EAMONN O’KANE is expecting to be fast-tracked to an Irish middleweight title clash within the year, despite having just one professional fight under his belt.
SIMON COLLINS reports
The Banagher boxer makes his Irish professional debut tomorrow night against Belfast’s Tommy ‘The Tiger’ Tolan on the undercard of Stephen Haughian’s Irish title defence in the Craigavon Leisure Centre, another crucial step in his development within the pro ranks.
His introduction to the professional game was a short and sweet affair as he made light work of Lithuanian, Dimitrijus Kalinovskis in Cardiff three weeks ago with an impressive first round stoppage.
And with his vast experience in the amateur ranks and his successful baptism in the World Series of Boxing with Milano Thunder, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist believes he has the perfect background to make swift progression in the middleweight division.
In fact, the 29 year-old puncher refuses to waste any time building a reputation as a talented prospect, and insists he is capable of mixing it with the best the division has to offer.
“You saw how quickly I adjusted to the World Series of Boxing with three good wins,” said O’Kane. “It didn’t take me long to adjust, so I don’t need a slow introduction to the professional game like some other boxers.
“I think I’m well capable of fighting for the Irish title before the end of the year. This fight is a six rounder, it’s a step up and I intend to move up to eight rounds after this one.
“An Irish title fight is ten rounds so it’s all about how quickly I get up to ten rounds but I think I’m capable of beating and mixing it with the top boxers in the world, so fighting for and winning an Irish title is definitely within my grasp.”
The Co. Derry man exudes confidence, however he faces a dangerous step-up in class when he steps into the ring against Tolan tomorrow night.
The 37 year-old Belfast man (4-4-0), who has also fought at super-middleweight, packs a punch and boasts four KO wins from his four professional victories.
Somewhat surprisingly, Tolan turned professional in 2001 yet he has been largely inactive having had just eight fights in the space of ten years in contrast to O’Kane’s hectic schedule as both an amateur and now as a professional.
Despite his less than impressive record, Tolan has dubbed O’Kane a ‘Golden Boy’ whom he plans to knock-out tomorrow night, but the Immaculata ABC member refuses to rise to the bait and would rather do his talking with his fists.
“I know Tommy is a tough opponent, he can punch, he’s knocked out four in his four wins so he can punch,” continued O’Kane. “People reckon this will be a big step up but I think it’s not too bad because I’m 29, I’m well experienced as far as the boxing game’s concerned and hopefully I can handle him professionally.
“He said up in Belfast that I’m the ‘Golden Boy’ and he’s got nothing to lose and all to gain and he said he’s going to knock me out because he thinks I’ve never been hit by anyone with his power.
“I’ll give him respect, I’ll go out cautiously like I normally do. I have a good defence, that’s probably one of my good aspects in boxing.
“I’ll suss him out in the first minute, like I did with my last opponent, I gave him one minute and sussed him out for a while and then when I felt I was comfortable I went to work.
“I try not get involved in all that trash talking, I’ve watched the game and the likes of James De Gale against George Groves doing the trash-talking and it was ridiculous. Everyone wanted to see De Gale get knocked out.
“It’s very hard at times not to react when someone’s saying things about you, you try and not get worked up about it but I’ll just try and focus on myself and my strong aspects and not try and get drawn into any ‘argy bargy’.
“It’s interesting, it hypes up the bill and I know it’s part and parcel with the pro game, but if I can entice people into watching my fights through my performances then I would rather do that than do it with my mouth. I’d rather walk the walk instead of talking the talk.”
The two fighters will come face-to-face today at the weigh-in in Craigavon and O’Kane is hoping to have a large contingent of his supporters in attendance.
His father, Laurence who travelled to Delhi to watch his son claim gold at the Commonwealth Games last year, missed the opportunity of watching O’Kane make his professional bow earlier this month but he will take his place in his son’s corner tomorrow night.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” added O’Kane. “There was a lot of people that couldn’t get over to Cardiff and there will be a big contingent going up to Craigavon to watch it. It’s good to be on a bill at home, it’s an Irish title fight with some good fighters on the card.
“It was dad’s 60th birthday when I was fighting in Cardiff and he had booked a trip to Las Vegas so it was unfortunate that he didn’t get to see the fight, they tried to get it on the internet but he’ll be there for this fight and all my supporters will be in good voice,” he concluded.