Boxing: Irwin still a huge hit out of the ring

Boxer John Irwin, pictured in his new role at Dearne Valley Personal Development Centre.
Boxer John Irwin, pictured in his new role at Dearne Valley Personal Development Centre.

But for losing out on a split decision against Steve Robinson in their European featherweight title clash in Manchester in 1999, John Irwin could have become the first Doncaster boxer to challenge for a world title, writes Steve Hossack.

A lucrative title challenge against defending champion Prince Naseem Hamed was reportedly lined up were Irwin to beat Robinson.

The narrow points defeat resulted in Irwin deciding to hang up his gloves and bring the curtain down on a career which had seem him win both the British and Commonwealth titles.

One of the highlights of his career came when he made the third successful defence of his British title to become the first Doncaster boxer to win a coveted Lonsdale belt outright.

The Commonwealth Games featherweight champion in 1990, Irwin added the ABA title the following year.

Having represented England as an amateur on 25 occasions, captaining the team five times, Irwin elected to turn professional with Doncaster manager John Rushton in 1992.

Throughout his boxing career, Denaby-based Irwin was the perfect role model and brought nothing but credit to Doncaster, in and out of the ring.

Irwin is still held in high esteem in the town and he has been putting his standing locally to good use in recent months.

The 44 year-old is working with disengaged youngsters aged between 13 and 16 as part of the Dearne Valley Personal Development Centre project he set up at the Empress building in Mexborough last September.

“It can be harder work than boxing, but it is also very rewarding knowing that you are helping someone get back on the right path,” he said.

Irwin makes use of some of the facilities used by Doncaster’s newly-crowned IBF world bantamweight champion Jamie McDonnell as youngsters spend two days a week learning boxing skills, as well as doing art work under the guidance of partner, Jackie.

Irwin helped cheer McDonnnell to victory over Julio Ceja last month and the 27 year-old recently repaid the compliment by presenting awards to Irwin’s youngsters.