It’s been some turnaround for Craig O’Brien [5(0)-0].
28 years old today, the birthday boxer will hope to celebrate with a first professional title this weekend.
The Dublin light middleweight takes on Alain Alfred [2(1)-4(1)-1] for the BUI Celtic title on Saturday night at the National Stadium on the Red Corner Promotions ‘Champions Elect’ bill.
Another year older, but 2017 has been the best year of O’Brien’s career.
Returning after 18 months inactive, the inner city stylist claimed hugely impressive wins over Jorge Vallejo and Christian Hoskin Gomez and has been moved up to title level ahead of schedule.
“Co-main event, good isn’t it?” the typically laid back O’Brien tells Irish-Boxing.com.
“We’re working our way up and that’s the main thing. It’s pay-off from the performances, I’ve had two good performances on the last shows.”
“People are starting to believe in me, they think I’ve a bit of talent, a bit of ability, and there’s something to work with. I’m starting to believe in myself, so with my bit of ability and hard work we can go places.”
O’Brien can appreciate his progress over the past year and recalled how “this time last year I was just sitting in the house, I was doing nothing – or I was going to the gym just helping other boys, just being there for the sake of it. Nothing was happening whatsoever.”
“Then in February it all kicked off, doors opened. Now I’m just going to keep moving forward, I’m starting to believe in myself a lot more. I’m training harder, everything’s coming together, I’m getting better, I’m getting fitter.”
Saturday will be O’Brien’s first eight rounder, and while he has fallen victim to a change of opponent, it remains a step up. Initially due to face former Welsh middleweight champion Lee Churcher, ‘The Iron’ now faces Madagascar-born Brittany-based Alfred.
“It’s definitely a step up,” notes O’Brien.
“This French fella, I can’t underestimate him. I was expecting Churcher, but this guy has caused an upset before and could have won some but they went the other way. You don’t know until on the night. ”
“I haven’t seen him, I haven’t watched him, I don’t know what he looks like, but I’ll know after a round. I’ve trained hard, six, seven weeks of hard training, and I’ve done everything right.”
The fight comes during a hot streak for the Celtic Warriors Gym. Niall Kennedy and Spike O’Sullivan have claimed major wins in recent weeks and O’Brien wants to continue to good times.
He outlined how “me and Spike had been sparring each other every second day. Bernard [Roe] won, Niall had a big win, Ray [Moylette] has been winning, it’s flying the gym is. We’re on a good run and hopefully it can continue like that with me and Allan [Phelan] at the weekend.”
The Corduff club is a middleweight and light middleweight haven, and O’Brien is feeling strong ahead of his first fight to take place at 154lbs exactly.
“I’m going to be massive at this weight,” O’Brien predicts.
“The sparring I’m doing with Spike, we’ve been bullying each other, punching the head off each other. I’ve been pushing him back and he’s been pushing me back, it’s good to know that I can do that.”
“The knockouts will come. I’m a boxer obviously, I hit and move, but when I throw the combinations I can hurt people. You’ll see a more relaxed me in there on Saturday and you’ll see more power coming as well.”
A likable local lad, the well-supported O’Brien has noticed the momentum building.
Relaying an experience, the Northsider described how “I saw a fella last night, I was at dancing picking my young one up and he was picking his young one up, I haven’t seen him in ages, and he as asking me ‘when’s the fight?'”
“Everybody just knows about it. Obviously it’s all over social media and it’s a title fight so that drags people in. For this one I will bring my biggest crowd.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)