From Carl Frampton to Paddy Barnes. Irish world title challenges over the past two years

Carl Frampton on the attack against Leo Santa Cruz as they fight for the WBA featherweight title at the MGM Garden Arena, Las Vegas in January 2017
Andy Watters

Since Carl Frampton lost his WBA featherweight title to Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas last year, three other Belfast men have tried, but failed, to win world titles. Ryan Burnett took up Frampton’s mantle but bad luck ended his run as a bantamweight king meaning that Laois native TJ Doheny is now Ireland’s only reigning world champion. Andy Watters looks back over two action-packed years at boxing’s top table…

January 28, 2017, MGM Grand, Las Vegas: WBA Featherweight world title: Carl Frampton lost to Leo Santa Cruz MD

FRAMPTON had beaten Los Angeles-based Mexican Santa Cruz with the performance of his career so far in New York the previous summer and he went into their Vegas rematch expecting the same again.

From minute one it was obvious that Santa Cruz had changed tactics. His jab zeroed in on the Jackal’s nose and the Frampton corner could not adjust to the unexpected Santa Cruz gameplan.

Frampton, who had looked unruffled and in control throughout the first fight, lost his composure in Vegas and his work became wild as the rounds ticked. Although one judge gave him the decision, Santa Cruz deserved his win.

Afterwards there was talk of a third fight but Santa Cruz has shown no interest in coming to Belfast to defend his title. A Frampton win in Manchester could pave the way to the completion of the trilogy though.

June 10, 2017, SSE Arena, Belfast: IBF bantamweight title: Ryan Burnett beat Lee Haskins UD

THIS was a masterclass from Burnett. The north Belfast man dropped Haskins in the sixth and 11th rounds in a dominant performance.

Two officials rightly handed in convincing totals of 119-107 for Burnett but the third, Clark Sammartino, had him losing 118-108.

An IBF statement said: “One of the scores after each round was recorded on the individual scorecards for the incorrect fighter.”

October 21, 2017, SSE Arena, Belfast: IBF & WBA bantamweight titles: Ryan Burnett beat Zhanat Zhakiyanov UD

IN June Burnett had out-boxed boxer Haskins. Just over four months later he out-brawled brawler Zhakiyanov in a head-to-head battle of wills against the teak tough Ricky Hatton-trained Kazak. Burnett was pushed all the way by the 33-year-old but he found his rhythm in the later stages of the fight, before the judges returned scores of 119-109, 118-110 and 116-112 in his favour.

Five months later, Burnett, who had given up the IBF belt, defended the WBA version, against Yonfrez Parejo in Cardiff.

November 18, 2017, SSE Arena, Belfast, WBC super-flyweight title: Jamie Conlan lost to Jerwin Ancajas TKO6

CONLAN never took a backward step in his career and the Belfast brawler’s date with destiny came late last year when he squared up to Filipino hitter Ancajas on home soil.

Despite massive home support, Conlan was never able to get a foothold in the fight. Ancajas had him down in the first round and after that it was a matter of how long Conlan could survive. He proved his lion-hearted nature beyond doubt (not that there ever was any doubt) by getting off the canvas in rounds three and four and was even edging his way back into the fight when Ancajas sent him down again in the sixth. The referee had seen enough and Conlan had given enough.

August 16, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo: IBF world super bantamweight title: TJ Doheny beat Ryosuke Iwasa UD

AUSTRALIA-based southpaw Doheny (31), originally from Portlaoise, threw the form book out of the window in Tokyo by dethroning local favourite and defending champion Iwasa in a 12-round war at a hostile Korakuen Hall.

Doheny equalled the feat of Belfast’s Wayne McCullough, who had the WBC bantamweight title in Japan in 1995, by hammering out a deserved unanimous decision despite sustaining a cut under his eye early in the fight.

August 18, 2018, Windsor Park, WBC Flyweight title: Paddy Barnes lost to Cristofer Rosales KO4

AGAINST a man who was seven years younger but had five times more experience and a lot of stoppage wins on his record, everything had to go right for Barnes. He hadn’t fought for almost nine months and went into a world challenge in only his sixth fight. But for almost 12 minutes he boxed brilliantly and as the seconds ticked down to the end of the fourth he might have already been thinking about going back to his corner having built up a considerable points lead.

But Rosales turned the fight on its head and left Barnes flattened on the canvas with a shuddering bodyshot with four seconds to go in the round. You don’t get saved by the bell any more and Barnes was counted out. Will he get another shot?

October 20, 2018, TD Garden, Boston, IBF Super-featherweight title: James Tennyson lost to Tevin Farmer TKO5

TENNYSON dared to dream and after a string of stoppage wins – victory over Martin J Ward in London was the best of the lot – he earned his chance to shoot for the stars in Boston.

Philadelphia southpaw Farmer had been a slow starter as a pro but had earned rave reviews since he’d won the IBF belt. Nobody expected Tennyson to go out and out-box the champion but he went into the fight with a genuine punchers’ chance.

However, Farmer proved too slick for him and, although Tennyson had some moments of success, ‘American Idol’ broke him down and dropped him in the fourth round. ‘Tenny’ fought back bravely but the referee jumped in – far too quickly for the Belfast man’s liking – when he was down again in the sixth and waved it off.

November 3, 2018, Hydro, Glasgow, WBA bantamweight title: Ryan Burnett lost to Nonito Donaire RTD4

A WORLD Series of Boxing semi-final showdown against Zolani Tete looked to be Ryan Burnett’s destiny when he was drawn against an ageing, but still potent, Donaire in Glasgow. For three rounds the fight seemed to be going to script with ‘The Filipino Flash’ having his moments but Burnett having more.

Then, deep in round four, Burnett shaped to throw a right hand and almost crumpled to the canvas in pain. He struggled through to the end of the round but was unable to continue and retired on his stool. It later emerged that the luckless Burnett had suffered a slipped disc and had to surrender his hard won WBA title.

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