EAMONN O’Kane was never one to get involved in the bullish trash talking which goes hand-in-hand with professional boxing nowadays.
The Banagher middleweight has always elected to steer clear of the mind games aimed at getting under the skin of an opponent.
However, he will certainly stand up and take notice of Kerry Hope who claims the Co. Derry man will be nothing more than a ‘stepping stone’ as he seeks to climb back up the middleweight rankings.
Irish champion, O’Kane ducks between the ropes at the Odyssey tomorrow in a bid to claim the IBF Intercontinental strap.
It’s a notable title for both fighters and this week Welshman, Hope dismissed O’Kane’s chance of claiming the vacant belt.
In fact, the former European middleweight champion claimed O’Kane was just a ‘domestic fighter’ and a mere obstacle in his route back to European glory.
“O’Kane’s a domestic fighter,” he argued.
“A good, tough fighter - but a domestic fighter nonetheless.
“My coach Gary Lockett knows what O’Kane brings and he’s seen a lot of him.
“Gary knows all of my best attributes from our time sparring in the pros so we’ll work on my skills and apply that to O’Kane.
“To be honest, I’m convinced he hasn’t been in with anyone on my level,” he added.
“It’s not going to be an easy fight, it’s going to be a battle of wills but one thing I am sure of is winning.
“After this fight I want to move on to British and European level again.”
Sometimes gutter talk can be more effective than a hook to the liver or a powerful right cross but O’Kane won’t be affected by Hope’s confident claims.
“No disrespect to Kerry but I strongly believe that I’m a better boxer than he is, a better fighter than he is, and stronger than he is,” said O’Kane.
“I believe I have him in every department and I’m really looking forward to it.”
O’Kane entered the professional game late at the age of 29 but he’s quickly climbed the rungs of the middleweight ladder.
And whoever brings home the IBF title tomorrow night at the sold-out Belfast arena can expect to catapult themselves into bigger and better things.
“My understanding is that winning this International belt will place me in the top 15 world rankings with the IBF.
“That could get me right into the mix.
“At 31, I’m not looking to hang about.
“I believe if the right fights can be made, against the likes of (Billy Joe) Saunders, (Matthew) Macklin and (Martin) Murray, I’ve got the ability to work myself into the world title mix.
“I just want an opportunity to find out.”
The only blemish in O’Kane’s 11 fight pro. career is the TKO loss to John Ryder - a British title eliminator he took at short notice.
Ryder is, like Hope, a southpaw - a stance O’Kane had difficulty with on that night - but he insists he is much better prepared this time around.
“I’ve had loads of quality sparring. I know that, like Ryder, Kerry is a southpaw but people shouldn’t read too much into that.
“I handled loads in the amateurs and it wasn’t John being a southpaw that fazed me, it was my lack of preparation.
“I grew up sparring Paul McCloskey, the most awkward southpaw out there - a nightmare!
“I’m fully prepared for this fight. I’ve trained damn hard for him and I’m ready for this!”