EAMONN O’KANE could be forgiven for feeling an impending sense of doom after enduring a torturous four months of injuries, set-backs and disappointments.
SIMON COLLINS reports
Having been involved in a serious road collision last November and a freakish household accident which resulted in severe burns to his foot, the Banagher middleweight must feel his professional boxing career - which began so promisingly - is jinxed.
However, the courageous Co. Derry man bravely fought back to full fitness and is currently back sparring with Commonwealth and British middleweight champion, George Groves ahead of his fourth professional fight against Wayne Reed in Sheffield on St. Patrick’s Day.
Rubbing shoulders with highly regarded trainer, Adam Booth and former world heavyweight champion, David Haye for the next three weeks in the Haymaker Gym in south London, O’Kane believes his professional career is about to take off.
Featuring on the undercard of the ‘War of the Roses’ welterweight showdown between Kell Brook and Matthew Hatton at the Motorpoint Arena, will no doubt significantly raise ‘King Kane’s’ profile.
And should he get past dangerous super-middleweight, Reed (8-3-0) unscathed, he is eyeing a slot on the Irish Prizefighter show at the Odyssey next May.
Commenting from London last night, O’Kane said: “It’s a fantastic bill to be part of. I think they’ve opened the stadium out from 8,000 to 9,000 which is full capacity, so boxing in front of so many people will be a great experience.
“I was sparring George Groves this evening and, as far as I was concerned, it went really well,” he revealed. “George remembered me from when I beat him in his last amateur fight.
“He’s 100 per cent professional and welcomed me into the gym. David Haye was there too and I got chatting to him.
“George is Commonwealth and British champion so he’s the man at the minute. It’s a bit surreal to see them training in the gym.
“I’m going to be here for the next three weeks and I’ll probably get a few autographs before I go home,” he laughed. “It’s great for my confidence. Sometimes when you’re training hard and you’re sparring with boys you know well, you think you’re doing better than you actually are and sometimes you don’t realise how well you’re doing. For me this is a rubber stamp to say that what I’m doing is working so keep it up.
“It’s a great gym and it’ll do me the world of good in preparation for this fight in March. Wayne Reed’s a weight above me but he was the only one I could get to fight.
“He’s not a bad opponent and he has to get respect but hopefully my fast and furious style will overwhelm him.”
Crash and Burn
Recalling his unfortunate car accident and the incident where he suffered severe burns to his foot, O’Kane insisted he was grateful for all the medical and family support he received which helped him on his road to recovery.
“My wife had a new baby boy on the 29th of November last year and he wasn’t sleeping that well and someone told us about the idea of using a hot water bottle in the cot to warm it up and he’ll think he’s getting into bed beside his mother.
“So I went down and boiled the kettle and I poured the hot water into it. I don’t think all the air was out of it and the next thing I felt this burning on my thumb and I dropped it because it was burning me right on my foot. I sustained severe burns over about three quarters of the top of my foot.
“It was a real bad burn. I did everything to get it healed up as quickly as I could and without as much scarring as possible and it did a great job but that held me back over Christmas.
“Things were going good for me coming up to the end of September and then I was supposed to be fighting on Martin Rogan’s bill but that was cancelled and then I was to fight in November.
“I had two fights planned whenever I had the car accident. I was grateful, given the state of the jeep and the severity of the accident that I came out in the condition I came out in.
“I had seven staples on the back of my head, I took a right good whip, chipped a bone in my elbow and chipped a bone in my hand. The paramedics told me I had whiplash after taking a good bang to the head and that it was a good job I was a boxer otherwise he reckoned I probably would’ve broke my neck.
“I got him to ring Nicola, my wife, and they took me to Coleraine hospital, they were first class.
“Believe it or not I was back in the gym two weeks after my accident. I wasn’t doing very much but I thought I was better going to the gym and trying to work through the soreness rather than sitting on the couch in the house where you’re just going to put on weight.
“I was very lucky and I’m very grateful it wasn’t worse than it was and that I had good people around me to support me.”
With the opportunity to feature on Paul McCloskey’s supporting bill, the Irish Prizefighter in early May - a format which would certainly suit his all-action style - O’Kane was cautious not to take his eye of his upcoming fight against Reed.
“I’ve been talking quite a bit about it (Prizefighter) but I don’t like to look past Wayne Reed because I know he can punch and he’s a weight heavier than me.
“But Prizefighter would suit my style,” he added. “I like to box at a high tempo and put my opponents under pressure. My problem at times is getting people to fight me and with prizefighter they have to come and fight you.
“They’re talking some good names at the minute. It wouldn’t be easy and it’s a risky business because it’s one night, three fights and you just hope all goes well.
“If you get a bad cut and the fight’s stopped you have a defeat on your record but definitely the money would be great and the possibilities that come out of it.
“Winning that would put you into title contention pretty quickly and that’s exactly what I want. So hopefully all goes well in this next fight in Sheffield and then maybe I’ll be competing in this Prizefighter at the Odyssey. “They’re talking about pushing it back to May 5th now. I’ve actually booked a holiday to Florida for two weeks on April 28th so I’m in a bit of a dilemma.
“We booked it back in October last year in the hope that I wouldn’t have a fight around that time but the priority at the minute is boxing so we’ll see what happens,” concluded the 2010 Commonwealth Gold medallist.