By Kevin Byrne (follow Kevin on Twitter @Kevoobyrne)
Tonight’s middleweight final is the one, some of us feel, that could lift the roof off the National Stadium.
OK, there’s no Jason Quigley at the weight, after the defending champ decided not to enter. And yeah, we’re missing the talented Conrad Cummings who’s already off and running at 1-0 in the professionals.
But there still remains the undoubted quality of Olympic captain Darren O’Neill, who will face the up-and-coming, in-your-face threat of Michael O’Reilly tonight.
Having heard from both, irish-boxing.com can bring you the startling revelation that both men are confident going into the bout. Contain yourselves.
First the question was put to Paulstown’s hugely experienced O’Neill, the four-time champ on a Drive for Five.
He is banking on his vast experience to win the day and reckons, in a tribute the pro world middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin would be proud of, that O’Reilly is ‘a good boy’.
“I’m looking for to the final. Michael is a good boy; he’s very, very awkward and very strong, but he’s only after stepping up from welterweight and there’s a big difference between a senior boxer and one who is only breaking into the ranks,” O’Neill said.
“I don’t think he’s going to be able to impose himself on me the way he was able to with some of the younger boys, but I know it’s not going to be an easy fight. Still, if I can impose myself on him, I should be able to use my experience.”
And what of O’Reilly, the former welterweight recently put to use, to good effect, in sparring with English pro Mark Heffron? Supposedly the Portlaoise lad held his own and is coming in strong. He certainly looked strong in his semi against Christy Joyce, dropping him in the first with a body shot left hook.
“I’m feeling very good now at middleweight. I’m very strong, very fit and ready for the next one,” he said.
Did you feel need to make an impression following O’Neill’s performance? “Ah no. Christy Joyce is a good boxer, so I just went in there and did my best. That’s all you can really do.”
Darren spoke about the fact that there’s a big difference between a boxer who’s just come up in weight, and an elite international as he is.
O’Reilly said: “I don’t think so. I’ve been a middleweight now the last good few months. And I’ve been training as a middleweight and working my muscles and everything for 75kg. So I’m a good strong 75kg. And it doesn’t make a difference anyway. I know how I box in there – and I know the way he boxes too. I know what he does, I’ve seen him over the years and I’m very confident going into this fight now. I know what I have to do, so it’s just a matter of going in now and doing it.
Do you feel you have his number?
“I have a plan made out. And I’ll go in there to win. I’m confident anyway, and I think that I will take it. I’m the underdog and he’s the favourite. He was the captain of the Olympic team so it’s a privilege for me to get in the ring with him. But I am confident and I think that I’m going to win.”
When Paddy Power released their odds yesterday, O’Reilly was available at 9-1. He’s now 10-3. Others are clearly feeling his confidence. It should be a terrific fight.