Derry throw hat in the ring for return of pro boxing after 36 years

Tyrone McCullagh's WBO European title win has set the wheels in motion for the return of professional boxing to the city.
Tyrone McCullagh's WBO European title win has set the wheels in motion for the return of professional boxing to the city.

THE BRITISH Boxing Board of Control insist they won’t stand in the way of professional boxing returning to Derry for the first time since 1982!

Following Tyrone McCullagh’s WBO European title victory in Belfast on Friday night, the wheels have been set in motion to bring professional boxing to the maiden city with three active pro fighters from Derry.

British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) N. Ireland Area Secretary, John Campbell believes it would cost in the region of £10,000 to lease an air ambulance for the night which would be required given the distance to the nearest neurological unit.

In accordance with the rules and regulations of the BBBoC, a boxing venue must be located no more than an hour from a hospital with an approved accident emergency and neurosurgical unit, as well as having a neurosurgeon on call in the event that a boxer may sustain a serious head injury.

The closest suitable facility to Derry is the Royal Victoria Hospital which, in a ‘blue lights’ situation, would be in excess of 60 minutes. However, having an emergency helicopter service on stand-by provides a viable solution.

Should a promoter meet that expense, the event would also require a green light from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) to allow the use of its helicopter for the duration of the show in case a critical injury transfer between Derry and Belfast is required.

Attempts were made in 2013 by former European light-welterweight champion, Paul McCloskey’s management team to stage a professional show at Ebrington Square but an application was scrapped by the BBBoC after the city was declared an ‘unsuitable’ venue due to health and safety concerns.

However, Mr Campbell reckons the introduction of the Northern Ireland’s air ambulance in 2017 has now made it possible for Derry to host a professional boxing promotion for the first time since Charlie Nash’s victory over Frank McCord at the Guildhall in September 1982.

Crucially the BBBoC say they will consider any proposed plans providing someone was prepared to pay the money and the helicopter service was prepared to do it.

“The prime reason it was turned down in 2013 was transport,” explained Mr. Campbell. “I know it was said with ‘blue lights’ you can get to Belfast in around 35 minutes. Blue lights can’t be the guiding factor.

The door won’t be slammed. We didn’t slam the door before and I wouldn’t do it now.

John Campbell (BBBoC)

“The simple fact was, when you put a badly injured boxer or person into an ambulance and the doctor is there, the anaesthetist is calling the shots, not the driver. If he says ‘slow down’ or he says ‘stop’ you’ve got to do so. You don’t go over bumps at 70 miles per hour. I tested it and it can be done but it’s not acceptable. You can’t take risks.

“What has changed since then is that the helicopters have come into being. If you want to book the helicopter for that night it has to be from the start of the show until the end and that’s a very, very expensive business.

“You’re talking thousands of pounds and those people are not inclined to be told what to do if they get a call from anywhere in Northern Ireland if there are injured people who need their help. They would get up and go and the tournament gets abandoned.

“It’s not just a case of paying the money. The chopper service have to say ‘Yes’ and make that chopper available totally for boxing for that night. That’s the way it is.

“If that was agreed it would be a different matter. It would be considered. Yes, the helicopter can go something like 180 mile an hour and can obviously make Belfast in no time and there’s a landing pad at the Royal where the neuro unit is. So it can work but I would guess you’re talking over £10,000 for the helicopter.”

It’s hoped McCullagh’s sensational victory over Josh Kennedy last Friday night can pave the way and the talented super-bantamweight has already contacted the BBBoC about the possibility of fighting in his hometown in the near future. A scenario he claims would be a ‘dream come true’.

“Tyrone McCullagh has written to me about it and I’ll be writing to Tyrone about that detailing everything that needs to be done,” added Mr Campbell.

“The door won’t be slammed. We didn’t slam the door before and I wouldn’t do it now.”