“I never thought I’d be here” – Craig O’Brien shaped by troubled past

2017 has been a crazy year for Craig O’Brien [6(0)-0] and everything now seems to be falling into place for one of the most popular and well-liked Irish fighters.

While he spent the entirety of last year on the sidelines, 2017 has seen the inner-city light middleweight fight regularly and last month he collected his first title.

O’Brien survived a first round knockdown to battle back and defeat Breton Alain Alfred for the BUI Celtic title at the National Stadium.

In the wake of that win, O’Brien has been paraded at half-time at Dalymount Park during a Bohemian FC game and, at the weekend, was given a civic reception with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House in Dublin.

As well as this, a fascinating mini-documentary has been made on O’Brien and his background.

“I’m getting more recognition, it’s good. I’m a true believer that hard work pays off,” the 28 year old told Irish-Boxing.com

“I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but if you’re good enough to win it, why not fight for it? I’ll push on, eventually I want the Irish title next year. ”

“The recognition is coming with the hard work – but if you were to ask me is it a little bit big compared to others…. yeah it’s definitely a little bit big! It’s all part of the game.”

While the plaudits are pouring in, O’Brien is not resting on his laurels. He fights for the fourth time in 2017 next month and will be looking to round off a near-perfect 2017 with a six rounder on the Boxing Ireland and Tony Davitt ‘Celtic Clash 4’ bill at the National Stadium.

“I’m still training hard,” he said. “After the last fight I didn’t celebrate much, I was back in the gym training away and now I’m back out on the 2nd of December.”

“Red Corner go again in February, I won’t defend the belt until then. So it was either wait until then or have a fight in between in December so thanks to the lads.”

“You get up early in the morning to run, and if you have the thought of why you’re running, the belt, eventually the Irish title, it gives you motivation to keep moving forward.”

The aforementioned documentary did not pull any punches, dealing with troubled times in O’Brien’s past before he made his return to boxing. ‘The Iron’ has seen it all, death, drug addiction, imprisonment, but has come out the other side a stronger person.

“Does it help me? Yes, it does,” He reflected. “If I think where I was when I was 17, 18, 19, it makes me one hundred percent stronger, seeing where I am now. That’ll help me in the long run, whether it be in a fight, a camp, or whatever.”

“I’ve had tough times – and that’s through no-one’s fault other than my own, at that age you think you know everything,” he noted before crediting his chosen sport for helping transform his life.

“Just as well I went to boxing at eight years old and I was half-decent at it. So I knew people around it, in it, and I was able to fall back in. Not that I said one day when I was 21 or 22, ‘I’m going to be a pro,’ that never happened. I just went to the gym to stay fit, stay active, and along the lines I met people, good friends of mine like my old trainer Niall Byrne, that shaped me into getting fit and becoming a professional boxer.”

“I’d be in Cabra Boxing Club some nights, I help out up there, I like to give back. It’s something I’m going to get my own young fella into eventually, boxing is a brilliant sport, whether it be competing or just to give you confidence, discipline, and character.”

“I’m delighted with my first belt, it’s been a dream, everything after it has been a dream. I never thought I’d be here, with the story I’ve had, where I’ve been. So being here now, all of that has shaped me, it made me stronger and strong-minded. I’m a strong-minded person, I’ll keep moving forward and hopefully I’ll get the Irish title next year.”

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

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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