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Boxing chiefs must take a stand over ring walk songs after Michael Conlan controversy: McAuley

 

Triumphant: Michael Conlan after his victory over Ruben Garcia Hernandez at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day
Triumphant: Michael Conlan after his victory over Ruben Garcia Hernandez at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Former World champion Dave McAuley believes the fall-out from Michael Conlan's ring walk at Madison Square Garden must lead to action from the British Boxing Board of Control.

Conlan courted controversy when walking to the ring in the early hours of Monday morning for his fight with Ruben Garcia Hernandez to the song Celtic Symphony, which included the lyrics 'ooh ah up the RA'.

McAuley, who defended his IBF World flyweight title six times, says there should be no repeat of the ring walk and feels it highlights a potential problem for the sport and those promoting boxing if other songs which are deemed to cause offence are allowed to be played.

"I believe the British Boxing Board of Control need to act right away and draw up guidelines for songs that can be used for ring walks at shows across the UK and the world for those boxing under their licence," said McAuley.

"I can hardly believe that it has come to this and why that tune was played for Conlan's ring entrance is very hard to understand. I don't know who decided to go with that song but people need to be aware of the hurt that can cause, particularly coming from this part of the world.

"But the same issue could arise elsewhere when you have songs that could be racist, anti-semitic or in any way offensive. Rather than wait until the horse has bolted, the Board have to stamp on this and set out rules for fighters and their use of ring walk tunes.

"It has not been an issue up to this point and hopefully it doesn't happen again. What happened in New York is something that you would expect to hear at a Rangers-Celtic match, not at boxing.

"The boxing people here have always been very proud of the cross-community aspect to the sport. Boxing brings people together and that's the way we want it to stay."

McAuley says he has been left bewildered by the choice of tune, while also recognising how the atmosphere surrounding St Patrick's Day in New York can be intoxicating.

"The Americans do get carried away around St Patrick's Day and they don't understand what we have been through but the management around Conlan and the promoter of the show need to take responsibility," he said.

"In all my years in boxing I've never experienced this sort of issue and it's just very disappointing because it's not what boxing is about."

Conlan is managed by the MTK Global company which is running a show at the Ulster Hall on Friday week, headlined by Coalisland middleweight Conrad Cummings against Dubliner Luke Keeler.

Legendary promoter Barney Eastwood says he was "very surprised" by the ring walk music and is adamant that the sport cannot afford to have a repeat of such a tune in Belfast.

"For over a century we have kept anything like that away from boxing here. There was never an issue and I made sure at all my shows there were no flags or colours and to be fair to the boxers they abided by it - they never wanted anything like that, it just wasn't in their mindset," said Eastwood, promoter of countless shows throughout the Troubles.

"Boxing has always crossed the divide and really this issue should never have been allowed to come about. It's very unfortunate that it has happened and it can't be allowed to happen at a show here - and I'm sure it won't happen."

Experienced coach John Breen, who trained Michael's brother Jamie at the start of his career, also expressed his shock at the choice of music.

"I'm surprised that promoter Bob Arum allowed it to be played. There was just no need for it. They could easily have picked something else. I would be afraid that Michael will have lost a lot of supporters in the boxing community because of it," said Breen.

Belfast Telegraph

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