It is difficult to believe that a conversation between two friends in a pub in Cork less then three years ago was the catalyst that has us gathered here tonight at the Citywest Convention Centre in anticipation for what could be one of the greatest sporting events in Irish history.
Following a day of amateur boxing between a Cork and Dublin selection in July 2008, Philip Sutcliffe two times European bronze medallist and Don O Leary the founding member of the Macroom boxing club set over a drink at the Macroom Mills pub in Ballyvourney, West Cork. The discussion that perused between both men would spark a promotional partnership that would take Irish professional boxing to a new level.
“Myself and Phil were have a couple of Pints after a show in Macroom and he was telling me that he had a couple of pro’s on his books but was finding it difficult to get them work in Ireland. I was well aware of Phil’s ability as a couch and believed there was a real opportunity to develop the pro game in Ireland so I said feck it sure Ill give him a hand” explained Don O Leary.
Wasting now time Irish boxing’s newest partnership went about finding a name for their new adventure. Some ingenious thinking alongside the call for closing time hurried the decision to agree on the initials of Don O Leary along side Sutcliffe’s first name and Dolphil Promotions was born.
Just three months on from their bar stool conference Dolphil Promotions delivered their first professional show at INEC Arena in Killarney. If anyone underrates just what these boys have achieved in just three years take a look at their Killarney production where Cuban Mike Perez topped a bill that included to unknown fighters Willie Casey and Anthony Fitzgerald. Astonishingly both fighters play main attraction tonight when they challenge for international prizes live on national television, that my friends is progress.
Following their inaugural promotion in the west of Ireland the next port of call for the Dolphil road show was the Citywest Hotel in January 2009. This was followed four months later with a show at the Royal Theatre in Castlebar. Following their Castlebar promotion, Dolphil while only in existence six months were responsible for three top quality events that exhibited the top up and coming prospects Ireland had to offer including Eddie Hyland, Michael Sweeney, Stephen Ormond, Willie Casey and Anthony Fitzgerald. To top off an amazing 2009 for both Dolphil promotions and Irish boxing the cavalry where rolled one last time when the National Stadium hosted another action packed Dolphil promotions night of boxing.
With 2010 approaching fast and Dolphils camp of fighters continuing to swell extra body’s were required to provide much needed assistance to the two bar stool revolutionists. In came Daniel Halpin and Paddy Brady to cover the flanks, but no-one had any idea what was just around the corner.
An opportunity for Dolphil to have one of their fighters on a show in Canada presented itself early in 2010. Willie Casey had been progressing nicely under to stewardship of Philip Sutcliffe since late 2008 and a trip to Canada to face unbeaten Canadian champion Tyson Cave 10-0 was an assignment Dolphil felt might possibly offer some dividends. On the 8th of April, 2010 Willie “Big Bang” Casey was born when at the Royal York Hotel, Toronto he dropped Tyson Cave four times before stopping him in the round eight. This was a definitive indication that the Dolphil theory was effective. Six weeks later and Willie Casey was again flying the Dolphil flag, this time in Bethnal Green for the Prizefighter tournament. If there was a substance that turns lead to gold, well Dolphil has discovered it, because the little known Limerick Southpaw Willie Casey went and won Prizefighter, winning three fights in one night on his way to victory.
By May 2010 Dolphil had within their ranks a Prizefighter champion in Willie Casey and two Irish champion with Anthony Fitzgerald holding the super middleweight title and John Waldron the light heavyweight strap.
Following a hectic couple of months it was back to basics as Dolphil took their fighters back to Citywest for a ten bout showcase. A packed venue saw Willie Casey outclass Emiliano Salvini and move into the top ten in Europe while also on show were Dolphils new recruits Christina McMahon and the McDonagh brothers JJ and Paddy.
Following Willie Casey’s entry into the European ranking Dolphil moved fast to secure him a European title shot and quickly secured a fight with Kiko Martinez for the vacant European super bantamweight title. A withdrawal by Martinez allowed Dubliner Paulie Hyland step-in making for a historical first ever all Ireland European title contest. Limerick was the location on the 6th November, 2010 and another sensational performance by the Dolphil man secured the European title.
Surely such an astonishing rollercoaster of a journey couldn’t get any better, but here we are again. Four months on from Limerick and Willie Casey fights for a world title while Anthony Fitzgerald turns his focus to Europe. We are here tonight simply because Dolphil Promotions took as risk, like that night in Cork sitting at the bar, or taking Willie Casey to Canada, also taking Willie Casey to Prizefighter. They have a real belief in their own ability and the ability of their fighters. Seven days after Willie Casey won his European strap Guillermo Rigondeaux fought for and won the WBA super bantamweight title against Ricardo Cordoba. In a strange twist of fate Rigondeaux’s manager is Cork native who always promised if one of his fighters ever won a world title he would bring them back to defend it in Ireland. Who better then to defend it against then an Irish European Champion, and considering Willie Casey’s form for defying the odds, it was an opportunity Dolphil could or would never turn down. Yes it was a massive risk, it is no mean feat to deliver a show of this size, particularly when there was no guarantee of Television to provide the required finances, but they rolled the Dolphil dice and here we are tonight, well done Dolphil.
In March 2009 in the 02 Arena Phil Sutcliffe and Don O Leary had just entered the packed arena. Phil turned to Don and said “Don imagine one day this could be Dolphil Promotions promoting a world title fight like this”. Don replied “shut up you fool”