COMMONWEALTH Gold Medallist Eamonn O’Kane got back to winning ways at the weekend, as a change in fighting style helped him outpoint Englishman Gary Boulden.
BY NIALL DEENEY
O’Kane has come in for criticism since becoming a professional, with accusations from some quarters that the Banagher middle-weight had forsaken the technical boxing skills which made him such a proficient amateur in favour of a more brutal style predicated on sheer physicality and aggression. On this occasion, however, he displayed more of the slick skills which were once such a prominent feature of his amateur career. What O’Kane described as a greater emphasis on “tact” helped him overcome an opponent who has been in and around English championship level.
During the build up to his bout with Boulden, O’Kane had talked about getting ‘a kick up the backside’ after his defeat to John Ryder and promised that his work with new coach Bernardo Checa – who also coaches O’Kane’s friend and fellow Roe Valley boxing hero Paul McCloskey – was all about trying to rediscover his intelligent, accomplished and slick style.
‘King Kane’ managed to put some of the changes into practice as he easily outpointed his opponent, winning almost every round. The judges scored the fight 59-56 in the local man’s favour, although it could be argued that the judges scoring does not fully reflect O’Kane’s control of the bout. He did, however, sustain two cuts requiring stitches, but these were due to a clash of heads.
There was a patient approach from the beginning of the bout by O’Kane as he used his jab to keep Boulden at bay, before warming to the task in front of him in later rounds. The cuts didn’t look to be troubling O’Kane at all, and when he was put under pressure by Boulden towards the end of the six-round contest, the Banagher man upped his work-rate and displayed once more the physical power he obviously still retains.
If O’Kane can rekindle the technical boxing ability, perhaps he will soon be able to make the step up in class required to take on the very best in his middle-weight division. Indeed, if he can combime the once prominent technical ability O’Kane undoubtedly still has the potential to display with the raw, physical prowess he, perhaps O’Kane will be able to take on all comers.
In the aftermath of this fight, though, he was simply happy to be able to get back to winning ways: “I am happy to have got the win. I knew he was a good enough opponent and that he has been in the mix for English titles. It was what I would call a ‘working performance’. It was okay. There is only so much improvement you can make in a short space of time. I knew I could’ve beat him easily but I wanted to work on the changes. Bernardo Checa is a great guy and I am very happy with the direction and the plan. It is very hard to completely change the boxing. You can’t take away Eamon O’Kane – I’m an aggressive fighter and it will always be an aggressive Eamonn O’Kane.
“Bernardo is getting me to work on looking more aesthetically pleasing for the judges. As he says, I’ve got all the tools. I was doing everything I wanted but in different phases. I was moving my head from side to side, I was throwing combinations, but I want to be doing it all together. I am very glad Bernardo is working with me and it is great to be training with Paul McCloskey again.
“We have been training together for 17-18 years since St Canice’s. It is great to be training together again, pushing one another on, travelling together.
“I am happy with the direction Bernardo is taking me but it doesn’t happen immediately – especially when someone is trying to punch you.”
Asked what his long term aims were, he said: “We believe I can go to the top. I want to go to the top. Bernardo thinks I can go to the top and I think I can go to the top. My game plan before was all out attack. It’s all right for three rounds at amateur or for the World Series of Boxing, but when it gets to six, eight, ten rounds you can’t do that anymore.
“I want to do it with, probably the right word would be, do it with a wee bit more tact. As you can see with Carl Frampton (who claimed the European title after knocking out Kiko Martinez in the main event), he was the same as me at the start but McGuigan has done well and changed him. That’s what I want to do with Bernardo.”
O’Kane also suggested an event could be on the cards at Ebrington in the coming weeks: “It would be fantastic if it happens. There are a few dates that need to be worked out, with Sky sorting out dates and dates for Ebrington, finding a possible opponent for Paul. Eddie Hearn (boxing promoter), Sky and we all want it to happen. It’s a pity we don’t have somewhere like the Odyssey in Derry but maybe we can look at that place at Ebrington. It would be great for the people of Derry. Paul and I are very lucky to have such good fans. They are brilliant.”