By Jay Mwamba
While speculation over a possible New York mega-fight between Andy Lee and the Derry Destroyer, John Duddy, continues to swirl, another Derry product is about to bring his ample skills to the Big Apple.
Bantamweight John Cooley, a seasoned amateur with over 90 bouts under his belt back home, has turned pro under the banner of County Tipperary native Jim Foley's Old World Boxing Management group - the latest Irish promotional outfit in New York.
Also under Old World's aegis are heavyweight Thomas Hardwick, the Dubliner who became the first native Irish fighter in recent memory to win a New York Daily News Golden Gloves title last March, former County Kildare jockey Andrew Cleary, and Brooklyn light heavyweight Hamid Abdul-Mateen.
Hardwick is scheduled to join the paid ranks next spring after defending his Gloves title. But before that, both he and Cleary will appear on an October 30 show at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn Heights. Hardwick will square off with 19 year-old Earl Newman, Jr., in a rematch of their Golden Gloves novice final, while Cleary will make his amateur debut.
Cooley, meanwhile, hopes to make his pro debut within the next six weeks. He turns 24 on October 20 and has been in the United States for three months.
He's excited at joining fellow Derryman Duddy -- whom he'll share cutman Big George Mitchell with -- in New York.
"When I was 13 I watched John win the All-Irish seniors and was inspired. Me turning pro should be a big boost for Irish boxing in the U.S.," the Bronx resident said.
A veteran of three All-Irish and as many Ulster finals, the 5-foot-six inch Cooley has been compared to a young Barry McGuigan by both Irish amateur legend Charlie Nash and Roosevelt Farrell, one of his American trainers.
"Yeah, I'm busy, go forward and throw a lot of punches," smiled Cooley, flattered.
He punches with some venom, too, if his amateur log of about 30 KOs from his 65 wins is anything to go by.
Among the notable fighters that hold wins over Cooley in the amateurs is Beijing Olympian John Joe Joyce.
Said Foley, proprietor of the Verrazano Steel construction company in Brooklyn: "John is another "Pocket Rocket" [Wayne McCullough] and he has a great chin."
Grant Seligson, Cooley's other trainer at Gleason's, is also high on the Irish prospect.
"John has a very solid amateur background. We're trying to translate that into a pro style," Seligson said. "He's got solid foundations, got good power and strength and is fast."
For that, Cooley thanks his Irish trainers back at St. Joseph's ABC in Derry, Cahir and Kevin Duffy [not related].
"They done a lot of work with me and got me where I am," he noted.
Cooley is also over the moon with his new surroundings and crew.
"I'm at one of the best gyms in the world and thank everyone working with me, Jim, George [Mitchell] and Grant," he added.
His last amateur bout was a points loss to Sean McComb in Ireland last November.
Hardwick, seen more in the colors of Donegal on Gaelic Park then in the gym since his Gloves heroics, says he'll be ready for his rematch with Newman on Oct. 30.
He's been preparing for the bout since early August.
"I've been doing great work with my trainers and will be ready. I expect a good, close fight," the 25 year-old Yonkers brick layer told the Echo.
Their Gloves finale was close, too, but he came away with a 3-2 nod and the coveted gloves pendant.
"It's a grudge match and he's really looking forward to it," said Foley.
Hardwick, meanwhile, will have familiar company on the Oct. 30 Gleason's card in Yonkers compatriot and frequent sparring partner Andrew Cleary.
The 23 year-old Cleary, a jockey in his teens before he sprouted to 6-foot-one and 165 pounds, started training a year ago at the Yonkers YMCA.
"I just wanted to keep fit and sparred with Thomas and John [Cooley]."
He's had a couple of fights fall through since deciding to throw his ring in the hat but is virtually assured of making his amateur debut the night before Halloween.
Seanie Monaghan kept Borngod Washington [0-6] winless with a hard fought four-round majority decision at BB King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square last Wednesday.
The popular Long Beach, Long Island, light heavyweight [3-0, 2 KOs] won by scores of 40-36, 39-37, respectively on the cards of judges John McKaie and Frank Lombardi, while the third official, Waleska Roldan, had it a 38-38 draw.
Monaghan's manager, P.J. Kavanagh, conceded that it was tough but had his 28 year-old charge, the son of County Meath immigrants, sweeping all four rounds.
"Sean completely outboxed him. He boxed really well like a professional should," said Kavanagh.
He had props for Washington, too, and said his 0-5 ledger going into the fight was hardly reflective of his abilities.
"His record is very deceiving. He's fought all good fighters and he's a very tough opponent himself," Kavanagh remarked. "He could take a punch and was [able] to dish it out."
Up next for Monaghan is an October 22 return to the Capitale in lower Manhattan where he made his pro debut against Simeon Trigueno last May.
"We're trying to step it up and keep him moving along," said Kavanagh.
PHOTO BY JAY MWAMBA Dubliner Thomas Hardwick, John Cooley of Derry and County Kildare's Andrew Cleary pose with fellow boxer Hamid Abdul-Mateen, of Brooklyn.