The Limerick man will be looking to claim his second title whilst stopping regular finalist and reigning champion Dean Gardiner from claiming his fourth.
Tipperary’s Gardiner has revealed that this will be his last big amateur push and suggests that, if he doesn’t qualify for the 2020 Olympics set for Tokyo, he will explore pro options.
Speaking after his semi-final victory over Dublin’s Thomas Carthy last weekend, ‘Breakfast’ hinted that it’s win or pro for him coming this weekend.
“The Olympics is still a dream, but that could fucking change next week,” laughed the hugely popular big man.
“This is going to be my last go of it. I am 31 at the end of the month. I will see if I stay amateur at the end of the year, I will see how I get on this year,” admitted the leapling before noting that time is not on his side.
“If I am going to go pro you wouldn’t want to be turning over too late. I know Joe Joyce turned over at 32 but I don’t have the genetics he has so that plays a big part.”
With heavyweights in high demand, Gardiner certainly would have pro options and would look an ideal candidate for some TG4 coverage.
“There hasn’t been really [pro interest] but I know if I mentioned it someone would. Maybe one of the Irish promoters – I am not saying Top Rank are going to be looking for me! I will take next week first and see what happens after that.”
While Gardiner, who has sparred with the likes of Mike Perez and Niall Kennedy, is keeping an open mind with regard to the pro ranks, he is hoping he gets a contract offer later rather than sooner.
The super heavyweight, who has represented Ireland in European and World Championships, is keen to make the Olympics having been beaten by long-time Italian rival Guido Vianello – who is now signed to Top Rank – at the very final hurdle last time out.
Beating Keenan would put him in pole position to represent Ireland in the European Games in Minsk later this year, the first step on the road to Tokyo, but he admits defeating the Rathkeale fighter is easier said than done.
“I fought him twice. I fought him in a box-off and in the All Ireland final last year. He is an awkward man as well, but next week the best man will win,” he adds before expanding on how frustrating it can be to fight his old foe.
“Sometimes they can be harder because if they are smaller they are harder to hit. He is probably the most awkward guy to fight in Ireland, but you have to beat him if you want to champion. I have no choice in the matter.”
Gardiner, who fights out of Clonmel BC, a club that know all about super heavyweight success, believes he chances of winning the all-important all-Munster decider were increased by the three rounds against Carthy having seen his quarter-final with Tommy Sheahan last less than one.
The triple champ outlined how “I was hoping I would get the blow out that I got tonight last week.”
“You know your first fight is always the hardest and my first fight [quarter-final] only went a minute so I didn’t get the blow out so I was kind of stiff in there.”
“Next week now I should be better because I got that tonight. We will go home now and work on fight fitness a little bit more.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)