AS EAMONN O’Kane prepares for his career-defining IBF world title eliminator against Tureano Johnson this weekend, the ‘Journal’ caught up with two former world title contenders who know exactly what the Banagher man will being going through during the final days leading up to the biggest fight of his life.
Both Creggan man, Charlie Nash (lightweight) and Dungiven’s Paul McCloskey (light-welterweight) earned their respective tilts at the world title during their colourful boxing careers.
Nash lost out to Scotland’s Jim Watt in the WBC title clash at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow in 1979 while McCloskey suffered a controversial stoppage at the hands of then WBA champion, Amir Khan at the MEN Arena, Manchester in 2010.
And now a third Derry man, Eamonn O’Kane is just potentially 12 rounds away from securing a shot at the IBF world middleweight title as he takes on Johnson in the Golden Boy promotion at the iconic New York venue in the early hours of Sunday morning.
And both McCloskey and Nash believe O’Kane can go on to secure a potentially life-changing world title clash against the winner of Gennady Golovkin and David Lemieux’s IBF/WBC unification fight.
Here’s how they see the fight unravelling . . .
“Eamonn O’Kane is getting better and better,” said the former lightweight challenger. “I’ve seen Eamonn boxing for the last 15 or 20 years or more and he’s getting better.
“He’s a real top class professional now. The team looking after him now are probably one of the best about at the minute.
“It will be a very tough fight for him because this guy is world rated but I would be very confident that Eamonn’s good enough to beat him.
“Eamonn’s amateur career has taken him all over the world so it won’t bother him too much going to Madison Square Garden. I think it will actually help him being away from home. “You tend to be more nervous when you fight at home so the fact the fight is in Madison Square Garden will give him that excitement and give him a big lift.
“Eamonn is very skilful. There’s been a big improvement in his style, he’s avoiding punches and counter punching which he never really done before.
“He used to come forward non stop but now he’s changed completely. He’s got all the skills now as a boxer and he’s got the technique of a counter puncher and he’s also got the power. He can knock you out with one punch!
“This fight can’t get any bigger, He knows if he loses this, while his career isn’t over, he will drop down the ratings and it will take him a good time to recover and get back to where he was.
This fight can’t get any bigger, He knows if he loses this, while his career isn’t over, he will drop down the ratings and it will take him a good time to recover and get back to where he was.Charlie Nash
“But Eamonn will give everything he’s got in his body to win this fight.”
“Eamonn’s got there quite quickly and has had a few bumps along the way,” said McCloskey. “But we all gets bumps, it’s the way you come back from that. It’s a massive fight and one he needs to get through.
“When you get a chance like this you are there on merit and I know what he’s done to get there. As a good friend of mine I just hope he will do the job.
“For me, it’s not a must win fight but it would be perfect if he can get the victory. When you climb up the ladder that high and you’re so close to the top, it can be deflating to lose.
“Eamonn has made changes in the right direction. He could either try and box the ears off him for 12 rounds or meet him head on and if you land the right shots who knows what can happen.
“Make no mistake about it - it’s going to be a tough fight. I would take confidence from what he’s done in preparation. The only thing you want as a fighter, win lose or draw, is knowing you didn’t cut corners and you’re fit and healthy.
“There’s been very little talk about it considering how big a bill this is. The winner of Eamonn’s fight is the mandatory challenger to the winner of Golovkin and Lemieux.
So I’m surprised it’s not making more noise over here. He’s worked hard to get where he is and he’s got there quickly.
“He knows Tureano Johnson is a hard guy but you don’t get to world level easily. I know he’s physically spot on and I’m looking forward to the fight.
“This guy is dangerous - he can fight, he can punch but this is the kind of people he has to beat if he wants to get that world title shot.
It’s a massive bill of boxing.
“I’m going over on Friday to be there - I wouldn’t miss it.”
Eamonn O’Kane v Tureano Johnson and Golovkin v Lemieux is live on BoxNation (Sky 437/490HD) this Saturday night from 2 a.m.