EAMONN O’KANE is anxious to make up for lost time and embark on a ‘fast and furious’ rise up the rungs of the middleweight ladder, starting tomorrow night when he makes his professional bow in Cardiff’s Motorpoint Arena.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Commonwealth gold medalist has delayed the inevitable for long enough, and now at 29 years of age, the powerful middleweight will bring to an end an illustrious amateur boxing career when he ducks between the ropes for his Pro debut against Welsh novice, Joe Jones.
His long-awaited introduction to the professional game will feature on the undercard of Cavan man, Andy Murray’s clash with Gavin Rees for the vacant European lightweight title which will be screened live on Sky Sports 1, and O’Kane is hoping it proves to be the launch pad for a professional career which will rival his amateur achievements.
There’s no doubting O’Kane’s rich experience following a glorious and highly successful amateur stint in the sport, but while he is a novice in terms of the professional game, he believes he can make the transition with ease.
His success in India as captain of the N. Ireland team opened many doors for the Banagher man and he could easily have opted to extend his contract and pursue a lucrative career with the Milan franchise in the prestigious World Boxing Series.
The World Series offers amateur boxers the chance to fight without headgear, vests and over five rounds while getting paid, however, the ambitious Immaculata ABC boxer turned his back on the chance and is determined to discover just how far he can go in the professional game.
Having declined a 12 month contract to remain in the competition, he refuses to waste any more precious time.
“It’s been a long time coming so I’m really looking forward to getting started and not wasting any more time,” said O’Kane. “There’s more money to be made in the World Series and that was another draw, it was a source of money for me. I know money makes the world go round, but for me it just wasn’t about the money, it’s about gaining the experience and putting a rubber stamp on my decision to finally turn professional.
“My style is a professional style anyway,” he added. “When I got home from Delhi I wanted to get the ball rolling in the professional game but I used the World Series as preparation for turning professional.
“I was boxing with no head gear, no vest, it’s five three minute rounds and it’s scored the exactly same way as professional boxing. So for me it was great preparation to get this game going.
“I want the fights to come thick and fast because I’m 29 and I want to be charging up the rankings. I’m a natural fighter, I like to work up close so I think the pro game will suit me a lot. I’m in great shape and I’m ready to go.”
Indeed, O’Kane plans on making a major impact in the highly competitive middleweight division and will attempt to upset the home support tomorrow night and stop his Welsh opponent within the four round distance.
“Without a doubt I’ll be looking for a quick conclusion to the fight. I don’t know much about him (Jones) but like my dad said, ‘go out and hit him and you’ll find out just how good he is’, and that’s what I intend to do.”
Should the hard-hitting Co. Derry man get through tomorrow night’s encounter unscathed, he will quickly return to the ring when making his Irish professional debut in Craigavon on June 25th and the quick succession of the fights is clearly whetting his appetite.
“It’s great, we’ve got this fight on Saturday and then the next one on June 25th and I’ll look for my third fight to get the ball rolling. It’s fast and furious now, I’m not getting any younger, so it’s got to happen quickly. Let’s make it happen!”
An indication of the respect in which O’Kane is held in the sport is the fact that two of his prospective opponents pulled out at short notice having obviously done their homework on the Co. Derry man.
And O’Kane is unconcerned about having little knowledge of his late stand-in.
“I’m now fighting a guy called Joe Jones from Cardiff, he’s an orthodox, a tall fellow so that’s grand, that’s all I need to know.
“These fighters aren’t looking to be stopped, they call them journeymen because they’re looking to fight week in, week out to get a pay-day.
“I’m the sort of fighter that’s going to put you under pressure and look for a stoppage and a stoppage leaves you out for 28 days so you don’t get to fight as often and get your pay day. So I’m not the ideal person to fight if you’re looking for an easy time.
“There’s no point predicting a round for a stoppage when you don’t even know what the guy looks like, but it would be great to get off to a bang.”
While O’Kane will have to contend with the volatile Welsh support inside the arena, he can take comfort in the knowledge that good friend, Paul McCloskey will be in his corner alongside N. Ireland coach, Gerard Nugent.
“”I’m not nervous in the slightest. If I control myself, I don’t have to worry about my opponent or the occassion,” he concluded.