Just to be asked to spar Chris Eubank Jr was cloud nine stuff for BUI Celtic Champion Owen O’Neill, to be asked back, regularly complimented, and given the chance to work with all-time great Roy Jones jr means the Belfast fighter has stepped off the cloud and is walking on air.
O’Neill spent a week before and after Christmas with the British name, helping the Brighton native prepare for his big fight with Liam Smith, which takes place in Manchester.
‘The Operator’ was happy with how he sparred and went as far as to suggest the whole experience improved him as a boxer and a fighter.
“It’s perfect sparring for me even if I didn’t have a fight coming up. It’s definitely improved me as a fighter in many ways and as a person.
“I went over there by myself, most of my mates and family couldn’t believe that I went by myself. Ronnie Davis asked me the first day I arrived who I was with and I said ‘I’m by myself’ and his words were ‘typically Irish lad, balls of steel’. It was just an unreal experience one I will never forget.
“It still hasn’t sunk in. I had to pinch myself more than once over there. There was many a time I said to myself ‘I can’t believe I’m over sparring Eubank jr’.”
Having given the son of British fight legend Chris Eubank a good workout pre-Christmas, The Irish Boxing Awards Fight of the Year and Knockout of the Year nominee returned to England post the holiday season and did so with praise from the fighter ringing his ear.
The Mark Dunlop-managed fighter also walked into a camp populated by legendary fighter Roy Jones Jr, which only made things better for ‘OOO’.
“The first week I sparred Chris three times, it was tough work but something I really enjoyed. I done well and I got invited back over the week after Christmas, so they were impressed with my work. Then the first spar of the second week he said to Roy Jones that I was the kid he was telling him about and that I box a bit like Smith. Unreal!”
Reflecting on what it was like to be around a four-weight world champion and one of the greatest ever to lace them up.
“That was absolutely amazing,” he comments. “And he’s such a nice guy, he talked away to me every session. You wouldn’t think he was a Hall of Famer the way he got on with me, he’s just an ordinary guy. I was like a sponge around him soaking everything in. Both he and Ronnie Davis give me plenty of advice. It was an amazing two weeks.”
O’Neill fights for the first time since his dramatic title win on the February 4 Climb card.