Tomorrow night, Belfast’s world grade thrill king Jamie Conlan headlines at The Waterfront Hall in his home city with BoxNation screening live.
Glynn Evans considers ‘The Mexican’s’ credentials against other outstanding 115lb fighters produced from these shores during the division’s 37 year history.
In chronological order:
7. Peter Culshaw
‘The Choirboy’ from Liverpool was anything but angelic when he dipped between the ropes. A 5ft 7in stick of dynamite, 17 year old ‘Cully’ stopped all his victims en route to the senior British ABA title in 1991 and captured the Commonwealth flyweight strap in just his tenth pro start.
Up at 115lbs, the scally’s potent right hand punch power carried him to the lightly regarded WBF title which he successfully retained once before bowing out as undefeated champion at 31 in 2004.
6. Jason Booth
Formerly a British and Commonwealth champion and triple European challenger at 8st, Nottingham’s Booth sparkled in a 15 month reign as IBO Super-Fly king in 2003-4.
A nimble footed, cocksure craftsman, ‘2 Smooth’ won his claim by bamboozling South African southpaw Lunga Ntonela in his home city and impressively retained in Huddersfield against unbeaten hometown hero Dale Robinson (both points).
By the time he conceded his crown after a fabulous 12 rounder with Belfast’s Damaen Kelly in December 2004, Booth’s body was consumed with alcoholism and he claims he came close to taking his own life.
He made an inspirational recovery from the illness and six years later made a valiant world title challenge up at super-bantam.
5. Damaen Kelly
The one-time altar boy from west Belfast danced like Fred Astaire but, alas, punched like Ginger Rogers. A quite delightful technician, the 5ft 5in artful dodger was also compromised by skin that tore like soggy toilet tissue.
But such limitations couldn’t prevent this natural flyweight from capturing WBC International and IBO titles in fleeting cameos up at 8st 3. The former was acquired with a rare stoppage win over Russia’s Igor Gerasimov (rsc4, 1999) and the latter with a clinic of classical pugilism against Jason Booth (pts12, 2004).
4. Lee Haskins
Presently the IBF bantamweight boss, ‘L’il Lee’ passed through the division between 2008-11, capturing British, Commonwealth and Prizefighter gongs.
A father of two at 19, the one-time carpenter from Chris Sanigar’s West Country Boys camp in Bristol bagged the domestic title by hypnotizing Doncaster’s Andy Bell in 2008 and added then unbeaten Don Broadhurst’s Commonwealth belt the following year (both points).
A hugely unorthodox southpaw, Haskins innate awkwardness and vicious hitting have combined to cause headaches to every opponent he faced.
3. Paul Butler
One of the most complete all-rounders in British boxing, in 2014 the ‘Baby Faced Assassin’ captured the IBF bantamweight title from Darlington’s Stuey Hall whilst still immersed in a super-fly’s body.
Super skilled and blessed with a brutal body attack, the former ABA champion from Ellesmere Port immediately vacated to resume a reign of terror at 115 that had seen him capture WBO and WBA Inter-Continental belts plus traditional British and Commonwealth titles.
Alas, his quest to become the first Brit for over a century to drop a weight to win a second world title was foiled when he ran into IBF king Zolani Tete on the spidery South African’s best night (lrsc8).
Still only 28, Butler is now back up at 118lbs and world ranked by the WBC, WBO and IBF.
2. Kal Yafai
The 27 year old Brummie banger won the sprint to become Britain’s first (and only) world champion at 8st 3lbs when he rinsed Panama’s Luis Concepcion to earn the vacant WBA championship in Manchester last December.
A spiteful body puncher with 14 stoppage wins on his 21-0 resume, the lavishly decorated amateur star – a teenage Olympian in 2008 – nailed the IBF and WBA Inter-Continental and Commonwealth titles with knockouts inside three rounds. In 2015, he added the British crown with a 12 round shutout over Doncaster’s Jason Cunningham.
Should Conlan secure a world belt this year, there’ll be an almighty clammer to match the serial body snatchers in a global unifier.
1. Jamie Conlan
Unlike the aforementioned who flitted around the division, Conlan has operated exclusively in the 115lb class since debuting in 2009.
During that period, the man they call ‘The Mexican’ because of his lethal liver shots has won 18 straight (11 stopped) and hoovered up WBO European and Inter-Continental baubles plus the Commonwealth crown.
Whilst collecting the latter last April, the 30 year old Ulsterman showed that a sizeable portion of his slender 5ft 7in frame consists of heart, balls and backbone as he rose from two knockdowns to crease South Shields Anthony Nelson in Britain’s Fight of the Year (ko8).
Highly ranked by the WBO (2) and IBF (9), a world title shot seems inevitable this year if he keeps winning.