Irish Eyes Closing – Martin Rogan looks likely to retire

It looks like the fairy tale career of Martin Rogan may be over.

Considering what’s happened in boxing recently and my own struggles with the sport it seems a little poor taste to glorify in a KO but there’s no doubt that Rogan’s recent loss to German prospect Erkan Teper is one of the most brutal I can recall in recent times.

roganko

If the footage of the stoppage itself wasn’t bad enough, one can look to the consequences. While thankfully there at least appears to have been no serious head injuries or brain trauma, Rogan still suffered a pretty significant broken jaw which, in his own words, required it to be put together “like a jigsaw” and leaves him with “more plates in my face and neck than we have in our cupboards”.

martin-rogan-broken-jaw

With all that in mind, and his own follow up that he’d had a great career and went out with a bang (figuratively and literally), it looks like it’s the end for “Rogie”. And the man is utterly correct. He did have a great career and should look back on it with pride.

Put simply, Martin Rogan was never meant to make it as far as he did. Boxing is a sport that takes a lifetime of dedication, hard work and effort to make it to the top. Most boxers who go on to achieve success start young and by the time they’re in their late teens are normally either established amateurs or already pro’s with a handful of bouts to their name. Rogan wasn’t. He only took up boxing in any form at age 29 and had his first pro bout at age 33. Boxing frequently has people come into the sport later in life but the ones who gain attention are generally those who have come over from other sports and can make up for a lack of experience and seasoning with athletic gifts. Rogan, put simply, wasn’t. He was a taxi driver from Belfast. That’s not an auspicious start, especially when you consider that a frequent insult hurled at the level of competition a boxer has faced is that all of his opponents were “cab drivers”.

He started his career relatively well, going 7-0 with four stoppages but he wasn’t tearing up trees. His opponents, with the exception of the then 5-0 Darren Morgan, were pretty much all there to lose… only one had a winning record. When he was included in the first ever Prizefighter tournament few even knew his name. That Prizefighter tournament didn’t feature the major names that some later editions have but there was still a good mix of fairly well regarded prospects such as David Dolan and Dave Ferguson with domestic contenders such as Paul Butlin and Colin Kenna. And Rogan won.

Most thought that would basically be it. A feel good story of a boxing taxi driver done good, but he’d done good in the then unique circumstances of Prizefighter and frankly, what more could we expect from him? Fairy tales and reality struggle to coexist… once he started to face “real” boxers Rogan would surely be exposed. I don’t doubt that Audley Harrison and his team were thinking that when they agreed to face him; a guy with some name value from Prizefighter but limited skills and the chance for a Commonwealth title shot if… or when… Harrison won.

Now before I go any further, of course, yes, Harrison’s pro career has basically been a joke. But at the same time, look at the boxers Harrison has (and at that stage had) lost to. In the great scheme of things they were generally pretty good. Former British and Commonwealth champion Danny Williams who wasn’t that far removed from beating Tyson and competing for a world title… pretty good. American contender Dominick Guinn… pretty good. The then European champion Michael Sprott… pretty good. The people he’s lost to since? Again, in the great scheme of things Haye, Price and Wilder are all pretty good. When Audley’s level of competition dips below that he tends to win. Boxers like Mark Krence, Rob Calloway, Ratko Draskovic, Mathew Ellis, Richel Hersisia, Tomasz Bonin, Robert Davis and Robert Wiggins weren’t regarded as worse boxers than Rogan was then and Harrison had also avenged his loss to Williams with what to this day is arguably his single most impressive performance. For all his flaws, going into the bout most expected Audley’s experience, skill and athleticism to be too much for Rogan.

They were wrong.

Having beaten Harrison, Rogan then got his shot at the Commonwealth belt. And this was surely where the fairy tale would end. For while Harrison could be considered mentally weak and a bit of a flake, Matt Skelton was anything but. The Bedford Bear was rugged, powerful, gritty and tough. Like Rogan he’d come to boxing late but unlike Rogan he’d come from the world of kickboxing where, despite never being one of the top guys, he’d competed for K-1 (the premier organisation) and picked up some good wins. He was 22-2 at the time, a former British and current Commonwealth champion, his only loses being an extremely narrow decision loss to Williams and a respectable effort in a world title bid against Ruslan Chagaev and with wins over the likes of Sprott, Williams and John McDermott. He would be too big, too tough and too experienced for Rogan.

And again, they were wrong. Rogan not only beat Skelton, he stopped him.

The fairy tale was nearly complete.

Alas, it never would truly be complete. Rogan lost his next bout, a widly entertaining brawl with fellow Prizefighter winner Sam Sexton after a somewhat controversial cut stoppage. An almost as entertaining rematch ended with Rogan quitting on the stool with an injured arm. After a few routine wins he was then defeated by Tyson Fury and after another routine win a second attempt at Prizefighter glory ended when he lost a rematch to Harrison. And now this.

Boxing is all too often a cruel sport full of cruel people. It’s a sport where few ever see their dreams fulfilled… and even if they do, they find that their dreams weren’t anywhere near as good as they imagined. It chews people up and spits them out.

But Rogan’s story is one I think we should all enjoy.

I’ve never met Martin Rogan but from the way he carried himself and the good cheer with which he dealt with his career… both the good and the bad… I don’t think it’s too much to say he was one of boxing’s good guys. He was a credit to boxing and his success was an inspiration to all those who have been written off as too old, too weak and too inexperienced. He never gave less than 100% and arguably overachieved considering his background, his success coming from hard work, determination and grit. If this is the end… and at 41 I think it should be… he can carry his head high and be proud of what he achieved.

Boxing needs more people with the mentality of Martin Rogan.

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