UNDERSTAND this about boxing, that it is unlike any other sport. Last chances have become obsolete, that there will always be an opportunity at redemption at a later date. If an athlete is cut by his team, there is often the real possibility that he won’t catch on with another. But a fighter suffering a disastrous defeat can take a break, return with a low profile contest, and then suddenly be thrust into a high profile one. Long Beach, New York’s Seanie Monaghan can pose as the poster boy for that.
On November 3 at The Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, Monaghan gets his chance at redemption when he faces perennial light-heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera in what will be a career defining fight for either better or worse. Monaghan was a late bloomer to the sport, having started his professional career in 2010, but the bottom line is that he is 37. If his time is not now, then when?
Being Irish with a large local following caught the attention of Top Rank. They carefully groomed Monaghan 29-1 (17) against mediocre opposition, getting him exposure and a world rating in the process. A title shot against WBC light-heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson seemed inevitable. Few would have picked Monaghan to win, but he had earned the opportunity albeit the slow and safe route. However, when Stevenson pulled out of the fight, in a roundabout way he also seemed to be pulling the plug on the Irishman’s career. Top Rank feeling they could do no more to advance Monaghan’s career released him from their promotional stable. Although they parted on friendly terms, Monaghan was lost. His patience had run thin with low profile fights, at low pay, while hoping a title shot would surface.
Monaghan’s people decided to force the issue and pair him with fellow unbeaten New Yorker, Marcus Browne in July 2017, at New York’s Nassau Coliseum. The matchup made absolutely no sense at the time and on reflection looks even worse. Unlike this fight with Barrera in which Monaghan has no alternative but to take a risk, he should have continued to bide his time against opponents of much lower stature until the inevitable opportunity against one of the champions became a reality. Browne destroyed Monaghan in two one-sided rounds leaving his career in tatters.
Since then Monaghan has boxed just once, winning a unanimous eight round decision over Evert Bravo on a big bill at The Barclays Center last November. It was on this night that the magnitude of his fall from grace was apparent. One of the more popular fighters to come out of New York in recent years, Monaghan was treated as an afterthought, his fight not starting until 1:00 A.M. when the arena had emptied out and only his most ardent followers remained.
Monaghan had been led to believe that he would be boxing a couple of hours into the show that had started at 5:00 P.M. He had adjusted his meal schedule accordingly. He was a very hungry fighter both literally and figuratively by the time he entered the ring to face Bravo. If truth be told, Monaghan should not have been allowed to box in a starved state. He was putting himself at physical risk. In any event, the lack of respect was insulting and showed just how far he had fallen.
Somehow through all this Monaghan held onto a world rating from a couple of the sanctioning bodies, which knowing the history of the alphabet groups is not as impressive as it sounds. But he can legitimize this by defeating Barrera.
In Barrera, Monaghan will be boxing a seasoned pro who has lost only twice, on points to Andre Ward and then stopped in 12 rounds by Dmitry Bivol in an unsuccessful bid for the light-heavyweight title in his last outing. Monaghan is the Miami based Cuban’s road back to another shot at the crown. Monaghan is fighting for redemption, Barrera for relevance.
Try as he might, Monaghan still can’t make sense of the Browne fiasco. “We are friends so I was not really psyched for the fight. I had no nervous energy at all in the ring that night,” Monaghan who was dropped three times says. “I had never been knocked down as an amateur or pro before then.”
Barrera and Monaghan had been going at it on Twitter, but have been nothing but respectful to the other since the match was signed. That will change when they are in the ring according to Monaghan’s trainer Joe Higgins who predicts an Arturo Gatti – Mikey Ward type of fight. That would have been a more reasonable prognosis had Monaghan been matched with amateur rival and fellow Long Island light-heavyweight Joe Smith. The time to have made that match was after Smith stopped Bernard Hopkins, but for whatever reason it never happened.
If there was ever an all action fight that could been made in the Big Apple between two New York crowd pleasers, it would have been this. Smith lost his next fight, decisively on points to Barrera, a broken jaw in the early going contributing to that. And of course Monaghan had the dreadful outing with Browne.
Smith was carefully matched in the one fight he’s had since losing to Barrera and is now being gift wrapped a chance box Artur Beterbiev for the IBF light-heavyweight crown. If Smith should win and Monaghan defeats Barrera, the inevitable fight that never was might actually come to fruition with the stakes even higher than it would have been before. The ups and downs of the stock market are tame compared to what transpires during the course of many a boxer’s career.
“I’m in the best shape of my career for this fight,” says Monaghan, understanding the urgency. Promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events dubbed the contest as “High Stakes.” For Monaghan a more appropriate title would be THIS IS IT. For you see, as much as Monaghan has to prove to the public, he has even more to prove to himself.