JAMIE Conlan believes Derry can become a ‘hotbed for professional boxing’ if the bid to bring the sport back to the city for the first time in 37 years gets the green light.
The former European and Intercontinental Super flyweight champion was at the Waterfoot Hotel in Derry on Tuesday discussing plans for a potential Derry show in his role as professional development coordinator for Matthew Macklin’s Mack the Knife (MTK) Global management company.
Conlan gave assurances that MTK, who represent Derry’s WBO super-bantamweight European champion, Tyrone McCullagh, will be fully behind the show and are prepared to ring-fence a provisional date of October 11th for the event.
The news is a welcome boost for Derry Boxing Promotions’ Seamus Cunning and business man, Lawrence O’Kane - father of former IBF Intercontinental champion, Eamonn - who have been working tirelessly in their crusade to get a show in the city for the first time since September 1982.
The British Boxing Board of Control (BBoC) won’t sanction the event unless it can be proved Derry is no more than an hour from its nearest neurological centre in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.
However, with work on the new A6 road between Derry and Belfast reportedly ahead of schedule, it’s expected the journey from the Maiden City to the Royal could be cut by some eight minutes which could potentially seal the deal.
Further discussions with the BBoC and its Chief Medical Officer are due to take place in the coming weeks and Conlan is hopeful Derry gets the thumbs up having been ‘starved’ of professional boxing for far too long.
“MTK have a Derry star in Tyrone McCullagh and it would be lovely to see him fight in his home city,” said the West Belfast man. “And with the backing of the people of Derry it would be phenomenal.
“Derry is a place that has been starved of professional boxing. It has so many quality operators coming through from the amateurs like Connor Coyle who turned professional, Tyrone McCullagh and Sean McGlinchey. There were previous stars such as Paul McCloskey and Eamonn O’Kane who never had the chance to box professionally in their own city whereas they did as amateurs.
“If there is potential to stage a fight here then Derry could be a hotbed for professional boxing,” he predicted. “The sticking point for the last few years, since the 90s really, is the distance to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. Derry has been put on the back-burner regarding it.
“Hopefully with the new road opening up we will have the required timescale to get from Derry to Belfast in, And with the help of the lads here, getting set up in Derry would be amazing to see.”
The closest the city came to staging a pro boxing show was four years ago when Eamonn O’Kane headlined in Lavey, Co. Derry in May 2015 against Lewis Taylor. Before that Paul McCloskey had to travel to the Aura Centre, Letterkenny in October 2010 with proposal to fight in Ebrington Square during the City of Culture year in 2013 ultimately falling on deaf ears.
“Derry people have been starved of it,” claimed Conlan. “You have to travel up to Belfast or Dublin and in one case Letterkenny to watch your own hometown lads fighting professional fights. Whereas as an amateur you get to see them in your local venues. It’s a long time coming and now is the time with the kids coming through it’s fantastic.”
When asked if MTK would have a slot in their diary for a potential show in Derry next October, Conlan answered in the affirmative.
“We’re looking at dates and the lads are pushing for dates in October,” he explained. “If they think the new road can help that then working with Tyrone and MTK, we’ll be ready for it. Connor Coyle hopefully will be ready for it as well. So it’s potential big news for Derry and the city of Derry is crying out for big sports stars. They have big sports stars in the boxers but they people of Derry have yet to see them in the city.”