December saw super featherweight warriors Stephen McAfee and Colin O'Donovan fight to a bloodstained stand-still on Celtic Clash 4 at the National Stadium in Dublin. The sixth and final round has already become a cult classic among boxing fans, a thrilling toe-to-toe three minutes that will live long in the memory.
The fight quickly exploded into one of the best fights of the year, with the crowd still on their feet and cheering the pair the fight was ruled a draw. It immediately topped of every boxing fan's wish-list for 2018. Now the fight has been given the platform it deserves.
On Saturday March 24, the pair will face-off once again. The bout headlines 'Celtic Clash 5' fight night run by Boxing Ireland Promotions and Tony Davitt Promotions in association with Dublin Plumbing and Gas. This time the setting is Good Counsel GAA club in Drimnagh, Dublin and it takes pride of place as the main attraction and over eight rounds for the BUI Celtic super featherweight title.
While there may be bigger names and bigger venues, this fight has really captured the imagination of domestic boxing fans. A well-worn cliché in boxing is that there are no guarantees in the fight game. This is not entirely true, because 'McAfee v O'Donovan 2' is a definite war that is certain to pick up right where the first fight ended.
There were no hard feelings or animosity going into the opening bout, rather their two fighting styles just meshed perfectly with visceral results. Indeed, such was the short notice and under-the-radar nature of the bout, the pair barely got to know each other beforehand. However, instead of a brotherhood bonded by boxing, the first fight and its fall-out has led to deep resentment between the two.
McAfee [2(2)-0-1] was the hot prospect and hot favourite ahead of the first fight. The swaggering Sallynoggin slugger had scored two highlight-reel knockouts in his opening two fights, grabbed plenty of attention, and was stepping up to six rounds looking to make a big statement against a fellow Irishman.
O'Donovan [1(1)-1(1)-1] on the other hand hadn't garnered the same attention. The Youghal-based fighter seen as an 'on-the-road' boxer, taking short notice bouts as the underdog - and the first McAfee fight was no different, with 'The Rebel Rouser' agreeing to the fight just seven days beforehand.
Dubliner McAfee was left disgusted by the 58-58 drawn verdict. Caught somewhat off guard by just how game O'Donovan was, the 26-year-old was not happy with his performance. That said, he was even less happy with the scoreline and looking back recalls how "I was disappointed I didn't get the win - I felt like I did. After then, when I went home and I watched it, I definitely thought it. Definitely, looking back at it. I looked disappointed after the bell."
"I've been in plenty of wars before. That's nothing new. I want to correct what was given the last time."
"This time out I know more, I've been in the ring with him, I'll be able to work more with him, on stances, his hands, and the bit of awkwardness he has. I didn't know that the first time - I know now - and I'll be working on it and I'll be ready!"
From being dismissed beforehand to becoming a fan-favourite during and in the aftermath, O'Donovan's star has risen substantially since the fight - a fight which he too believes he got the better of.
Normally a happy-go-lucky chap, the Leesider has been enraged by McAfee's consistent assertions that he won the bout. O'Donovan outlined how “I just don’t like the man now – his responses after the fight, the way he acted during the fight, he’s not the man he portrays himself to be.”
“He lost. If I were to be a judge and was asked who won the fight, he lost the fight – and not only that, he’s acting the girl about it. He’s going ‘Aw, I should have won that fight’ – but I’d say ‘Nah, you didn’t. You should have won that fight, but you didn’t, you lost’. Just get over it and man up.”
“I’m going to literally dance on him, and I don’t think he’ll make it out of the first couple of rounds, to be quite honest.”
An atmospheric venue that is sure to be packed to capacity, not a bad seat in the house, a title on the line, and two men who genuinely dislike each other and are certain to put on a fantastic show - this is domestic boxing at its very best.
A full undercard will also feature on the night including Ballybrack lightweight Niall O'Connor, Crumlin lightweight Martin Quinn, and Cavan light middleweight Owen Duffy.
Tickets for the show cost €15 (under 15s), €40 unreserved seating and €60 ringside from Stephen at 086 2454 350 or via the Boxing Ireland Promotions facebook page.