Jay Byrne reflects on Semi-Pro Boxing Ireland’s Premier Event – ‘The Beginning’
August 2016 – considered as a dire month for Irish boxing. Michael Conlan, discarded from the Olympic Quarter finals after the judges awarded the decision to his Russian opponent.
Ireland abruptly became disengaged with amateur boxing. Conlan, along with Paddy Barnes and Katie Taylor, opted to join the pro ranks.
Could the rumoured corruption at the Rio Olympic Games have sparked a revolutionary path for boxers on these shores?
Jay Byrne, a professional boxer who promoted Saturday nights Semi-Professional Boxing Ireland’s first ever event in Saint Josephs, Sallynogign, talked to Fightstore Media about how the promotion initiated.
“When I started boxing I got this opportunity to go to London a couple of years ago to fight on one of these shows and it was very similar to what I put on Saturday night. It blew me away to be honest,” he said.
“I set up a semi-pro Irish boxing page and I registered the company name about 18 months ago and then it was the day that Michael Conlan got screwed over in the Olympics that I said that right now is the time to launch this because I knew there was going to be an awful lot of amateur boxers fed up with it and wondering was there was something else they could do.”
Byrne added: “The other thing is that as an amateur you get one competition a year unless you’re an elite – you’ve got the intermediates – so people don’t want to train for one competition a year in November.”
‘The Beginning’ was an enjoyable show memorable for its moving, multi-coloured lights over the ring that created engaging pro-like fighter entrances, well matched contests and some standout talent.
What is Byrne looking to achieve with this semi-professional format?
His ambition was made clear with his enthusiastically toned answer.
“My whole thing on this is – it’s no secret – was to take the first show and see how it hit, the reaction, what the standard was like, I feel there is a path for amateurs who are fed up of waiting around but don’t know if they could do it at a pro level. So it’s a stepping stone to becoming a pro.
“My long term plan going forward is to have a stable of 30-40 fighters in Ireland on the database. I’m going to get them regular fights, four-five times a year home and away and maybe 2018 go into pro promoting myself and I will have all the fighters ready for pro then.”
The reaction from the show was positive; Byrne confirmed that 12-15 boxers had contacted him with an interest to being involved in future events.
The next date is February 11th with the venue to be confirmed in a couple of weeks.
What was evident from ‘The Beginning’ was the competitive nature of the fights.
Byrne opined: “I understand pro boxing and you’ve got to build pro fighters and start at the bottom and learn your trade because it’s a totally different game than the amateurs. You have to start off with your journeyman and without them there’s no boxing.
“What I want to do is build up a base of fighters who are in 50/50 fights all the time, in a pro-environment that when they go pro they don’t need to bring in journeyman after journeyman after journeyman, they can start off with one or two and bang they are ready to go. I think personally it will bring the level of Irish boxing up massively.”
Recognisable pugilists were judging the bouts on Saturday night – Philip Sutcliffe Jr, Sean Turner and Sean Creagh.
Byrne explained why he chose to have professional boxers scoring bouts.
“I made sure I had boxing people watching the fights and judging them. Those lads know what it takes to get to the ring, know what it’s like in the ring and know what punches are what. Some of these old fellas in the chair – the rules are changing – they are still sitting down and judging boxing from 20 years ago.”
He continued: “Bad judging happens everywhere. And don’t get me wrong, some people had a couple of things to say on our show about some of the results and that’s fine. I wouldn’t say there were day light robberies. I am a regular watching of boxing at shows and some of the judging is bonkers.”
We concluded by discussing Byrne’s own professional career. He is 2-0 but is experiencing palpable frustration.
His scheduled December fight was recently scrapped.
Byrne sighed before stating, “It’s the second time it has happened to me in three months. I’ve trained, dropped weight and then its cancelled.”
Professional boxers in Ireland have been struggling with a lack of opportunities to showcase their skills and to progress in the sport.
There was no hesitancy when Byrne gave his thoughts on the issue.
“Some people are biting off too much too early. Personally I think some of the new fellas coming into the pro promoting game need to start building foundations. You can’t have a house without foundations, jumping in and taking on the Stadium and having it half full. They should really be starting off and running a venue like on Saturday. Start somewhere that does 600-700, sell the place out, cover the costs, if you make money it’s a bonus but as you know in life you have to spend money to make money.
“We need a couple of promoters to go back to basics, do things simple, get smaller shows, build them up and start promoting the fighters a little bit better. Then after four or five shows the boxers they are promoting will be ready to box for Irish titles and then they will sell out the stadium and the bigger venues.”
All the fights from the night are available from https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGLHwWYEJBH7k3KmA__Dx9w/feed
Our pick for boxer of the night – James Cahill
Image Source: Quotesgram