GARY Sweeney has ditched the vest and turned professional with South African promotion company Golden Gloves.
A veteran of around 300 amateur bouts, the cruiserweight is a seven-time Irish champion who captured silver at the European Championships and has fought all over the continent in establishing himself as one of the top boxers on the continent.
Last week, he and brother Michael, a pro cruiserweight, were in South Africa for negotiations, which concluded with the younger Sweeney putting pen to paper for a contract with Africa’s most successful boxing promotions company.
Their visit included workouts with top trainer Colin Nathan, who was deeply impressed by Sweeney’s speed and skill.
Said promoter Rodney Berman: “We are consciously spreading our wings. South Africa will always be central to our strategy, but we have to look overseas. Our recent deal with Martin Murray and subsequent contracts with Roman Zhailaouv and Sweeney are designed to increase our reach and add innovation to our offering.”
Sweeney is managed by his brother Michael, 32, a four-time Irish title winner. A pro since 2007, his own career has taken him to unlikely places, including Austria, where he helped Wladimir Klitschko with speed work, plus sessions against Chad Dawson in Detroit, Mikkel Kessler in Denmark and Arthur Abraham in Germany. He’s also lent a hand to Tyson Fury.
Gary Sweeney, meanwhile, was hoping to fight in the World Series of Boxing before injury ruled him out. In February he was on the winning side (Mexico Guerreros) in an international tournament against the British Lionhearts.
His ambition was to fight in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, but with a style more suited to the professional game, he has decided to turn to the paid ranks under Golden Gloves’ guidance.
Said Michael: “We came to South Africa because Rodney is an established promoter with a good reputation. Gary can build a record in South Africa and also be involved overseas.”
“The Irish have never had a world cruiserweight champion before,” said Berman. “I believe we can help make Gary the first. We’ll be aiming for his pro debut in South Africa in September and look for a world youth title by the end of 2016.”