King Kenny Okungbowa gets his ‘Moment’

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“…Okungbowa in the blue corner” was called by MC Peter O’Donnell and the big man from Athlone would sink to his knees, pummel the canvas, and let out a roar.

Friday night was special for Kenny Okungbowa.

Crowned National Elite champion for a second year in succession, things were slightly different this time.

Last year the Midlander would receive his title a full five weeks after the final after an officiating error saw him initially declared the runner-up.

On Friday just gone, now fighting up at super heavyweight, Okungbowa defeated Toto Ó Griofa and got to have his joyous moment on Irish boxing’s biggest night.

“It feels good to get crowned on the night,” the World Universities bronze medallist told Irish-Boxing.com in the bowels of the National Stadium afterwards.

“It wasn’t anyone’s ‘fault’ [last year], these things happen, I’m not laying blame on anyone and I’m glad that it got rectified. But it feels good to get it on the night, I had that ‘moment’ that I didn’t get the first time.”

“I put everything on the line to get the win and it’s like coming home for me. I started off at super heavyweight then moved to heavyweight so it’s like coming home to the weight I belong and getting my elite title after so many years.

It was a slugfest with Galway Gaeilgeoir Ó Griofa with Okungbowa eventually being deemed a 4-1 split-decision winner having wrestled his way on top as the bout progressed.

He noted how “I gave my opponent respect from the get-go. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy – he didn’t come up here to make up the numbers, he came here to win just like anyone else.”

“That’s why I was so cautious in the first round, to see what he was bringing, he came to fight, he wanted to engage, and I had to change my tactics, so we put the head down and went to work.

One of the happiest men in the National Stadium on the night, Okungbowa was all to aware of the scale of his achievement, outlining how “now I’m a two-weight champion and that doesn’t come easy. If you know Irish boxing and if you’ve been in it a while [you’ll know] being two-weight champion is really something to say.”

“I put in hard work and I’m so happy,” he beamed before addressing the question of what will happen next year.

While Okungbowa is top of the tree at super heavy, many will point to reigning champ Dean Gardiner who pulled out of the tournament just days beforehand.

While chaos and confusion is currently raging – with talk of box-offs or behind-closed-doors assessments – Okungbowa isn’t getting drawn into the debate.

“It’s a massive year this year, we’ll see what happens,” he said.

“Look at it this way, I know Dean, respect to Dean, but this is my moment, my night, and whatever happens after this doesn’t really bother me. I put in the work, I got the result, we’ll see what happens.”

“You can’t deny the three fights I’ve come through, I didn’t win this easy. Myself and my team, my physio, my advisors, we put in the work.”

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie