The Year Irish Boxers Broke

Ahead on the scorecards one famous night in 1941 against the great Joe Louis, Billy Conn went for the knockout, and because of it, got knocked out himself. A reporter asked Conn, “Why?” He replied: “What’s the point of being Irish if you can’t be thick?”
Wednesday night on ESPN2, unbeaten Irish junior middleweight (154 lbs.) prospect James Moore lost an upset decision by a fighter who took the fight on two weeks’ notice. Moore had been calling out very highly-regarded division prospects Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. ESPN2 also hosted the first defeat of a far more heralded Irish prospect, middleweight (160 lbs.) Andy Lee, back in March, when he was knocked out in what may yet prove the Upset of the Year. He and fellow Irish middleweight John Duddy had been angling for a big money fight with division champ Kelly Pavlik. Duddy lost his shot at Pavlik the night in February he suffered a deep gash over his eye and barely pulled out a win over a heavy underdog.
Those three — Duddy, Lee and Moore — are arguably the top names in Irish boxing, which started 2008 with a bang. (A fourth candidate, Irish junior featherweight [122 lbs.] Bernard Dunne, got upset and knocked out in the first round of an August fight before which he remarked: “I won’t be standing in front of him letting him hit me.”) “There is no doubt boxing in Ireland is hot at the moment,” began a January Setana Sports piece, before turning prophetic and asking, “But are the sport‚Äôs new and returning fans seeing real quality or are they worshiping false idols[?]”
In all four cases, pure carelessness — walking directly into punches. showing a complete unwillingness or inability to duck — helped lead the Irish boxers into the jaws of disaster. Conn might say this foursome got “the point of being Irish.”

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.