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Hard work and sacrifices pay off for knocked down Craig O’Brien

Not even a career-first trip to the canvas in the first round was going to stop Craig O’Brien [6(0)-0] on Saturday night.

The Dublin light middleweight won the BUI Celtic title in the chief support bout on the Red Corner ‘Champions Elect’ card at the National Stadium – and needed to draw upon every ounce of graft he had put in in the build up.

O’Brien made the step up to eight rounds and was faced with Breton Alain Alfred, a stocky counter puncher who ambushed ‘The Iron’ in the opening round of their clash.

The inner city slickster would recover, and fought back well to claim a 78-75 win and his first belt.

Afterwards O’Brien credited his preparations for getting him through a unexpectedly tough encounter.

The 28 year old told Irish-Boxing.com that “I’ve trained seven or eight weeks for this night and it paid off in there. I got knocked down in the first round, a flash knockdown but obviously when that happens you’re wary. It never happened to me before. I was actually feeling alright.”

“I regrouped, went back out, and took it round by round. Obviously I had to be careful after being knocked down because he was looping those shots in, he was a little bull.At the end I actually felt good in there, my conditioning was brilliant, and I felt strong coming on in six, seven, and eight. I could have done another few. ”

“All the hard work, all the sacrifices paid off there. Recovering from that knockdown, is [due to] all the graft I put in, all the training, all the eating well, all the dieting well, all the early nights and long runs, all that paid off.”

O’Brien can appreciate the learning aspect to the fight, but he doesn’t want to be making any repeat visits.

The Northsider explained how “it’s a good learning fight, an eight round learning fight.”

“Being knocked down early on, some fighters can’t recover from it, some fighters get a shock, so it’s good to know that I can – which I don’t want to be doing again anytime soon.”

“Getting knocked down and coming back to recover, you can say that at least I can do it – but at the end of the day, I shouldn’t have got caught in the first place. That’s the bit I’m annoyed with, but we’ll come back and learn.”

Trainer Paschal Collins was delighted with O’Brien’s reaction to the opening round shock to the system and noted how “it was brilliant, to get up off the floor in the first round and to compose yourself shows maturity.”

“It’s probably the best thing that can happen to a fighter [being knocked down] early on in their career – because when you step up and fight more experienced guys, they will finish you off.”

O’Brien became the second Celtic Warriors fighter to touch down in less than a month. Ray Moylette was dropped in the second round of his clash with Donte Bryant, but recovered to grab a win and followed that up with another victory two weeks later versus Michael Clark.

Always in good spirits,O’Brien was able to laugh at how some good-natured slagging backfired.

“It’s funny,” he described. “Because in our Whatsapp group last week I was saying ‘Ray, stay off the floor this time,’ and he said ‘don’t mind me, you’re up next week,’ and lo and behold I hit the bleedin’ deck!”

The conclusion of the bout saw O’Brien’s close friends and family descend upon the ring, and the Dubliner is grateful for the report he receives.

Dedicating his title to his followers, O’Brien stated that “the main thing was the belt, the first title is a relief.”

“It was brilliant to do it, and when you’re up against someone who’s game and comes at you too. I want to thank the fans, that’s for them, and all my sponsors and everyone who’s helped me.”

“As I said before this fight, I’ve a little bit of ability, people starting to believe in me, me starting to believe in myself, and I’m putting the work in.”

Of course, O’Brien does not want to stop here, and sees the Irish title held by Pauly Upton as the eventual goal.

The classy puncher outlined how “I want to keep growing and, to be honest with you, this time next year I’d like to push for the Irish belt over ten rounds.”

“Hopefully we get one before Christmas, a six rounder to tick over, then defend the belt next year, and move on.”

“I’ll just keep growing from this, every fight, every camp. In another twelve months I’ll be in a better place than I am now.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie