EAMONN O’Kane hopes to secure a European title shot within the year after lighting up the Odyssey Arena with a first round demolition of Mexican, Alvaro Gaona last Friday night.
The Banagher man claimed the vacant WBC Silver International belt with a crippling knockout blow, two minutes and 42 seconds into the opening round to copperfasten his place among the elite of the middleweight division.
O’Kane’s professional career is certainly gathering pace after adding this latest belt to his Prizefighter crown, Irish title and the IBF Inter-Continental middleweight title - all won over the past 24 months.
Friday’s victory gives O’Kane recognition and a top 15 ranking with the World Boxing Council and he believes he is now ready to challenge current EBU champion, Max Bursak - the Ukrainian who holds the WBA’s International belt.
“I’m looking at European and world level now,” said O’Kane. “I’m ranked No. 9 in the IBF and now in the top 10 or 15 in the WBC, so as far as the domestic scene goes I think I’ve moved on past that.
“I’m moving onwards and upwards as far as the world scene is concerned,” he added. “I want to fight people who are world ranked so I can push myself up the ratings and put myself in line to fight for a world title.
“Paul McCloskey has been a role model of mine and when he fought for a world title it was fantastic and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”
O’Kane continues to answer his critics with stellar performances in the ring and those who doubted his punching power need only look at his finishing shot on Friday night which must be a contender for ‘knockout of the year’.
His overhand right landed flush on the nose of Gaona and the Mexican crumpled into a neutral corner before German referee, Juergen Langos counted him out 18 seconds before the end of the first round.
O’Kane’s coach, Bernardo Checa has clearly refined his boxing skills and he believes the Co. Derry man can go on to shine on the world stage - something O’Kane was delighted to hear.
“It’s good to hear that he thinks I can fight at world level. Your coach tells you exactly what you need to hear and I know he believes in me and he’s working on improving me as a fighter.”
O’Kane was always the aggressor in the early stages of Friday’s fight and he meant business from the start, taking advantage of Gaona’s low hands to land a stunning right hand straight. He stalked his opponent around the ring from the first bell and landed punches to the right and left side of the Mexican at will. And he claims he has plenty in his boxing repertoire other than his undoubted power.
“I’ve proved I can box. Before I joined up with Checa I was boxing frantically and he’s got me slowed down a lot more and picking my shots. I have a bit more patience and I’ve stopped trying to force things.
“It was a bit more tactical on Friday night,” he claimed. “I know I can do it and I just need to do it more consistently. “
Overall O’Kane was delighted with his performance but he felt he was prepared to go through 12 tough rounds if needed.
“I was delighted with it,” said an elated O’Kane. “People have been questioning if I had the power and it was good to actually deliver on the big stage. He (Gaona) was shaking his head at me and taunting me as if what I was doing wasn’t bothering him. So it was good to put him to bed pretty quickly.
“You never want to cause anyone serious injuries but they were telling me in the changing rooms he had a broken nose from that shot.
“I caught him flush,” he recalled. “I threw the right hand over the top, I like to throw that shot and I connected very well. My timing was very good and it all came together very well.
“It was strange to get it over and done with so quickly. From the war that I had the last time (against Kerry Hope) and the lack of preparation for that fight to being over-prepared this time and getting rid of him early.
“I’m very happy with the performance and I think I answered the questions that were asked of me in terms of my power. I knew I had the power and my strength and conditioning coach and boxing coach knew I had it.
“You definitely like to get rounds in the bank for the big fights ahead but the 12 rounds with Kerry Hope will stand me in good stead for the bigger title fights to come.”
O’Kane doesn’t believe he needs to rectify his sole blemish on his professional record - an eighth round TKO loss at the hands of John Ryder.
In fact, the new WBC Silver International champion feels he’s now moved on significantly from that defeat and has set his sights much higher.
“I think I’ve past that stage of my career now,” said O’Kane. “I lost against John Ryder but I feel I’m better than him. For just 13 days training I gave John Ryder a hell of a lot of trouble.
“And that’s when I was boxing my old style. I’m now at a higher level so I think I’ve put that to bed. Okay rectifying that loss with a win against him would be ideal but no, I’ve gone past that now.
“If he works himself into the position when a rematch is on the cards then that will be great. But I’m hoping for a European shot and even a world title eliminator now.
“And defending these IBF and WBC titles - which are top 10 in the world titles - that’s the plan. I’m not talking myself up or being over confident but that’s simply where I’m at now,” he concluded.