The Dublin light middleweight approaches his clash with Rio Olympian Anthony Fowler [6(5)-0] on the Dillian Whyte v Joseph Parker PPV undercard tomorrow night full of confidence to an almost shocking degree and is promising to turn Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn’s head.
A fighter with a colourful backstory and one who had a stop-start beginning to his pro career, O’Brien [8(0)-0] was never one for bravado.
Honest and down-to-earth, the inner-city slickster was self-deprecating to a degree.
There were never any big claims and O’Brien would be the first to tell you if he was ‘bollixed’ in the final round of a six-rounder.
However, two titles in his past three fights, a realisation of his own talents, and the development of a mindset has given ‘The Iron’ a steely confidence ahead of the eight-round bout at the O2 Arena in London.
“Last year I didn’t believe in myself as much but now I truly believe in myself and believe in my ability – and that’s one of the reasons I took this fight,” O’Brien explained to Irish-Boxing.com.
Visualisation, as it has for many fighters, has become a major tool for O’Brien.
The 28-year-old outlined how “this is shit I’ve dreamed of, I’ve visualised it.”
I was out with Alan [Heary, Sports Psychologist] and even away from that I’m into books like ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and ‘The Secret’ and all these ones about visualising.”
“I visualised this, I visualised boxing on telly, I visualised boxing on Sky. It’s here now and I’m going to capitalise on it on Saturday night.”
While he may have previously been somewhat succeptable to nerves, the new Craig O’Brien is revelling in the opportunity – as could be seen at today’s weigh-in.
The Celtic Warriors fighter was all smiles in front of the big crowd in London and fired back with vigour when Fowler started sending verbals his way. In his mind, this is O’Brien’s time.
It’s all part of the plan for the Northsider who explained how “the dream was to win the Irish title and I’m after doing that. I feel, now in Ireland, there’s not a lot of places for me to go. There’s not a lot of shows happening.”
“I could probably have another two fights against foreigners, go 10-0, but what would be the plan after that? Sky? I’m getting that opportunity now and I’m taking it with both hands.”
“I’m not overthinking the opportunity, it excites me but it doesn’t make me nervous or anything.”
An opportunity indeed.
O’Brien hopes to become the latest Irish fighter to change his career with a big win on Sky Sports.
The Dubliner has dreams of big nights and wants to grab the attention of the influential Hearn with an upset win over one of his golden boys.
“I’m buzzing for it, me and Eddie are going to have a talk,” said O’Brien.
“When you’re in the situation you think that it’s just another fight – obviously there’s a bit more hype about it and people are talking about it more than they would have about the [Jay] Byrne fight or whatever.”
“But it is a massive opportunity and I’m not letting that faze me.”
“I’m going to be relaxed in there, be myself, and what will be, will be.”
“When I beat him, doors will open up, 100%.”
“I’ve told him [Fowler] that I’m coming to win and I’m going to take his slot in October,” he added in reference to the Scouser’s talk of an October 20th fight date in America which was initially mooted for L.A. but now looks set for Rhode Island with Demetrius Andrade challenging WBO middleweight champ Billy Joe Saunders.
Written off by many, this is a stark contrast to the confidence held by O’Brien who notes how “the bookies have me at 9/1 and I think that’s a mistake.”
“Does it make me train harder? Honestly, no. All it means is that people are going to win a few extra quid. The Byrne fight, I was favourite but you don’t think about that. When the bell goes, it’s boxing, and boxing is boxing, anything can happen.”
“I’ve trained hard, I’ve ticked all the boxes. I feel all the fights I’ve had have led to this fight – doing a ten rounder, doing an eight rounder, getting put down when I won the BUI Celtic title, getting back up and winning, all that shit has led to here.”
O’Brien was speaking to Irish-Boxing.com on Wednesday night and was in top form – a stark contrast to the lead-up to his Irish title fight with Byrne in March.
Whereas weight was an issue that time, O’Brien promised to be in the best shape of his career for the 156lbs [2lbs above light middleweight] catchweight bout – and fulfilled this promise, coming in at a very healthy-looking 153.3lbs.
The Paschal Collins-trained fighter explained how “when I boxed Byrne I was over 2.5kg [overweight] on the morning [of the weigh-in]. I did the water-loading and I think I did it wrong.”
“I was in the gym that morning down the docks, I’ll never forget it, for two hours and I didn’t even think I’d make the weight – I made it by the skin of my teeth.”
“Now I’m 1.1kg over and I’m eating and drinking like a horse. I’ve been like this for ages, it’s not just a training camp. I went to L.A. and I ate healthy, stayed on it.”
On the eve of the biggest fight of his career, the work has been done and now it’s time for action.
Everything has come together and O’Brien ends by noting 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’s fit and he’s strong but the best me beats the best him, that’s honestly what I think.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)