The Top 20 Irish Boxers of All-Time

Stew FlatsCorrespondent IApril 13, 2011

The Top 20 Irish Boxers of All-Time

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    Irishman Paul McCloskey will face Amir Khan on Saturday night with the WBA World Light Welterweight Title at stake. McCloskey will be looking to take Khan's title and add a chapter to Ireland's long and proud boxing history.

    To mark the occasion, here at B/R we give you a list of the best 20 fighters to hail from the Emerald Isle.

20. John Duddy

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    ARLINGTON, TX - MARCH 13:  John Duddy of Ireland smiles after defeating Michael Medina of Mexico by split decision during the middleweight fight at Cowboys Stadium on March 13, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Born in Derry, John Duddy won his first amateur Irish title at the age of only 15.  Duddy fought the vast majority of his professional career on the east coast of the USA, and established a cult following in the New York area.

    Duddy's exciting style saw him go in swinging and occasionally take one punch to land two, he won his first nine professional fights by way of knockout. 

    Duddy won a handful of lesser regarded titles, but usually fought just below elite level despite his massive following.  In 2010, Duddy lost a unanimous decision to Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and retired soon after.  Thousands of fans in the USA will be hoping that retirement does not last.

    John Duddy retired with a professional record of 29-2 with 18 knockouts.

19. Andy Lee

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    Andy Lee is an active middleweight who is on the path to emulate some of Ireland's greats of the past.  Lee began fighting at the age of eight and embarked on an impressive amateur career ahead of turning professional.

    Lee won a silver medal for Ireland at the 2002 World Junior Championships and also the 2004 EU Amateur Championships.  The skilled fighter also took bronze at the 2004 European championships, and competed at the 2004 Olympics.

    Lee turned professional under the guidance of legendary trainer Manny Steward, and has so far ran his record to 25-1.  In his last fight he was struggling against Scotsman Craig McEwan in Las Vegas, but dug deep to force a 10th-round TKO win and remain on the path to the top.

18. Paul McCloskey

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Amir Khan poses with his WBA light-welterweight belt as he stands alongside his next challenger for the title Paul McCloskey at a photocall at the Lowery Hotel on February 8, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex
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    Paul McCloskey is the reigning European Light Welterweight Champion and is only days away from the biggest fight of his career.  On Saturday night, McCloskey will challenge Englishman Amir Khan with the WBA World Light Welterweight Championship on the line.

    As an amateur, McCloskey was a three-time Irish champion and won a silver medal for Ireland at the 2003 EU Amateur Championships.

    McCloskey turned pro six years ago and has so far ran up a perfect record of 21-0 with 12 knockouts.  If he manages to beat Khan this weekend, McCloskey will doubtless find himself much higher on lists like this one.

17. Matthew Macklin

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11:  Matthew Macklin of England is cut and bleeds after his victory over Ruben Veron of Spain in the Middleweight Championship of Europe during the Frank Warren 30 Years anniversary show at Echo Arena on December 11, 2010 in
    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    Matthew Macklin is a currently active fighter who has held the Irish and British and Middleweight titles and is the reigning European Middleweight champion.

    Macklin turned professional in 2001, and won the Irish Middleweight title four years later when he knocked out Michael Monaghan in the fifth round.  Macklin fought Jamie Moore for the British Light Middleweight Title, but was knocked out in the 10th round of a Fight of the Year contender.

    "Mack the Knife" would later beat Wayne Elcock by TKO to win the British Middleweight title, and stop Amin Asikainen inside one round of his next fight to claim the European Middleweight crown.

    Macklin outpointed Ruben Varon in his last fight, and is tipped to earn himself a world title shot in the near future.

16. Sam Storey

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    Belfast native Sam Storey won every amateur title in Ireland, and represented the country at the European, Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

    Storey turned professional in 1985 and won the Irish Middleweight title from Rocky McGran in only his fifth fight.  Storey dropped the belt to the great Steve Collins, but later won the British Super Middleweight title with a points win over Tony Burke.

    Storey lost in his only world title shot when he was stopped by Chris Eubank, but would later regain the British Super Middleweight title with a decision over Ali Forbes.

    Storey finished his career with a 25-6 record, and became only the third Irishman to own a Lonsdale Belt outright.

15. Kevin McBride

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    WASHINGTON - JUNE 11:  Kevin McBride (R) of Ireland hits Mike Tyson against the ropes in the 6th round during their heavyweight bout on June 11, 2005 at the MCI Center in Washington, DC.  (Photo By Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    "The Clones Colossus" was born in the same Irish town as the legendary Barry McGuigan.  McBride represented Ireland in the 1992 Summer Olympics before turning professional soon after.

    McBride won the Irish Heavyweight title in 1997 with a fifth-round stoppage of Paul Douglas.  After running his career record to 32-4, McBride was matched up against Mike Tyson and was viewed as "cannon fodder" and merely a warmup match for Iron Mike to move onto bigger things.

    McBride shocked the world by stopping an aged Tyson in Round 6 for his career-defining win.  The big Irishman would later receive a shot at the IBF International Heavyweight Title, but dropped a unanimous Decision to Tomasz Adamek.

    McBride retired with a career record of 35-9-1, and that one win over Tyson ensures he will always be remembered in Irish boxing history.

14. Eamonn Magee

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    BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - MARCH 18:  Eamonn Magee retains his title during the WBU Light Welterweight title fight between Eamonn Magee and Allan Vester on March 18, 2005 at the Kings Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)
    John Gichigi/Getty Images

    Belfast native Eamonn Magee has been a fighter since his childhood.  Magee had a troubled youth that saw him stabbed in the neck as well as shot in the leg.

    Magee won multiple Irish titles as an amateur, but trouble continued to follow him when he was involved in a soccer brawl a year before turning professional in 1995.

    Magee knocked out Alan Temple in 1995 to claim the Irish Light Welterweight title, and later that year captured the Commonwealth crown by putting away Paul Burke inside six rounds.  Magee defended his belt nine times, including wins over Shea Neary and Jon Thaxton before dropping the belt by decision to Ricky Hatton.

    The WBU world title was captured when Magee beat Jimmy Vincent in 2003.  Magee defended successfully against Allan Vester before dropping the belt to Mehrdud Takaloo.

    Magee retired with a career record of 27-6 that included 17 knockout wins.

13. Bernard Dunne

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    Dublin native Bernard Dunne is a former WBA World Super Bantamweight Champion, and a former European Super Bantamweight Champion.

    Dunne amassed an amateur record of 119-11 and captured 13 Irish titles before turning professional.  He was never beaten by a fellow Irishman during his entire amateur career.

    Dunne won the vacant European Super Bantamweight title in 2006 with a unanimous decision win over Esham Pickering.  He defended the belt twice before losing it to Kiko Martinez.

    Three straight wins earned him a title shot, and Dunne got off the canvas twice to stop Ricardo Cordoba after 11 rounds.  Dunne dropped the belt in his first defense to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym.

    Dunne was named Irish Boxer of the Year in 2010, and retired soon after with a career record of 28-2.

12. Eamonn Loughran

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    Eamonn Loughran is a gritty fighter who won the WBO World Welterweight Championship.  Hailing from Ballymena, Loughran represented Ireland at the 1987 World Junior Boxing Championships winning silver medal.

    Loughran would turn pro later on in the same year and ran his record to 18-1-1 before receiving his first title shot.  Loughran stopped Donovan Boucher in the third round to claim the Commonwealth Welterweight title.

    Loughran continued his winning ways and outpointed Lorenzo Smith to become the WBO World Welterweight Champion.  The belt was defended successfully five times before Loughran was stopped in the first round by Jose Luis Lopez.

    The Lopez fight would be Loughran's last, and he retired with a professional record of 26-2-1.

11. Brian Magee

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    Brian Magee is the reigning European Super Middleweight Champion.  As an amateur, Magee won Bronze at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, as well as Silver at the 1998 European Amateur Championships.  Magee also represented at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

    Magee turned professional in 1999 and won the IBO Super Middleweight title with a unanimous decision over Neil Linford in 2001.  The belt was defended successfully eight times before it was dropped to Robin Reid in 2004.

    Magee lost to future world champion Carl Froch before winning the British Super Middleweight title with an Round 8 KO of Stevie Maguire.  In his next fight, Magee took the European crown from Mads Larsen.

    In his most recent fight, Magee lost a world title shot when he was stopped in the 10th round by Lucian Bute. To date, he has a career record of 34-4-1 and is tipped by many to challenge again for world honors in the future.

10. Wayne McCullough

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    31 Oct 1998:  Prince Naseem Hamed (right) in action during the Prince Naseem Hamed v Wayne McCullough fight for the WBO belt at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Prince Naseem Hamed defeated Wayne McCullough by a decision i
    John Gichigi/Getty Images

    Wayne "Pocket Rocket" McCullough hails from Belfast and is a former WBC Bantamweight World Champion. 

    During his amateur career, McCullough won a gold medal for Northern Ireland at the 1990 Commonwealth games, and a Silver Medal for Ireland at the 1992 Olympics.  McCullough amassed an amateur record of 319-11 with over 100 KO's.

    Wayne turned professional in 1993, winning the NABF Bantamweight Title from Javier Medina in less than a year.  One more year on, McCullough traveled to Japan and outpointed Yasuei Yakushiji to be crowned WBC Bantamweight World Champion.

    The "Pocket Rocket" made three successful defenses before dropping his belt to Daniel Zaragoza in the USA.  McCullough then failed in his next World Title shot when he was outpointed by English great 'Prince' Naseem Hamed.

    McCullough would earn four more world title shots but ultimately fall short in all of them, losing to Erik Morales, Scott Harrison and Oscar Larios.

    Rumors persist of a potential comeback, but as it stands McCulloch has a professional record of 27-7 (18 KO's).

9. John Caldwell

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    John Caldwell was a classy fighter who is reported to have run up a record of 246-5 during his amateur career.  Caldwell also won a bronze medal for Ireland at the 1956 Olympics before turning professional two years later.

    Caldwell got off to a perfect 17-0 start before knocking out Frankie Jones in 1960 to claim the British Flyweight Title.  Less than a year later, Caldwell won a points decision over Alphonse Halimi to capture the World Bantamweight title.  The belt was successfully defended with another points win over Halimi, before Eder Jofre wrested away the title with a 10th round TKO.

    Caldwell then lost a British and Commonweath title challenge when he was beaten by Freddie Gilroy in a fight many describe as the best to ever take place on Irish soil.  Two years later Caldwell won both belts with a seventh-round stoppage of George Bowes.

    Caldwell dropped both belts to Alan Rudkin, before retiring soon after with a career record of 29-5-1.

8. Freddie Gilroy

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    Belfast native Freddie Gilroy won a gold medal for Ireland at the 1956 Olympics before turning professional.

    Gilroy had a relatively short professional career which spanned only five years.  In that time, Gilroy managed to win British, Commonwealth and European titles but lost in his only world title shot when he was outpointed by Alphonse Halimi.

    In his final fight, Gilroy knocked out Olympic Medallst John Caldwell in what many see as the greatest fight to ever be held in Ireland.  Gilroy announced his retirement soon after the fight and retired just days later.

7. Dave McAuley

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    Larne native Dave "Boy" McAuley is a former IBF World Flyweight Champion, and is regarded by many as Ireland's greatest ever flyweight.

    In 1987, McAuley lost his first world title shot against Fidel Bassa. McAuley also lost a points decision a year later in a rematch with Bassa; both contests were voted Fight of the Year.

    In 1989 McAuley won the IBF Flyweight World Title when he handed English Champion Duke McKenzie his first defeat.  Five successful defenses followed before the title was dropped in a split decision loss to Rodolfo Blanco.

    McAuley retired with a professional record of 18-3-2 and has kept his fearless attitude in his life after boxing, where he became a professional bull rider.

6. John Monaghan

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    John "Rinty" Monaghan was a hard-punching fighter who also carved out a reputation as one of the most charismatic figures the sport has ever seen.  Monaghan racked up over 50 wins, and often celebrated by serenading the crown with his favorite song "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" on the ring microphone.

    Rinty won the British, Commonwealth and European Flyweight Championships before his finest day on October 20, 1947.  Monaghan outpointed Dado Marino over 15 rounds to become the NBA World Flyweight Title.  He won the undisputed world title when he knocked out Jackie Patterson in the seventh round.

    Rinty retired with a career record of 51-9-6, and his charming personality saw him become a beloved cabaret artist after his fighting career ended.

5. Tom Sharkey

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    Tom Sharkey was a physical brawler who rode his hard-hitting style all the way to a world championship. 

    Sharkey was born in Dundalk, Ireland but ran away from home as a cabin boy and found himself in New York City.  He joined the US Navy and began his professional career while deployed in Hawaii.

    Sharkey fought the legendary "Gentleman" Jim Corbett to a draw then captured the world title with a disqualification win over Bob Fitzsimmons.  Sharkey would later go on to record another disqualification win over Corbett.

    Tom Sharkey retired with a career record of 38-7-6 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.

4. Jack Dempsey

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    The original Jack Dempsey was given the nickname "Nonpareil" which translates to "without equal."  Dempsey often fought men 20-25 pounds heavier than him, and is considered by some to be among the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in the history of the sport.

    Dempsey won his first undisputed world title in 1890 when he defeated "Australian" Billy McCarthy in California by way of a 28th-round knockout.  Dempsey held onto his belt for eight fights before suffering a KO defeat at the hands of the great Bob Fitzsimmons.

    Sadly, Dempsey's career was cut short when he died from Tuberculosis at the age of 33 while still an active boxer. 

    Jack Dempsey was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992, and finished with a career record of 50-3-8.

3. Barry McGuigan

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    LONDON - JUNE 8 :  Barry McGuigan of Northern Ireland celebrates after beating  WBA Champion Eusebio Pedroza of Panama at Loftus Road Stadium,London on the 8th of June 1985. Barry McGuigan won by a points decision after 15 rounds to become the new WBA Cha
    Steve Powell/Getty Images

    "The Clones Cyclone" represented Northern Ireland at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the 1980 Summer Olympics before turning professional in 1981.

    In 1982 McGuigan knocked out Young Ali over six rounds, and after the fight his opponent would fall into a coma he would never recover from.  This event deeply impacted Barry's psyche and many believe it haunted him for years after.

    McGuigan won the British title from 1983 from Vernon Penprase, and beat Valerio Nati later that year to capture the European crown. 

    Barry received his first world title shot in 1985 when Eusebio Pedroza traveled to face him in London, England.  Pedroza was beaten over 15 rounds by unanimous decision and McGuigan was crowned WBA World Featherweight Champion.

    Barry defended the world title successfully against Bernard Taylor and Danilo Cabrera, before losing the belt to Stevie Cruz in Las Vegas.  McGuigan was hospitalized due to dehydration following the fight.

    Following losing his title, McGuigan retired and revealed he had lost some motivation following the death of his father.  He made a brief comeback but finally hung up his gloves with a career record of 32-3 (28 KO's).

    Barry McGuigan was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2005.

2. Steve Collins

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    Dublin native Steve Collins was known as "The Celtic Warrior" and won the WBO Middleweight and Super Middleweight titles during his impressive career.

    Collins won 26 Irish titles at amateur level before turning professional in 1986 and spending his early years fighting in the USA.  After two years fighting pro, Collins captured the Irish Middleweight title with a win over Sam Storey, and then embarked on a 17-fight winning streak that included a win over world No. 5 Kevin Watts.

    Collins received his first world title shot in 1990 but was defeated by Mike McCallum.  Four years later, Collins would break through on the world stage following two fights with English great Chris Eubank.

    Collins outpointed Eubank in convincing fashion, Eubank complained of "legal cheating" after Collins enlisted the help of a sports psychologist.  Eubank was given a rematch in which Collins literally ran at Eubank on the opening bell and smothered his throughout the majority of the fight.  Collins was again given the victory on the scorecards.

    Collins also beat Nigel Benn twice to establish himself as one of the truly elite fighters of his era.  Head injuries would mean Collins would retire ahead of a planned bout with Joe Calzaghe, the Irish great hung up his gloves with a career record of 36-3 with 21 knockouts.

1. Jimmy McLarnin

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    Jimmy "Baby Face" McLarnin was born in County Down, Ireland and was a two-time World Welterweight Champion.  McLarnin also beat 13 world champions during his hall of Fame career.

    McLarnin turned professional at a young age and had to lie about his age to secure fights in the early years.  He lost his first title shot to Sammy Mandell, although Jimmy would later beat Mandell twice in non-title matches. 

    Over the next five years McLarnin would knock out a succession of foes including Al Singer, Ruby Goldstein and Sid Terris to earn another world title shot against Young Corbett III.

    McLarnin blew away Corbett and became world champion by way of first-round KO.  Jimmy would then won one match of an epic trilogy against Barney Ross.

    Jimmy McLarnin retired with a career record of 55-11-3 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.  In 1996, The Ring Magazine listed McLarnin at No. 5 in its list of the greatest welterweights of all-time.

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