Jorge Vallejo was anything but a routine opponent for a fighter returning to the ring after a 17 month lay off, never mind one competing for just the fourth time as a pro.
Not only did ‘The Shark’ come into the clash on the back of a knockout win, he was confidently promising to drag Craig O’Brien into deep water in the build up to the ‘Unfinished Business’ match-up.
Then come fight night, the Spaniard enters to his own theme tune, a red headband wrapped around his temple, his personalised logo tattooed on his arm, and a camera crew following his every move.
Not journeyman fare, certainly a fighter coming to win and, according to those in the know. a potential banana skin considering ‘The Iron’s’ recent inactivity.
However, speaking after he outpointed Vallejo. the ticket-selling stylist seemed to suggest he had bigger obstacles than a good opponent to overcome.
O’Brien explained that he needed to experience all things fight night again, while ensuring he didn’t let the occasion (or the desire of his vocal support for blood) prompt a rush of blood to his head.
“I knew it would be tough, he was like a tank, he just kept coming, but the main thing was getting back in the ring tonight after 17 months,” O’Brien told Irish-Boxing.com aftewards.
“I haven’t been in the Stadium for 10 years and it was more overcoming all that. It wasn’t that I was nervous, but I knew I had to stay relaxed and keep myself together. I knew if I boxed him, I’d win. The crowd roared when I hurt him in the third and I let six or seven shots go till I heard Paschal [Collins, coach] roar at me, so it’s about not getting caught up in all that.”
“I wanted to get back in the ring, back punching in front of the crowd, under the lights and back into Stadium, that was what tonight was about.”
“It’s a good six rounds in the bank. You have to start somewhere with six rounds and that was it there, but tonight was more about getting into the swing of it again.”
Getting back into the rhythm of things certainly didn’t look a problem for the Celtic Warriors fighter. For the first three rounds he showed real natural talent and the kind of ability that would suggest he could have been a quality amateur if he didn’t step away from the game for a period. Indeed Vallejo would describe ‘The Iron’ as a “fantástico boxeador” afterwards
The 27 year old did tire at the tail end, but was happy he managed to manage proceedings and win every round.
“I did feel fresh in the first three. I tired a little and he sensed it in the last three. I thought maybe I lost a round, but I got the full six. The main thing was getting the feel of it again. Getting out in front of the lights and the crowd.”
O’Brien certainly doesn’t want another lay-off and is keen to be back out as soon as possible. A fight away from the lights and ticket-selling responsibilities in England might be next before a return to the next Red Corner card, which looks set for the Stadium in June or July.
“It’s possible we could do something with the boys [Red Corner]. Obviously they have got Luke headlining in a BUI Celtic title fight, that’s a belt I would love to fight for. It’s picking up again, which is great. There is chance I could get out the start of May in England before the next show here in June or July,” he continued before being asked if he would like anyone in particular in a title fight.
“I am not a name-dropper, but if they come and say they will fight, I will fight.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)