DERRY’S ONLY three active professional boxers have thrown their weight behind the ongoing bid to bring a pro boxing bill to the city for the first time since September 1982.
Reigning WBO European champion, Tyrone McCullagh and middleweight prospects, Connor Coyle and Sean McGlinchey met up at the city’s Guildhall on Saturday to discuss the possibility of staging a first pro show in Derry since Charlie Nash’s victory over Frank McCord at the same venue 36 years ago.
Glen Road native, McCullagh is prepared to put his WBO European belt on the line should he get the green light from the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) but believes time is of the essence with a summer show the target.
“I’ve no doubt that if we did manage to get it over the line it would be a massive success,” said McCullagh.
“There are three of us from Derry now who are pro boxers and it would give others from surrounding counties like Donegal the chance to box on it as well.
“Now is the time. I wouldn’t say its now or never but if it doesn’t happen now then I don’t know when it would happen to be honest. I’ve got the European title and will defend that or fight for another title. There are massive fights out there for me this year but to do it in my hometown would be unbelievable and I really hope it happens.”
There have been previous attempts to stage a pro show in Derry but Paul McCloskey’s bid to fight in the city during the City of Culture year in 2013 failed to materialise as the BBBoC refused to sanction the event with Derry being more than an hour from the nearest neurological centre.
However, Seamus Cunning of Derry Boxing Promotions and Banagher man, Lawrence O’Kane - the father of former IBF world middleweight contender, Eamonn O’Kane - are confident they can convince the BBBoC that Derry can meet its regulations.
They are set for further talks at the end of the month and have enlisted the support of local politicians, Sinn Fein MP, Elisha McCallion and SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan.
Last October, the BBBoC’s N. Ireland Area Secretary, John Campbell told the ‘Journal’ that the governing body wouldn’t stand in the way of professional boxing returning to the city and would certainly consider it should promoters meet its health and safety stipulations.
Unbeaten Galliagh middleweight, Coyle (9-0), who has been fighting out of Tampa Bay, Florida, said it would be a dream come true to fight professionally in his hometown.
“Fighting in your hometown would be unbelievable, especially as it hasn’t happened here in so long,” he stated.
“We’ve three exciting fighters here all around the same age and three exciting styles, so we would make it very exciting for the people of Derry and those from the surrounding areas who travel in to watch it. It would be pretty exciting.
“It’s definitely been too long,” he added. “If we get the go-ahead to have a fight this summer possibly, it would be unbelievable.”
And fellow 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, McGlinchey who has relocated to Belfast to kick-start his career says the city deserves a chance to stage a top boxing promotion.
“I think the city needs it and a lot of people are calling for it here but people are just ignoring it. It deserves to come here. This is the most pro boxers ever to come out of Derry at the same time so it would be good to give us all a show.
“Paul McCloskey or Eamonn O’Kane couldn’t fight here and I think they need to just let it happen. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen and there’s no rule to say it shouldn’t happen, so let’s just have our time in our own city.”