The title of this game could well lead you to believe that you don the boxing gloves of Barry McGuigan himself and take to the ring. You don't. The idea behind the game is to work your way through the ranks of professional and semi-professional boxers so you can take on the mighty Irishman himself and try to beat him.
When you start the game you are asked to assemble your boxer. This interesting option allows you to add personality and individual style to your combatant. You can select his race, the colour of his shorts and hair, his personality (ranging from 'loudmouth' to 'nice guy') and then the actual type of fighter he is. You have several options: dancer, boxer, mixed, slugger and bulldog. These all give a really individual style, and if you can work out which is the best sort of boxer to build to suit your style of gameplay you gain an edge.
Once you've chosen your boxer, the build-up to the fight begins. First choose the opponent to challenge. Initially, you can only challenge one of two lowest ranked boxers because you're new to the circuit and the big boys aren't interested in small fry. It takes quite a while to build up a reputation and, like anything else in life, you have to fight consistently well if you want to get anywhere in your career.
With an opponent lined up, it's wise to get in a spot of training. You're told what son of fight you'll be having, the boxer's form and how many weeks preparation there is before the fight. Training time has to be allocated to five different routines: road work, light bag, heavy bag, weights and spar time. This isn't to be taken light heartedly with careful training it's possible to fine-tune your boxer but if you're not careful you could end up giving your boxer massive strength while leaving him with very little stamina.
With training behind you, it's into the ring. Fighting takes place in a packed arena with your boxer viewed from the side in semi 3D. The boxers can move backwards and forwards and have a total of nine moves available to them. Punches and defensive moves are controlled using up/down/left/right, and the four direction keys in con junction with fire much the same as in Way of the Exploding Fist. Abandoning the joystick or keyboard puts the boxer into automatic defence mode, which is useful against body blows from the opposing fighter. Punches under your control include jabs, hooks, cross punches, uppercuts, body blows and also a 'guard up' so you can ward off an attacking opponent without getting hurt.
The time, round number, points, endurance and count are all displayed on screen during the bout, with the count coming into action when one of you gets knocked down. Between rounds , you're given an update of your condition and are told how the crowd is reacting, which helps you decide how to fight the next round you can go for a knockout, fight defensively, tire your opponent or try to gain points.
As you boxer wins fights he moves up the elite ranks of boxing and can challenge stronger opponents (there are nineteen in all), eventually getting to challenge McGuigan himself. Each of the challengers has his own 'personality' and an individual fighting style. Your opponents get progressively tougher and more determined, becoming more strong, skilful and cunning the higher up the echelons you go.
If you want to slug it out with a friend (or enemy) without getting bruised, a two player option allows you to battle it out with a human opponent in a race to the top slot.