Martin Rogan Feature – Part Two: Rogan – The Peoples Champion
By Brendan Galbraith - An intrinsic motivator for Rogan, aside from his impressive boxing achievements, is the positive role that he plays at a grassroots level to Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland – which Rogan refers to as “one community”. Although, this role is a welcome indirect benefit of his boxing career, there is no mistaking the immediate warmth that is visible, etched on every line on his face and nuance of his voice, when Rogan regales a favourite anecdote. Rogan, recalling his large travelling support for the Commonwealth Title fight with Matt Skelton in Birmingham:
“There were fellas from Gardiner Street on the Shankill Road, they were over at the fight as well. They made their way over to Birmingham, they are guys that I would go and sell tickets to. They were at the fight and afterwards when I had won, I came walking in and there were the guys from the Shankill Road and Falls Road, all standing – cheering and singing together. That was class, I was over the moon – this is brilliant”.
Rogan, at this stage, beaming with pride and breaking into a broad smile, added:
“The good thing was that the guys from the Shankill were standing and ‘beering away’ with the guys from the Falls Road, and they had a great night. I just want to get that back again, if our politicians cant get us together, the people on the ground can – we are the people that can bring it together. And if that is my wee part – then that is the part that I want to do – try and get everyone cheering for the one thing – obviously for victory.”
That is quintessential Rogan. Yes, a proud family man. He is also proud of his Belfast roots and listening to the gratification in his voice, I suspect, even more proud that his entertaining boxing displays has been such a positive force in bringing people together in Northern Ireland as “one community”. In doing so, upholding a proud tradition in Ulster, perhaps, best epitomised by the glory days of the McGuigan bills in the Kings Hall - were the boxing crowd has always been “one community” – each punter, there, to enjoy the noble art.
The theme of fan support continues on our conversation, Rogan points out:
“Whenever I fought Audley Harrison and then Matt Skelton, both away from home, one in London and one in Birmingham. You can’t do it unless you have a fan base. The fans that came over to the Audley Harrison fight was unreal, I think there was about 1000 or 1500 people who came over to see it, and it was the same in Birmingham, it was filled with Irish”.
I ask Rogan what it feels like to walk out in front of 9000+ fans at The Odyssey:
“Oh, fantastic. To hear your name getting chanted and people screaming for you. It’s unreal!”.
And it is not just on a big fight night, that Rogie enjoys appreciative support from his fan base.
“Two days ago I was speaking to a guy and he says ‘my Da follows the boxing a lot and he said that you got him back into watching boxing – he was at the two Odyssey fights and watched you in Prizefighter too. My Da was even telling me when is that big fella Rogan coming back to fight again, he is entertaining, I like watching him”.
Rogan, chuckles with, I think, a mixture of disbelief and flattery, as he continues:
“And his Da said to him ‘that he reminds me of Rocky Marciano – the way he fights, he nullifies people walking after him and he can fight!’
“To be even spoken in the same line as Rocky Marciano!”
Rogie, shakes his head and smiles as he remembers a similar story:
“Dennis Hobson from Sheffield told me the same thing, three years ago, he said you are very like Rocky Marciano - the way you fight, you just punch everywhere – everything goes”.
“So if that is views from people in England and people from here (Northern Ireland), then obviously other people are going to view that and they want to see a fighter like that”.
“Not everyone wants to go and watch a boring heavyweight fight – they want to see a bit of action in it and that is what I provide is the action. An action-packed movie – only it is real [Rogie laughs]”.
Rogan has just came out of a two-year contract with Frank Warren and is now a free agent and, open to negotiations.
“I don’t think I will tie myself into another contract, unless it is really worthwhile for myself. It is in all promoters’ interests to get me the right fights and get me on their bills because I am a ticket seller. People want to come and watch me fight and every other day I hear people from the Shankill Road and everywhere and when they see me they say ‘when are you coming back?’ People can’t wait for me to come back. I tell them I will be back in June and they say ‘brilliant where is it going to be”.
So, what type of domestic fights would Rogie be interested in?
“To be quite honest, I don’t want to go down this domestic route that has been happening for too long, for too many years. Danny Williams fought Michael Sprott, Michael Sprott fought Matt Skelton, Audley Harrison fought Danny Williams, Danny Williams fought Matt Skelton. And they were just working around a circle, nobody else got a crack at it. I don’t want to be part of that”.
“I want to be fighting the fights, were I am taking on people from America and anywhere else. I don’t want to be caught up on that domestic scene to be quite honest. You don’t go anywhere you stay still – I want to move up. Obviously, get a couple of warm up fights and then get straight back in for a title shot. It is a long road to travel back after an operation”.
So, potentially come back and face someone like Coleman Barrett for the Irish Title?
“Yeah. Coleman Barret is the Irish Champion, who also fought Audley Harrison and Colin Kenna. He has to fight me for the Irish Title now, so I am hoping I can get maybe a warm up fight and then fight him. Which would be a good fight, as he is pretty fast, but I don’t think he has fought anybody like me yet – with as much aggression as I have. It is alright people looking at you and thinking that maybe they can handle you. It is when they are standing in front of you and they are coming at you with the aggression”.
Rogan is also keeping a watchful eye over the upcoming Harrison-Sprott fight and fancies a fight with the winner, particularly a rematch with Harrison:
“Audley Harrision – couldn’t handle me at all. He just couldn’t handle me – he didn’t know what to do. And the same would go again. Audley Harrison is fighting Michael Sprott for the European Title and he says that if he doesn’t win – he will retire. If he wins, I will retire him, as I will fight him for the European Title and I will beat him again. His attitude is 100%, he has got everything back, he has found himself again. I hope he finds himself in the ring again with me for the European Title and I will take it off him. Vice versa, if Michael Sprott wins I will take it off him.
Who do you think will win that one between Sprott and Harrison?
“Michael Sprott is a very intelligent fighter, but if he lets Audley Harrison walk him down it will be a Harrison fight. But if Sprott uses his head and watches the fight that I fought against him (Harrison) then he will beat him - because Harrison just doesn’t like it”.
“High hopes of Audley Harrison are ten years old now. It is coming eleven years now ‘I want to be a world champion – I want to be a world champion’. He is an Olympic Gold Medallist and he has done his country very proud. You will never take away the fact that he is Olympian. I think he needs to get realistic, it is either you train or you don’t train. To me, he doesn’t train. He came in there on Prizefighter, I think @18 stone - he looked enormous. Maybe he is trying to accommodate with his laziness with a bit more power and it seemed to work for him with three stoppages. In saying that, when he fought me I think it was the fittest he had ever been, because he came in great condition, he looked the part and ten rounds weren’t a problem to him. I think he just met a different calibre of fighter than what he normally fights”.
So, in an ideal world, what would Rogie’s upcoming fight schedule look like?
“I would love to fight Monte Barrett. I’d like to get a warm up fight, fight Coleman Barrett and then take on Monte Barrett and then take on John Ruiz and put myself back right up there. And then I can call David Haye out. He can call out the Klitschovs and I will call him [Rogie breaks into laughter]. I would fight anyone of them, as I reckon I could beat any of them”.
As the interview draws to a close I bring up the name of a fellow Belfast pro who is riding on the crest of a wave – Martin ‘Mac Man’ Lindsay:
“He is a good lad. Martin and I were in the same gym together “The Mac” (Immaculata Gym, Belfast). We won our Ulster and Irish Titles together and now we are doing it in the pro game together! He won the British Title and I won the Commonwealth. Two wee lads from the same neck of the woods, now he is moving on - so I am going to have to get myself back up there because he is starting to go ahead of me – so I am going to have to pull the reins in and get back in and take the title back [Rogie laughs].
An interesting thought, Lindsay, who has just signed a contract with Frank Maloney, signalling the entrance of Maloney Promotions to the lucrative Belfast market: how about Rogan and Lindsay on the same bills? In the short term, it could be the headline ticket to fill the Odyssey and in the longer term, appropriate Lindsay with more of Rogan’s mainstream fan base? Either way, here’s to hoping for the return of the big time boxing to The Odyssey – preferably with Rogie on the bill.
Article posted on 08.04.2010