The Irish have an integral part in the legacy of the sport of boxing, dating back to the first two world heavyweight champions, John L. Sullivan and James J. Corbett, who both had Irish parents. However, since then Irish world champions have come few far between. That narrative may be beginning to change with the influx of Irish contenders and challengers in recent years. Earlier this year Katie Taylor won her first professional world title against Anahi Esther Sanchez, which may be the launching point for others to follow suit. Here is a look at the most likely candidates to win championship gold next.
Conlan is the clear front runner to be the next world champion from Ireland, simply because he has done it at the amateur level. Conlan’s gold medal at the world amateur championships was the first ever to be won by an Irish man. This success helped earn him a contract with legendary promoter Bob Arum at Top Rank. Since then, Conlan has gone on to win his first 5 fights, 4 of which by knockout. Conlan made his pro debut against Tim Ibarra on Saint Patrick’s Day this year at Madison Square Garden. Conlan is widely considered one of boxing’s top prospects. If Conlan can swiftly climb the rankings and earn a title shot, then he is in prime position to be the next Irish world champion.
One of the most probable hindrances to Conlan being the next Irish world champion, is if somebody gets a title shot before he gets the chance. Jason Quigley is the most likely Irishman to earn a title shot next. Donegal’s Jason Quigley is an incredibly talented middleweight, who is on track to be a world champion in the next two years, if all goes according to plan. He is 13-0 with ten knockouts, most recently beating Glenn Tapia and winning the NABF title, a great stepping stone on the way to world gold.
Dublin born Jono Carroll is 15-0 in the ring and is the current IBF Inter-Continental Super Featherweight champion. The 25-year-old Irishman won the belt against Humberto de Santiago in November to put him en route to getting a title shot against IBF champion Kenichi Ogawa. A potential stumbling block for Carroll is his lack of knockout power. He has only managed 2 knockouts in his 15 victories.
Another top Irish prospect with high-level skills, without major knockout power is Noel Murphy. The 23-year-old Cork native is 12-0 with just 2 knockouts. The welterweight prospect is based in New York and has had 10 of his professional fights in the U.S. In July he defeated the previously unbeaten Julio Cesar Sanchez (11-0, 6 KO’s) at Barclays Center on the Mikey Garcia v Adrien Broner show that Katie Taylor fought on.
Ireland’s next world champion doesn’t necessarily have to be a new champion. They could be a former champion retrieving his lost gold. Andy Lee is the former WBO middleweight champion of the world. Lee won the world title in 2014 with a sixth round TKO over Matt Korobov. He held it for a year and then lost it to current champion Billy Joe Saunders in a close fought majority decision. That was two years ago, and Lee has only fought once since, which questions just how much he wants to be a world champion again. However, if Lee does make a comeback and actively chases down middleweight champions Saunders and Golovkin, his knockout power is enough to cause everyone problems.