The 2012 Sport NI Ulster Elite championships were in danger of being remembered for all the wrong reasons, but last night the Immculata club made sure there some fine memories.
The Belfast club walked away from the Emerald Road House with six trophies and only an 18-17 victory for Jamie Kennedy over Eamonn Magee in the fight of the night at light-welter prevented Nugget Nugent’s men from equalling the record held by St George’s.
The worst entry in the history of this great event — due to internal politics — had clouded the championships, but that was forgotten almost immediately when Joe Fitzpatrick claimed the flyweight title.
Arguably the youngest ever winner of an Ulster senior title — his 17th birthday was only last week — this young man has a very bright future. The more experienced Ruairi Dalton of Holy Trinity was simply bewildered by Fitzpatrick’s electric handspeed and razor sharp footwork.
A European Youth bronze medalist in the summer, he was too young to enter the Intermediate championships, but in his first senior contest he soared, defeating Dalton 19-8 — and picking up the Most Improved Boxer award.
IABA president Dominic O’Rourke said: “Joe is one of the finest prospects we have. He only lost on a countback in the summer in the semi-finals and he was up against the cream of Europe.”
Fitzpatrick’s victory was immediately followed by clubmate James Fryers retaining his lightweight title after a sizzling contest with James Tennyson of St Paul’s.
Fryers led 14-10 going into the final round and had to dig deep to grind out a 21-19 win as Tennyson
never stopped throwing leather until the final bell which was greeted with a standing ovation.
For Fryers it was a special victory as last year mum Josephine, at ringside with sister Joanna, was unable to watch him lift his first title.
Fryers, who lifted the Best Boxer Award, said: “My mum graduates tomorrow in nursing so it’s a double celebration. Last year she was working so it’s extra special to have her here to watch me tonight. Credit to Tennyson, he really came to fight and he was so strong right to the end. I think I deserved it but it was a great contest.”
The best was yet to come with Kennedy and Magee serving up three rounds of great intensity. Magee seemed to edge the first, but was down 8-7 and then Kennedy seemed to get the better of the second round as they went toe-to-toe throughout.
Tied at 13-13 going into the final three minutes, both men soaked up punishment and came storming back with their own solid blows. Magee seemed to have nicked it but as the 18-17 scoreline suggests it could have gone either way.
“This is the best night of my career. I’m so pleased to have won my first Ulster senior title,” said Kennedy.
“It was a great fight and now I want to have a crack at the Irish championships.”
JP Delaney completed a quartet of titles within the past three months when he lifted the light-heavyweight title with a 9-8 verdict over Conor Coyle of St Joseph’s, Derry.
Delaney, the Antrim, Ulster and Irish intermediate champion, was fortunate to be 4-2 ahead after the first round in which Coyle seemed to have landed the cleaner blows, but, the Mac man edged the third and was 6-3 going into the last, which Coyle dominated.
Results: 49kg: Gavin McComb (Immaculata) wo; 52kg: Joe Fitzpatrick (Immaculata) bt Ruairi Dalton (Holy Trinity) 19-8; 56kg: JD Meli (Immaculata) wo; 60kg: James Fryers (Immaculata) bt James Tennyson (St Paul’s) 21-19; 64kg: Jamie Kennedy (Toome) bt Eamonn Magee (Immaculata) 18-17; 69kg: Paul Upton (Holy Family) bt Terry Garland (Holy Trinity) 21-6; 75kg: Alfredo Meli (Immaculata) wo; 81kg: JP Delaney (Immaculata) bt Conor Coyle (St Joseph’s) 9-8; 91kg: Tommy McCarthy (Oliver Plunkett) wo; 91+kg: JP Reah (St John Bosco) wo.