Friendship forged in war – O’Neill and Duffy bond after classic battle

Owen O’Neill came away from the Girdwood Community Hub with a lot more than just the BUI light middleweight Celtic title.

‘The Operator’ defeated Owen Duffy in the most dramatic of fashions to register a changing win live on TG4 just over a week ago.

The victory sees the Belfast fighter secure a first career title, as well as mandatory status for the Irish strap, and the manner in which it came not only sees O’Neill move into both Fight of the Year and Knock out of the Year pole but gain a friend for life.

The all-action all on the line eight-round battle was a war with no real losers, as both fighter’s stock rose. It was also one of those blood and guts encouthers that bonds combatives like only boxing can.

O’Neill, who refused to celebrate his first career KO until he knew Duffy was ok, revealed he has forged an instant friendship with the Frick McMahon trained light middle after an instant all Irish classic.

“We were on phone on Sunday had a great chat,” O’Neill told Irish-boxing.com.

“He told me he hit me with everything and I just kept coming. He did, he hit me some lovely shots. He’s a great guy and I’ve a friend now. We both created a cracking Irish domestic dust-up for the fans.

“It was an absolute war. It flew in. One minute it was round 1 then next thing round 8, absolute cracker!” continued the fighter who has forged a reputation as a genuine entertainer and character on the domestic scene.

Winning a war is great, winning a war by sensational stoppage is next level, and doing so on TV and for a title is career-changing.

“I’m still in shock, to be honest, I don’t think it has sunk in yet,” a still delighted ‘OOO’ adds.

It’s a win that has pushed the Dee Walsh trained fighter to the forefront in a packed 154lbs division and afforded him a standing he may never have foreseen when he first turned over, something he suggests makes the title win all the more special.

“It was a dream come true. As people know I didn’t win anything as an amateur so winning this title means the absolute world and the way it was done it just a bonus I’m still in shock.”

The eight-round KO win was a come-from-behind one. Duffy was edging the encouther heading into the last and was on course for victory until the Cliftonville Canelo’s late intervention.

O’Neill reveals he was unaware the result was in the balance until his coach Dee Walsh called for a big last round.

“I didn’t [know I was down on the card] until the end of round 7. It really hit me when my coach, Dee gave me a good telling to. He said ‘what do you want to be here go 10-0 or 9-1, you need to go out and put it on him’ – and I did in round 8,” he adds before reflecting on a round that secured him a huge win.

“I just remember going out in round 8 and throwing a big right hand from the bell. I just knew I had to really give it my all and thankfully the KO came.”

O’Neill’s immediate concern was Duffy’s well-being, which meant he delayed his celebrations and wasn’t overly conscious of how good a KO he recorded.

“My worry was Duffy at that time so i didn’t even think of the shot until I was up in changing room and knew Duffy was ok. It was a great shot that came out of nowhere but my concern was Duffy right away, I wanted to make sure he was ok before enjoying the moment.”

The win should open huge doors for O’Neill but possibly not at light middle for the Belfast man. The Glean trained popular fighter doesn’t see his future at 154lbs.

“After watching the fight back I think I really need to lose more weight. It’s as simple as that. I’m fighting at a weight that’s too heavy for me. Duffy was massive compared to me plus was in cracking shape. I have a lot to work to do and will be back to training on Wednesday grinding. There’s plenty more work to be done.”

Photo credit Mark Mead

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