Eamonn O’Kane’s trainer, Paddy Fitzpatrick believes the middleweight’s victory on Saturday night has opened the door for a potential all-Irish world title showdown with WBO champion, Andy Lee.
O’Kane emerged from what was a serious examination of his mettle against tough Englishman, Lewis Taylor with a 14th professional win.
It was a bruising encounter in Lavey Community Centre but O’Kane dug deep, displaying an innate toughness to grind out a majority decision win over the previously unbeaten Taylor.
The win could potentially move O’Kane up into the No. 3 spot in the IBF rankings and he’s looking onwards and upwards.
In fact, his trainer, Fitzpatrick wasted no time in calling out Limerick’s WBO world middleweight champion, Lee in the aftermath of Saturday’s world ranked fight.
Lee was expected to defend his title against Billy Joe Saunders this summer but sustained an injury during his draw with Peter Quillin in New York last month.
Eamonn’s strong point is his grit and his weak point is also his grit. He’s prepared to get into a fight way too easily.Paddy Fitzpatrick
With No.1 contender Saunders now expected to agree to a rematch with Chris Eubank Jr., Fitzpatrick is hoping to make approaches to Lee with Thomond Park a possibility for an all-Irish world title fight later this year. However, both Eubank and Saunders will have plenty to say about that and the IBF is probably O’Kane’s best avenue to go down.
“I would really love Eamonn to fight Andy Lee,” said Fitzpatrick. “Andy is a fantastic human being and a hell of a fighter.
“He punches like a wild horse and he’s a class act as a human and so is Eamonn. So for two Irish men to fight for a world title, how long back in time do we have to go for that to have happened?
“I’d love Eamonn and Andy to have that fight. It’s not up to me to make it happen it’s up to them to want it. We definitely wouldn’t say no to it!”
For O’Kane, who was his own biggest critic after Saturday’s below-par performance against Taylor, he believes he’s honing in a world title tilt.
But he admitted he must improve if he is to share a ring with one of the division’s elite next time out.
“I’m not going to box forever,” said O’Kane. “The window is going to close and we’re trying to capitalise but we’re not far away.
“I’m going to be shunted up the ratings now. There’s talk of me moving up to No.3 in the world. Make no mistake about it, I’ll go away and scrutinise myself and next time I’ll be better.
“Andy Lee who is WBO champion is there. Obviously there’s Billy Joe Saunders.
“The WBA interim champion is Chris Eubank Jr. and then there’s Matthew Macklin who is up there in all the ratings too.
“I want to become world champion, I have to be better than I was (on Saturday) but I’ll get better!”
Both O’Kane and Fitzpatrick were clearly stunned by Taylor’s aggressive, all action approach to the fight on Saturday.
The Englishman’s two KOs in his 17 pro fights was misleading as he was clearly prepared for a dust up with O’Kane and was able to withstand the best the Derry man would throw at him.
“You always want your man to win the fight the easiest way,” added Fitzpatrick. “Eamonn’s strong point is his grit and his weak point is also his grit. He’s prepared to get into a fight way too easily.
“That wasn’t necessarily the case tonight but it’s always good to know that, when he needs to, your fighter can dig deep and pull that out.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else stood behind me if I was walking down a dark alley only him.
“I did have it close but I thought from round six or seven Eamonn was doing a lot better,” he continued.
“It was a close fight and Lewis Taylor deserves the utmost respect. I tip my hat to the man but we got the win and we move on.”
In truth it was a scrappy encounter which was broken up frequently as fighters clashed at close quarters.
Neither fighter really got into their rhythm and O’Kane was cut after an accidental clash of heads in the fifth round while a low blow in the eighth had him doubled over on the canvas in pain.
His superior workrate and punch power, particularly in the Championship rounds got him over the line, the three ringside judges, Harry Davis, Grzeqorz Molenda and Dave Paris, scoring the fight 116-112, 115-113 and 114-114 respectively.
Admittedly it was a below-par performance from the big punching O’Kane but he remains on course for a big money clash with one of the elite domestic middleweights and, of course, a potential world title shot!
It was a case of job done and he was delighted for the estimated 1,500 fight fans who turned up at the excellent Erin’s Own Lavey facility.
“The crowd gave me that extra motivation. I wanted to do it for them. It was fantastic for my family, everyone from Derry and I had relations over from Glasgow and every one of them was heard.
“I’ll have to sit down and analyse the fight. I’m delighted for the fans and fair play to my dad and Paddy for putting this together because it’s some task and they did a very good job,” he concluded.