Ulster Elite Boxing Championships shelved over scheduling issues
THE Ulster elite boxing championships have suffered another blow after plans to stage the once-prestigious competition next month had to be shelved.
In their heyday, crowds of thousands flocked to the Ulster and Kings Halls to see the likes of future professional world champions Barry McGuigan, Carl Frampton and Wayne McCullough light up what was once the provincial showpiece.
However the Ulster elites - or Ulster seniors as they are better known - have struggled to capture the public imagination in recent years, with a lack of star names and falling entry levels contributing to a decline in interest.
Now, in another blow, they have been edged off the calendar after the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) decided to hold the national championships next month - the same time as the proposed Ulster elites.
The national championships are scheduled to run over three weekends in February (3-4, 10-11 and 17) at Dublin’s National Stadium, with the Ulsters originally slated for February 7-10.
Considering the national U22 championships take place throughout January, it has left a pretty packed schedule and Ulster Council president Paul McMahon says the provincial body was left with no choice but to postpone their competition.
“We had our dates put in and Dublin have now decided they are running the Irish Elites at the same time,” said McMahon. “We had the Europa Hotel booked [for finals night], it was in the fixture list from October.
“We think it’s totally ridiculous for us to try and run an Ulster elite championships at the same time as the national elites, so we’re very disappointed. It’s pretty obvious they didn’t have any consideration for the provincial unit.
“With the headguards off and the amount of injuries sustained, it would be ludicrous for us to expect a young lad to box one week and then go to Dublin the next week for the national elites.”
Despite his obvious disappointment at the IABA’s scheduling, McMahon admitted there is a general lack of interest from boxers – as well as the boxing public – in the provincial championships.
He added: “We’ve lost Paddy [Barnes], we’ve lost Michael [Conlan], Steven Donnelly doesn’t really seem to know what he’s doing, Connor Coyle’s away to the pro game, Sean McGlinchey doesn’t really seem to really know what he’s doing, Sean McComb doesn’t enter the Ulster championships, and that’s his prerogative.
“What boxers have we got entering the Ulster elite championships? Who are the boxers out there? People can talk about 1972 all they want. I boxed in that era, I know what it was like to box in the Ulster Hall then, but it’s changed times.
“I would love to go back to the days where you had to queue up at SS Moore’s or McGlade’s to get your tickets to get into the Ulster Hall.
“But being the Ulster senior champion isn’t the prestigious position it once was, and probably never will be.”
McMahon said the only possible alternative was to stage the Ulster elites in September, and to use that competition as a means to pick the Northern Ireland team that will travel to the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
“Maybe it would be sensible to have an open competition in September and we could say we’re going to run the elite championships and if you don’t enter them, you’re two rungs down the ladder.”