambassador for the sport.
"Shauna has an Olympic dream like anyone else. She’s a tough,
determined and focused young boxer and she has great belief in
herself,” said Fennessy.
“We’re excited to go into it and she deserves to be there on
merit. She’s won an Intermediate title, she’s won the Celtic Box
Cup. She won all four rounds last week in the semi-finals.
“She didn’t drop a round. She’s in the final on merit. We’re not
focusing on Katie Taylor, we’re focusing on what we can do.
"We know it’s an honour to share a ring with the Olympic
champion and we’re going up to give it our best shot. Our
mind-set is that we are looking for a top performance from our
girl and we’ll see where that takes us.”
The number of entries this year was by any standards very
disappointing and clearly under the existing regime and that
includes the current CEO and Boxing Council, little has been
done for Elite women in Ireland to build upon the huge success
and honour brought to the country by Katie Taylor.
Happily there is a new “go ahead” IABA President in Portlaoise’s
Pat Ryan, himself a noted coach of leading boxers including
Michael O’Reilly,who like Taylor,took Gold in the European Games
in Baku. Under Ryan’s guidance I believe it is ‘quite likely’
that women in Ireland will soon now ‘feed into’ the highly
successful High Performance Unit built up by Gary Keegan, Cuban
Nicolas Cruz Hernandez and later of course by Billy Walsh and
Georgia’s Zaur Antia. Equally important I believe that proper
funding will follow in the not too distant future.
At the moment the women’s teams at all levels receive little
funding compared with the men’s and both Sport Ireland and their
masters at the Government’s Sports Dept must ensure that this
now happens – better late than never. Despite the lack of
funding there are several excellent female boxers in the country
though a whole generation has lost out even in Taylor’s era due
to the IABA’s lack of promoting the women’s sport.
Friday night is not all about Taylor v O’Keeffe for there are
eight finals plus one walk-over at the Olympic weight of 75kg
where the title goes to Christina Desmond, who has often
represented her country with a fair amount of success at
European, World and youth Olympic level. It is though a shame
that the IABA has not organised an exhibition bout for her
against a tough International opponent on Friday night’s card.
Another final much looked forward to will be the clash of
Carrickmacross’s Joanne Lambe against Kerry born, St Michael’s
Athy based dual sports star Moira McElligott who has won several
races in the world of horse racing having overcome the leading
male jockeys to so do. They have met in the ring before as
Joanne Lambe explained to WBAN :
“Yes I boxed Moira last year in the semi-finals. It was a very
tactical and competitive bout which I won unanimously. However
Friday is another day and I will be taking nothing for granted.
We have prepared for this fight 100%.
I'm not even thinking about the Europeans or World's whatsoever.
All I am focused on at the moment is Friday, and boxing to the
best of my ability on the night”.
Other experienced campaigners in
action on finals night include Dervla Duffy from the St Brigid’s
Kildare club who meets Mayo’s Elaine Harrison who boxes out of
the Ardnaree BC, whilst Kelly Harrington from Glasnevin hopes to
retain her 64kg crown against another rising star in Cheyanne
O’Neill from Athlone BC.
Cavan’s Ceire Smith, (who beat current World 51kg champion and
AIBA No. 1, Marlen Esparza (USA) in Warsaw this year), meets
2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michaela Walsh in
Friday’s flyweight final, which is one of eight titles down for
This promises to be the ‘fight of the night’ as both are strong
contenders for a place in Ireland’s squad for the European
championships in Istanbul and later at the World Championships
in Astana, Kazakhstan, the final Olympic qualifier.
We will update you on all the news from the National Stadium at
Elite National Women’s Championships National Stadium Dublin,
Friday November 27th (7.30pm)
48kg Lauren Hogan (St Brigid’s Edenderry) v Donna Barr (Twin
51kg Michaela Walsh (Holy Family GG) v Ceire Smith (Cavan BC)
54kg Dervla Duffy (St Brigid’s Kildare) v Elaine Harrison (Ardnaree)
57kg Joanne Lambe (Carrickmacross) v Moira McElligott, (St
Michael's Athy )
60kg Katie Taylor (Bray) v Shauna O’Keeffe (Clonmel BC)
64kg Kelly Harrington (Glasnevin) v Cheyanne O’Neill (Athlone)
69kg Clare Grace (Callan) v Grainne Walsh (Sparticus)
75kg Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s BC,Cork) W/O
81+kg Diana Campbell (Garda BC) v Maeve McCarron (Carrigart)