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Niall O’Connor to continue journey down as he moves up

Niall O’Connor [3(2)-0] is the envy of every man and woman currently in the gym trying to get that ‘beach body’ look for the Summer holidays.

The Ballybrack puncher fights tonight for the fourth time as a professional and has a ‘problem’ that few fighters have.

After initially being packaged as a light welterweight, O’Connor’s reading on the scales just keeps going down to the extend that, fully dressed and with a belly full of food, the Dubliner came in a pound under the lightweight limit at 134lbs at yesterday’s weigh-in.

O’Connor’s future is at super featherweight and he continues this journey on the ‘Celtic Clash 6’ card at Good Counsel GAA Club in Drimnagh versus Bulgarian Slaveya Stefanov [4(2)-5(3)].

The charismatic fighter is feeling in the shape of his career and explained to Irish-Boxing.com how “I’ve had a lifestyle change, all the training and Adam Hennessy, the guy I’m doing Strength and Conditioning with, is very smart, he’s very young but he’s one of the most qualified PTs in the country, he’s a brainbox. He tells me what to do, I listen, and it works.”

“I could have done super featherweight! I’ve done nothing since Tuesday, I was in the gym Tuesday and then I just stopped, chilled out, sold tickets, and this morning, after no salt bath or nothing, I weighed myself and I was 60kg [132lbs] on the dot, so I had some eggs and water and I was still underweight so I weighed in in my clothes.”

While super featherweight is the eventual destination, O’Connor admits he could be enticed to replicate Monkstown’s Karl Kelly – who steps up two weights to fight Victor Rabei for the BUI Celtic light welterweight title in one of tonight’s headline fights.

“I’d have no problem fighting up at the weight, no problem,” he promises.

“I’d go up to that weight and I’d hold my strength. I’m sparring welterweights.”

Before all this, however, he must focus on Stefanov.

His first six rounder, a win here would strengthen O’Connor’s case for a shot at a BUI Celtic title – with the super featherweight belt currently held by Sallynoggin’s Stephen McAfee while there is another Dubliner at the weight looking for domestics in Crumlin’s Aiden Metcalfe

Following two knockouts in his past two fights, O’Connor is expected to dispose of Stefanov with little fuss but he is wary of fretting too much over how he gets the job done.

The Tony Davitt managed and trained fighter noted how “I want to get the rounds in but I don’t know if this lad will give that to me. I could do eight.”

“I don’t know whether to go out and try get the rounds in, I’m not sure, I don’t want to chase him around either, it will be hard to look good against this lad.”

“I’ll just try box to the best of my ability, show how good I am, and not worry about it [looking good], if a stoppage comes, it comes.”

“I’m new to professional boxing, it’s a different game to amateur boxing. I’m still learning, I’m not letting my ego build, I know exactly what these [fights] are.”

“I’m just keeping tunnel-vision like Tony says to me, I’m staying focused.”

O’Connor wants this tunnel to be relatively short and wants to make the move to big fights in the near future.

Domestic fights with the likes of McAfee and Metcalfe appeal, as does the chance to fight abroad.

However, O’Connor isn’t keen to be a huge underdog and explained how “I’d like a 50-50, I want to be getting as much out of it as he’s getting out of it.”

“You get to the stage in your career where you’re at 8-0, you’ve probably done eight rounds, and then it’s time to take a chance.”

“No disrespect, some of the lads going to fight in England, they’re going over to fight for money, it’s a good chance.”

“I’d like fight on the road, I’d like to do it soon. For example, the lads DDP in Australia, I’d love to fight on one of the bills over there.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)


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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