Darren O’Neill is back for what could be his last ever Senior final, and the Kilkenny heavyweight is confident that he has the boxing skill to defeat any big man out there.
The Paulstown puncher overcame Crumlin’s John Joe McDonagh in a competitive semi final on Friday night to book his place in the decider.
Following the win, former middleweight O’Neill noted that he has the technical ability to compete with any 91kg boxer, especially now that his urge to prove himself has diminished. The European silver medalist described how “nobody can match my boxing ability, all these guy do is try drag me into a brawl – and I love an aul tear up, I have that ‘these guys think I’m only a middleweight, I’ll show them’ attitude but I’m getting rid of it. My coaches are trying to keep me boxing, and it’s easy when I do that.”
“At stages I switched off tonight, did some terrible things some, but there were some stages when I was doing good stuff. It was good for a fight to get back.”
31 year old O’Neill, a 2012 Olympian, is hoping for one last hurrah in 2017 with the European and World Championships on the horizon, and he is still feeling the buzz of boxing. He explained that “it’s great to be back. It’s nice to get back into competition. I had a fight here against England in December but I had done nothing before it. I was back at home at the club helping it get re-established, coaching more so, with the odd endurance session thrown in for my own physical and mental health.”
“The last few weeks though I’ve been back with Ollie [O’Neill] and he switched me back on and got me back boxing. The hunger’s still there.”
O’Neill will go for his third heavyweight crown, and seventh in total, against Athlone’s Ken Okungbowa tomorrow in what is a repeat of the 2015 final. That fight was a scrappy one, and a badly cut-up O’Neill took a split decision win. This time round he is expecting more of the same from the bull-strong Okungbowa and has called for whoever is refereeing the bout to be mindful of any rough-house tactics.
The veteran fighter pointed out that “he [Okungbowa] had an easy semi against a young, unseasoned opponent. He’ll try use his weight to try bully me and rough me up. I’m bit more used to the weight than I was two years ago when I beat him but I’ll still be using my boxing skills and experience.”
“It will no doubt be an exciting fight but I’ll be relying on the referee to ensure there is no foul play and it remains a boxing match.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)
Eric Donovan joins Gavan Casey and Joe O’Neill on Episode 2 of the Irish Boxing Show: