Darren O’Neill joins the pro ranks

Ireland’s London 2012 Olympic captain has somewhat surprisingly made the decision to join the pro ranks.

One of the countries more respected operators in recent times has teamed up with Steven O’Rourke and will embark on a pro career.

Indeed, the Kilkenny favourite will punch for pay as early as October.

O’Neill becomes both a surprise and big name addition to the ever growing pro circuit.

The Paulstown club man was last seen in the ring wearing the vest in the 2017 European Championships and has competed since.

O’Neill’s age was a factor, but his standing as an amateur stalwart and devotee stopped most from predicting any form of pro career. Indeed, the majority predicted his experience, profile, standing and even image made him ideal to get involved in the IABA or even the High Performance unit.

However he has now elected at the age of 33 to turn over.

The decorated amateur has teamed up with Steven O’Rourke, who will train and manage him. He joins the likes of BUI Celtic Champion Victor Rabei, former amateur colleague Tony Browne, heavyweight Paddy Nevin and soon to be debutante Paul McDonnell at St Michael’s Gym Inchicore.

The former middleweight standout is expected to compete at cruiserweight and has yet to team up with a promoter.

As an amateur O’Neill was one of the more recognizable vest wearers. He has success on the international stage winning European Championship silver in 2010 and EU gold and silver as a middle and light heavy in 2009 and 2014 respectively.

The former Kilkenny Under-21 hurler also qualified for the London 2012 Olympics were he captained Team Ireland.

The 33 year old was a winner of four middleweight national titles and two heavyweight crowns.

While the fighter himself will solely be focused on what he can achieve in the ring, some will view his move into paid ranks as a big boost for the image of boxing outside Belfast.

Similar to the likes of Eric Donovan, O’Neill already has a sizable profile and a clean cut image that helps in terms of garnering wider media interest, which is something the sport and other active fighters can benefit from.

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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com