Dubliner Craig O’Brien [8(0)-0] faces Rio Olympian and Matchroom starlet Anthony Fowler [6(5)-0] this Saturday night in London and, from the outside, it has all the hallmarks of a typical Sky Sports fight for a prospect.
Fowler is the wrecking ball and, on just three weeks notice, has been ‘matched’ against an opponent with a nice record but little apparent power and a common opponent that compares favourably.
Irish light middleweight champion O’Brien, however, reveals that the fight is all part of his own plan, a step-up he had intended on taking, an opportunity he intends to grab, and an opponent he knows he can beat.
They didn’t ask me,” he tells Irish-Boxing.com. “I didn’t shy away from it – these are the fights I want, I want to test myself at this level.”
“I was asked if I’d fight anyone on Sky, that there was a possibility there. I said ‘yeah, anyone at my weight, Fowler’s there, [Scott] Fitzgerald’s there, I’d like to fight any of the boys for a belt over ten rounds’ – two days later they came back with Fowler.”
“They were going back and forward for a week over this and that. One day it was on, one day it was off, I just kept my mind on it and kept training.”
“I’d been training for Jay’s show [the cancelled July 7th JB Promotions card] and, with that not happening, it gave me an extra three weeks.”
“Eight rounds, I’m super fit for eight rounds.”
A big outsider for the fight which will play out at the O2 Arena on the Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker undercard, O’Brien feels he has already been overlooked by Fowler despite the fact he is the Liverpudlian’s toughest opponent so far.
The Scouser has spoken of featuring on a Matchroom DAZN bill in L.A. on October 20th and described how he will go through O’Brien like a hot knife through butter.
“Do I reckon he’s underestimating me?”, muses O’Brien, “100% I feel he’s underestimating me.”
“Fowler is the favourite and I think he feels he has it won already but, I don’t know, I feel if I get in there and box my best that I could surprise him and take home the win.”
“If he brings the best out of me, I know what I can do. I’ve been put down but I got up, I’m a hard cunt, a tough cunt. I’m fully confident I can win. I’m going to box my best and I’m going to win.”
While he disagrees, the Paschal Collins-trained fighter understands why he could perhaps be overlooked.
O’Brien noted how “obviously they’re looking at [Jay] Byrne. I boxed Byrne, I went ten rounds, he boxed Byrne, he only went four, and they’re thinking ‘Jesus, if he went ten and you went four… do the maths’.”
“But I think styles make fights and I think me and him will gel and it’s going to be a good fight, a very good fight if I’m being honest.”
“Another thing they’re looking at is ‘eight fights, no KOs’.”
“He’s going to be of the mindset that he’ll blow me out but he won’t. I’ll be there throwing shots back – the other opponents went in there already beat and I won’t be.”
28-year-old O’Brien finds himself preparing for a fight on a huge card, and one which could legitimately change his life if he wins.
It’s a far cry to where the inner-city fighter was just a few years ago.
A promising amateur career fell by the wayside as O’Brien moved into a world of crime, addiction, and incarceration but ‘The Iron’ has turned himself around and a pro boxing career has flourished.
A natural talent, O’Brien is of the belief that he can outbox ‘The Machine’.
“I think with my footwork I have a bit more than him,” O’Brien noted.
“Obviously with the Olympics and the amateurs, he’s schooled well but I think that if I had stayed around I would have been in the Irish squad the same way he was in the GB squad.”
“This kid, he went to Rio and he did fuck all in Rio. He went to Rio and he got beat in the first round and the simple reason why was because he wasn’t bleedin’ good enough. He’s no Josh Kelly, he’s no Ted Cheeseman.”
While O’Brien has the slickness and the flair, he has spent the past few years at the tough Celtic Warriors Gym in Corduff with top middleweight contender Spike O’Sullivan – a “one million percent” better version of Fowler.
“Even on the inside, I’m strong now on the inside,” explained O’Brien.
“I feel Luke [Keeler] is much better than this fella. I sparred Luke and had great spars with Luke. I spar Spike and I have great spars with Spike.”
“Obviously, he trains hard all the time but he’s boxed no-one like me in his six fights.”
“Does he punch hard? He’s stopped people to the body but, to the head… He loads up and all but does he hit hard? I don’t know.”
It’s all coming together perfectly for O’Brien who admits that “I think I’m getting Fowler at the right time, he’s only 6-0, and I feel he’s not the best Sky have, there’s Ted Cheeseman.”
“He did six against pony, against a lad who looked like he was afraid to throw shots – and when he did throw shots he was landing. That’s one thing I’ve noticed about Fowler, when people throw shots at him they land on him.”
“I think he’s there to be hit and I definitely do think I’m going to surprise him on the night.”
“I feel I’ll surprise him when the bell goes. If I can use my feet, my head, get my shots off, he’s in for trouble.”
O’Brien also took the time to thank his supporters and sponsors – Carrickeast Construction Ltd., The Fixing Company, Action Glass, KE Building Services Ltd., Blakestown Carwash & Valet Centre, Dublin Plumbling and Gas, Palmerstown Jeweller, Grange Construction and Roofing Ltd., Physicare Dublin., Ballyfermot Sports and Leisure, Airgeadcion.ie, and Diffney Menswear of Mary Street.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)