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Operating Outside the Occasion – Owen O’Neill deals with debut delirium

Somehow, Owen O’Neill [1(0)-0] was the only person at the Devenish Complex on Saturday night that didn’t get swallowed up by a sensational atmosphere.

The Newington welterweight brought over 200 people to see his professional debut and the crowd, which drew heavily from the support of Cliftonville FC, created a raucous occasion when O’Neill took to the ring.

It was party time at the Devenish for what ended up being the chief support bout of ‘Celtic Clash 8’ and O’Neill delighted the crowd with a points win over tough Latvian Kristaps Zulgis.

‘The Operator’ entered the pros with a limited amateur background but was able to keep a lid on his emotions where many others would have fallen prey to the occasion.

“To be honest with you, I didn’t really hear them,” he told Irish-Boxing.com afterwards.

“I had Paddy Gal and Ger McManus in the corner with their experience telling me ‘don’t let the crowd get to you’ and I didn’t.”

“I didn’t try go for the knockout, I just tried to box and I did.”

“Someone said to me upstairs there that people don’t have that sort of support for title fights. I had that in my first fight, that was madness. I’m just so thankful.”

O’Neill couldn’t afford to be dragged into a war, with Zulgis providing a genuine danger on his debut. The London-based fighter upset the 7-1-1 Kurt Grieve as recently as March and the late replacement didn’t come to Belfast to lie down.

“He was tough, he was very tough,” noted O’Neill following the 39-37 four-round win.

“People think that for your debut you’re going to get a plonker and I was meant to fight two plonkers but they didn’t pass their medicals and I had to fight him at the last minute.”

“He was good when he turned it on, he hit me with a couple of bodyshots that were tough. They were nothing like Paddy Gal’s but they were tough!

“I got a tough opponent and I dealt with the crowd. Not many people get debuts like that.”

With a passionate fanbase behind him, O’Neill won’t find it difficult to get onto shows and the Boxing Ireland fighter will be kept busy forward.

However, for now, a rest is the order of the day following an extended camp to get debut ready.

“I’m going to take a week off,” O’Neill outlined.

“I’ve been training since the first of January, twice a day every day. It’ll be a week off and then straight back into it.”


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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