DESPITE feelings of frustration and a tinge of regret as he reflects on the loss of his previously unblemished professional record on Saturday night, Eamonn O’Kane has vowed to come back stronger as he aims to quickly get his career back on track.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The big-hitting Banagher man spent yesterday dwelling on the first defeat of his promising middleweight career having suffered an eighth round stoppage against unbeaten Englishman, John Ryder in the British title eliminator at the London Olympia.
Ryder caught O’Kane with a solid left hand in the eighth of the scheduled 10 rounder which had the Co. Derry man in trouble and although he did well to hang on, the Islington fighter went for the finish prompting referee, Marcus O’Donnell to step in and wave it off 1m 33secs into the round.
At that stage, there was little to separate the two fighters but the straight-talking O’Kane had no problems with the referee’s decision in the end; “Obviously I’m disappointed,” said a downbeat O’Kane last night.
“It’s probably a bit too soon to have any rational thoughts on Saturday’s fight or decide what step to take next in terms of moving forward, it’s just a bit hard to take at the minute.
“Everyone wants this perfect record in this dream world and I’m no different - I wanted it. I wanted to keep moving onwards and upwards but now I’m going to have to re-jig things.
“I don’t really know what to say because it was a below-par performance. At the stage of the fight when it got stopped I thought it was close and I got caught a few shots in the eighth round.
“I got caught with a shot early on and my legs went a bit stiff,” he recalled. “I got caught on the throat early on and from the second round on I had bother breathing. I couldn’t settle in the corner because I couldn’t get my breath back.
“I can understand why the referee opted to stop it,” he added. “You could see clearly when he stopped it I was perfectly okay but that’s boxing. He has to do what he thinks is right and the safety of the boxer is paramount so I’ve no grudges against him for doing that.”
Admittingly it was a brave decision to take a fight against a highly rated unbeaten prospect in his own backyard with less than two weeks to prepare, but who could blame him with the incentive of a shot at the Lonsdale belt at stake for the winner?
And O’Kane has no regrets about taking the fight at such short notice: “Hindsight’s a wonderful thing and crashing down my weight with only 13 days notice for the fight wasn’t ideal.
“There was a lot of factors. I had never fought a 10 round fight before and it was a while since I fought an eight round fight and all those things added up. I probably shouldn’t have taken a fight of that stature in such short notice.
“I can make all the excuses of the day but it was my decision to take the fight and I knew the circumstances and was prepared to take everything that came along with it. At this stage I’m probably still a bit gutted,” he continued.
The Commonwealth gold medallist and 2012 Irish Prizefighter champion is provisionally scheduled to return to the ring on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s bill next February, however, O’Kane insists he will spend the week with his family before making a decision about his next fight.
“I’m very grateful for the support that I’ve got and I hope to go out and win what I have to win for those who have supported me and achieve what I’m capable of.
“I’m going to enjoy this week with my family and reassess things. There’s talk of a bill in Derry next year around March time in Ebrington so that could be an option.
“I’m thinking about just enjoying Christmas with my family because after Prizefighter I didn’t really have time for a break so maybe that’s what I need is a bit of a rest, a bit of time away from boxing and then start from scratch again.
“I’m not going to make any rash decisions I’ll sit on things for a week now and weigh up all possibilities. If I am going to make a return on the Frampton bill in February then I’ll be back in to training on Monday morning because it’ll only be eight weeks from Monday morning so I would need to be back in training next week. So hopefully I can come back stronger,” he concluded.