In depth with Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan
GARY ‘SPIKE’ O’SULLIVAN
Unbeaten Irishman Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan features on the big West Ham United undercard headlined by David Haye’s epic heavyweight showdown against Dereck Chisora on Saturday 14th July.
O’Sullivan takes on Manchester’s Matthew Hall for the Vacant WBO International Middleweight title on an exciting undercard that also includes Liam Walsh’s challenge for the Vacant WBO European Super-Featherweight title against Dominic Urbano.
Haye v Chisora is live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546). Join at www.boxnation.com
Name: Gary ‘O’Sullivan
Born: Cork, Ireland
Family background: I’m one of six boys and a sister. I’m bang in the middle, number four. We’re a big boxing family. The oldest two brothers didn’t bother but Dad did a bit when he was in the army over in England and us four youngest boys were all national champions at one level or another.
Mammy was born over in England, though I’m not entirely sure where, but it makes me eligible to fight for a Commonwealth title. I’ve already three daughters myself, aged eight, four and seven months. We still live in Cork.
Trade: I’m a qualified sheet mental worker.
Nickname: For boxing purposes it’s ‘The Celtic Rebel.’ Cork is known as the Rebel County. But I’ve been known by everyone as ‘Spike’ since I left the maternity unit and, to this day, I’m not entirely sure why!
What age did you become interested in boxing and why? From five years of age, I’d follow my father to the local boxing gym when he used to train and I never stopped. Dad had a big influence, got me throwing everything off the jab from a very young age.
What do you recall of your amateur career? I passed through several clubs. From the age of five to 12, I was at St Brendan’s, in the Glen, County Cork. From 12 to 14, I moved to the Belgooly boxing club. At 14 I went to the Sunnyside club where I was coached by Kieran Joyce, a former two time Olympian (Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988).
Then, at 18, we formed our gym, the Loughmahon boxing club. I’ve helped coach eight national champions and it’s a brilliant feeling altogether getting a kid who’s never before put a glove on and then moulding them to an All-Ireland title. Today, we’ve over a hundred members at our club and we recently got the Volunteers of the Year Award from the Lord Mayor of Cork.
All told I’d have had easily over 100 amateur bouts and, at a rough estimate, I’d say I lost about 15. Not far off 20 of those fights would’ve been in an Ireland singlet. When I was about 16, I won a national junior title and, same year, I got a silver at the Junior Four Nations in Fife, Scotland. I got beaten in a good few other finals as well. Being champion of All-Ireland was something I was definitely very proud of. Definitely my amateur highlight.
Coming from little Cork, there were a good few dubious decisions that I wasn’t happy with. Every year we’d have to go to Dublin for the national championships and, basically, if you didn’t score a knockout, you didn’t win. Also, becoming a father at 19 sort of put paid to any Olympic campaign. I had to work full time on the sheet metal to support my family.
Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? A big pro show was planned for Cork in January 2008 with Billy Walsh topping the bill, and they needed a big ticket seller for the undercard so they approached me. I stopped Peter Dunn in six rounds, impressed Paschal Collins and that encouraged me to go onwards and upwards.
Tell us about your back up team: Frank Warren promotes me and (Paschal) ‘Packie’ Collins trains and manages me from the Celtic Gym in Dublin. I’ve been with ‘Packie’ the whole of my career and I’ll probably stay with him till the end. He’s a very straight, loyal fella, cuts no corners. There’s no beating around the bush when you make mistakes.
‘Packie’s’ made me the fighter I am. He’s very experienced, having spent about 10 years in the States with the Petronellis and Freddie Roach.
There’s a fella I only know as ‘Guysie’ who owns a different gym in Dublin. He looks after my strength and conditioning, and my nutrition. He’s got me eating so much chicken, I think I’ll sprout wings!
What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? It’s two and three quarter hours on train from Cork to Dublin so, when preparing for a fight, I stay in the capital, five days a week. Back home, I’ll train at our gym and also at the Clarion Hotel in Cork which kindly sponsors me, gives me free membership of their gym, saunas and jacuzzis.
My day starts with a 40 minute run at seven o’clock, then I’ll hit the boxing gym later. My routine varies day to day but includes all the usual; sparring, pads, bags, circuits. Tuesdays and Saturdays are always the particularly hard days. ‘Packie’ gets me plenty fit but he’s intelligent enough to spot if I’m having a flat day and getting me to ease up. Experience!
I train six days a week and have Sunday off. That’s when I go to confession. I’m there all day!
My favourite part, without question, would be the sparring. Absolutely love it. I’ve done a lot lately with (super-featherweight) Stephen Ormond because he’s the same squat frame as Matthew Hall, my next opponent. I also do plenty with Ian Timms, a three time Irish senior heavyweight champion, now boxing pro down at cruiser. That gets very gruelling. I’ve also been working with Karl Brabazon, another Irish senior champion (welter) who’s a fast southpaw. I’ve been over to the Petronelli gym in Massachusetts for sparring with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. That was very good.
I love all training. ‘Packie’s’ circuits are very tough but I never forget I’m getting real benefit out of them. Skipping is probably what I like least. It can be a bit boring.
Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m a Marvin Hagler! (Ex world champion) Steve Collins told me that. I can box a bit, I can fight and I can certainly punch; always have been able to. When I was pretty young, mid teens, I badly knocked out a good Scottish lad from the Ingle gym. He was badly hurt and never fought again. It was very unfortunate. I was only 57 kilos so the punch has always been there. The straight right is my big shot. Sometimes I just flick it out as a range finder and ‘Bang!’ they’re on the deck.
My chin is well proven , maybe not publicly, but we know from the gym and, because of that and the punch, I’ll always be in the fight.
What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter?I need more experience. I’ve already got the skills, can fight inside or out, but you learn massively from every fight and I’ve only had 14. I’ve real respect for the journeymen and what they teach you but now I’d like some really testing, evenly match contests.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? Obviously the fights are longer. There’s more rounds and that definitely suits me, even though I’ve had half a dozen first round knockouts. I like to get warmed up and into a fight. After five or six rounds, I feel a lot looser.
Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? Probably Andy Lee. We sparred on the Irish amateur set up. He was pretty tricky, tall and long. Paul McCloskey was very good as well. Both are proper gentlemen. I didn’t like the way Amir Khan was so disrespectful about Paul after they fought. Paul didn’t deserve that. He’s such a nice fella.
All time favourite fighter: I’ll have to go with Steve (Collins). I loved his tenacity, determination plus he was a very intelligent fighter.
All time favourite fight: Collins-Eubank II in Cork. I was about 11 years of age. I run past that Pairc Ui Chaoimh venue every morning. I was awestruck by Eubank and must have been the only Cork man shouting Chris on! I really looked up to his courage and charisma, and that ‘Simply the Best’ entrance.
Which current match would you most like to see made? Spike O’Sullivan versus Felix Sturm for the WBA middleweight title! I’m very confident I could beat him tomorrow. He seemed very easy to hit against Matt Macklin and Martin Murray. I hit far harder than either of those fellas and, if I can tee off on someone, it’s the end for them!
What is your routine on fight day? I like to lie in bed and wake up naturally. No alarms. That way, you have a lot more energy for your day. After breakfast, I like to take a nice, long walk, somewhere relaxing, possibly by the sea. In the afternoon, before leaving for the stadium, I’ll go for a nap, followed by a shower. That makes me feel fresh and vibrant.
The fight will be constantly on my mind. I’ll visualise what’s going to happen, and I’ll watch tapes of the opponent. I have nerves about losing but never over my opponent.
In the changing room, I listen to my music and do a lot of pads. I’ll punch the walls! I love the big crowds. Fighting beneath Groves and DeGale at the O2 was the most alive I’ve ever felt.
I view my opponent as someone who could prevent my kids having a fantastic future, and I convince myself I’m not going to let that happen. That’s what’s on my mind as I view them across the ring, before we fight.
Entrance music: Ian, a fast rising DJ from our gym, has done a unique track from me, mixing the old traditional Irish battle song that Steve Collins entered the ring against Chris Eubank with – that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck – and it finishes off with that jingle from the darts! There’s a strong drum beat. It’s fuckin brilliant!
What are your ambitions as a boxer? Since the age of five or six, I’ve dreamed of being a world champion. Dad used to put me to bed then wake me up in the middle of the night to watch all the big fights from the US. Holyfield was a big favourite but I was always intrigued by the championship belts. I’m not especially well known because I didn’t have a huge amateur career but I firmly believe I’m going to get to that world title.
How do you relax? My kids are number one. I take them down the park or to ‘Chuckie’s’. I also like to play chess and I’m a good snooker player.
Read: The best book I’ve read is ‘The Alchemist’ by Paolo Coelho. It’s about following your dream. I’ve just started Sugar Ray Leonard’s autobiography.
Music: I really like Rod Stewart.
Films/TV: I like the comedy films. American Pie and The Hangover are a couple of big favourites. On the box, I like Swamp People, a show in which guys hunt alligators and shit with their bare hands.
Aspiration in life: To set up my children for a good future for themselves.
Motto: Pain may last for a minute, or an hour or a week. Failure lasts forever!
Tickets for Licensed to Thrill are available from Eventim at www.eventim.co.uk or 0844 249 1000, Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.co.uk or 0844 844 0444 and West Ham United at www.whufc.com or 0871 222 2700.