EAMONN O’KANE is wasting no time in forcing his way towards the top rungs of the middleweight ladder having secured a British title eliminator against fellow unbeaten prospect, John Ryder in London next week.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Banagher boxer, who was crowned all-Ireland Prizefighter champion at the King’s Hall last May, has been granted the chance to raise his profile significantly when stepping in as a late replacement to challenge the English man in the Sky Sports televised event at the London Olympia on December 8th.
It’s a huge risk to take on a highly rated unbeaten fighter in his own backyard, but the rewards are even bigger with the news that the British Boxing Board of Control have sanctioned the fight as an eliminator for the Lonsdale belt.
Therefore it’s a massive incentive for O’Kane who burst onto the professional scene just 18 months ago with a first round TKO against Dmitrij Kalinovskij in Cardiff.
There’s no doubting the Co. Derry man’s hunger for success and considering he has been drafted in at the final hour against his Islington opponent, who was preparing for an English title bout for the past three months, O’Kane knows he’s putting it all on the line next weekend.
“It’ll be one of the live fights on Sky on the night so it should be a big fight,” enthused O’Kane (8-0-0). “It’s the sort of fight I want to be involved in at this stage. I don’t have time for messing about.
“There seems to be too much of that going on in the boxing game,” he added. “You have to shop around and get your fights. I’ve had problems getting people to fight me so fair play to John Ryder.
“He’s in the same sort of position as me. He’s 12-0 and he’s looking to make that next step up to British title level and winning titles and honours so it definitely should be a good fight.
“He’s a talented lad. He goes about his business quietly. He has an unorthodox style, a southpaw stance. He likes to hunch his shoulders and throws a few flashy shots.
“I know he has trained very hard for it and I have full respect for him because he was training for a 10 round English title fight. He’s known about this fight for three months whereas I’ve known about it for a week and a half.
“Initially I was getting ready to fight on the undercard of the Carl Frampton fight on November 17th and I was sparring and got a bad cut about two and a half weeks before that and that knocked me back.
“I was kicking myself because I didn’t think I would get a fight until after Christmas and a week after the cut, Francie (McNicholl, his manager) said he would try and get me on this show next week on December 8th, so I kept ticking over in training and kept myself in shape.
“It is a great opportunity. It’s certainly not ideal circumstances because you would like three months to prepare but sometimes you just have to grab your chance and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Despite being relatively new to the professional game, O’Kane has loads of experience in the amateur ranks and at 30 years of age he believes he’s on the brink of fighting for domestic, and not too far down the line, world honours.
“The Middleweight division is, and always has been, one of the most competitive weights. You’ve got Andy Lee, Darren Barker, Martin Murray and Mathew Macklin all fighting for world titles and eliminators for titles so it’s quite competitive. But, to be honest, I don’t think I’m too far off that world title level!
“For me, the difference is getting conditioned to 10 and 12 rounds and these kind of fights will condition me for those bigger, title fights.”
Regardless of how next Saturday’s British title eliminator should pan out, it’s understood O’Kane could be challenging Edinburgh’s Craig McEwan for the Celtic title after Christmas while plans for the former Commonwealth gold medallist to feature on a bill at Ebrington next March are still ongoing.
Tickets for Betfair’s ‘Christmas Cracker’ at London Olympia are on sale now priced £40 unreserved, £60 corner ringside, £80 ringside and £150 VIP. Tickets are available from Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900.