25 March 2010 – By Leonard Gunning
At the age of 36 Portmarnock puncher Oisin Fagan has called a halt to his career as a professional boxer which has given him a glimpse of the fight games high and low points. However, the former Irish champion, who calls it a day with a record of 25 wins from 33 contests with 15 wins by knockout, isnt quite finished with pugilistic pursuits as he takes up a community-based role with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA).
Fagan revealed, I decided to retire from the boxing ring so that I could give a little back to my community, both through my experiences within boxing circles and the familiarity I have teaching children. Most boxing fans know that I was a primary schoolteacher in the USA and I must say that I miss my kids an awful lot, having left the profession about 18 months ago.
Whilst the Irish Department of Education have not recognise the qualifications that Fagan earned Stateside he will utilise those same capabilities in his new role working within the community on behalf of the IABA. No role could better suit this infectious, likeable character who went on to explain that it was his dream job, helping some of Dublins most disadvantaged youngsters from the Travelling Community looking to fulfill their dreams. And to some of the poor, young immigrants who have recently come to the country. This perspective will not surprise those familiar with Fagans nature and temperament.
The Fagan story is an intriguing one. A talented soccer player, he was a latecomer to the paid ranks and only became a professional in 2003. With a handful of low-level amateur bouts in Ireland under his belt, Oisin fell back into boxing after he completed a degree course at the University of Oklahoma and found himself without the bus fare home.
Thats when I decided to give professional boxing a shot at 29 years of age, laughed Fagan, whose first fight earned him a meager $200. He found an immediate aptitude for the sport and made something of a name for himself in the US as a tough, brawling pressure fighter who would never duck an opponent despite the odds often being stacked against the Gael Force.
His cult status was bolstered after losing a pair of controversial split decisions to Verquan Kimbrough and the unbeaten former WBA and IBF lightweight world champion Paul Spadafora. Most ringside journalists called both fights in favour of Fagan but the decisions went the way the hometown fighters.
With twisted irony these injustices worked in the Dubliners favour as the average boxing fan ended up rooting for the diminutive Dubliner. Fagan returned to Europe in 2008 and gained a shot at dethroning British Golden Boy Amir Khan in front of SKY Sports Pay-Per-View cameras. The bout ended in disaster for Fagan when he suffered a broken ankle following an awkward fall during a first round knockdown. That loss still haunts him to this day as he feels he let himself down on what was the potential zenith of his career.
His first real chance to erase the memory of that loss came in a barnstorming battle against fellow Dubliner Eddie Hyland, the eldest of the famous Hyland Brothers. In what was dubbed the Tallaght Civil War, Fagan once again tasted the bitter zest of defeat in a fight that was awarded the 2009 Irish Fight of the Year by Boxing Scene.
However, it was the final defeat of his career that became the bitterest pill to swallow. Fagan once again was paired in a highly anticipated Irish title fight, this time against Cavan-born stylist Andrew Murray in February 2010. Going into the fight the Gael Force was in need of a strong tailwind if he was to overcome Murray who sat a heavy 1/5 favourite with the bookmakers.
The Cavan boxer, an EU amateur medalist, settled into an early rhythm and controlled the shorter, marauding Fagan with his piston like jab. However, the resilient Fagans game plan was to weather the initial onslaught from Murray and take the fight to his opponent in the later rounds.
However, with just fifteen seconds of the fifth round remaining, referee David Irving stepped in to stop the bout. Prematurely in my opinion, but hey maybe it was to protect the nervous mammies watching the bout on RTE from Fagan grossly swollen eye.
Boxing is a mans game and an experienced Irish third man such as Irving should not only have been aware of Fagans propensity to succumb to an engorged bulb but also his tenacity and resoluteness. The manner of the stoppage will surely have injured the pride of a warrior such as Fagan who should have been offered the opportunity to drag Murray into the deep waters or at the very least be allowed to exit the stage on his shield.
Only too often Fagan played the part of the honourable nearly man but his career was not without its nights of celebration, as Fagan himself explained: I was the proudest Irish title winner ever, back in 2006, when I stopped Jeff Thomas for the light-welterweight belt. Being honest, most fighters use it (the Irish title) as a stepping-stone to bigger things and thats a smart outlook, if they feel they can use it to further their careers. However, as a proud Irishman, the Irish title in itself makes my veins burst with pride.
His talents have also not gone unnoticed by some boxing greats, as Fagan fondly remembered, Big George Foreman told me, Irishman, you are one tough cookie while Ray Boom Boom Mancini said, Fagan is an Irish warrior of epic proportions”. The great Julio Cesar Chavez (Senior) didn’t say much, but after I fought his son, the camera switched to see his reaction and it looked as if he thought that JCC Junior had been beaten the night we fought each other, which was quite a satisfying image.
Fagan was, by his own admission, never the most graceful of fighters but earned an Irish light-welter championship and Oklahoma super-featherweight belt through sheer relentless dedication and dogged determination. This determination and his likeable character earned him more fans on the Irish boxing scene than many fighters with superior technical ability.
Oisin always sought to emulate his namesake of the Na Fianna folklore and the phrase game as a pheasant and tough as old boots truly epitomised the Gael Forces viewpoint. Hopefully he can now pass this enthusiasm and will to win on to the next generations in his new role with the IABA.
He will be remembered as a fighter from the old school who never shied away from a fight, never trash talked, never ducked an opponent and never gave anything less 100 per cent no matter what the circumstance. Good luck Fago!