Darren O’Neill has confirmed that he will continue boxing for 2017 as he targets a seventh Irish Elite title and success on the international scene.
The Kilkenny heavyweight’s intentions were unclear following the conclusion of the Rio Olympic cycle, but he will fight on and remain the big man to beat in the 91kg class.
The 2012 Olympian and European silver medalist (at middleweight) will box in the Ireland v England International next week before entering the Senior Elites in February.
Ahead of next weeks bout, 31 year old O’Neill commented how “it will be a good prep fight to see where I’m on the way back to heavy training for the Nationals.”
“It will be my 13th season entering the Nationals, but my 12th competing as I broke my thumb in 2007 and had to withdraw. The World Championships are in Hamburg in 2017 so it’s obviously going to be a big year with the National, World and European Championships in 2017.”
Despite impressing since moving up to 91kg, O’Neill would miss out on Rio Olympic qualification. While Tokyo 2020 is most likely too far away for the Paulstown puncher, he will be aiming for another big medal to help round off his fantastic career.
If O’Neill is to retain his heavyweight crown he will first have to negotiate a tricky field. Recent World University Championships bronze medalist Kenny Okungbowa is on the hunt for a maiden elite title, and the Athlone man has markedly improved since his close fight with O’Neill in early 2015. Then there is Smithfield’s Kiril Afanasev, who impressed in the most recent Elites, and has spent some time training with the Irish team since. Rathkeale’s Intermediate champion Cormac Long has stated his intention to target the Elites, although he (or indeed whoever wins the Under-22 Championships in January) may go for the European Under-22s which are scheduled to overlap with the Irish Elites.
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)