New York state of mind as Spike fights for global glory

Three framed photos sit proudly above Paschal Collins’ desk in the office of his Celtic Warriors Gym in Dublin.

Two of the three are former world middleweight champions; the third has a chance to finish the set on Saturday night.

It’s not really surprising that one of the men is the original Celtic Warrior and coach Collins’ brother Steve, king of the super middleweight division in the 1990s and famous for killing Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank, twice. Collins had won the WBO middleweight title in 1994 before dominating in the heavyweight division.

The marvelous Marvin Hagler also deserves his place on the wall, for obvious reasons, being one of the greatest and most entertaining boxers in the history of sweet science.

The number three first laced his gloves in the paid ranks in 2008, and since that first six-round victory over Peter Dunn, a beautiful friendship has been born, as the boxer and trainer have paved the way to the title of world champion.

The road less traveled, perhaps, taking 14 years to finally land a shot at boxing immortality, but a road that proved to be fraught with emotion, disappointment, frustration and inevitable elation.

Spike O’Sullivan’s first professional fight was at the Neptune Sports Arena in his hometown of Cork, and his 36th meeting will take place tonight in New York at Barclay’s Center.

What Katie Taylor did in Manhattan last month, O’Sullivan is looking to do in nearby Brooklyn tonight (around 3am Irish time) as he battles for the world middleweight title WBA against Erislandy Lara, the former Cuban amateur star who left the land of his birth not once, but twice, finally reaching the shores of Mexico on the back of a speedboat.

O’Sullivan’s journey may not have been as eventful as Lara’s, but it was just as interesting as he rose through the ranks to clinch the Irish title in his tenth fight before winning the WBO international middleweight title in his 15th meeting.

This victory over Matthew Hall opened the door to bigger fights and O’Sullivan faced future world champion Billy Joe Saunders, although he lost on points.

Wearing a kilt, O’Sullivan entertains audiences in the United States

O’Sullivan, the entertainer, emerged via live televised fight, when he knocked out Anthony Fitzgerald in the first round of their highly publicized grudge match, following Matthew Macklin’s loss to Jorge Sebastian Heiland.

Four more knockouts would follow, all in the United States and one at the iconic Madison Square Garden, which would lead to another bloody encounter against the aforementioned Eubank’s son, Chris Jr, on what was a huge night of boxing. at the O2 Arena in London, when Anthony Joshua retained his world heavyweight title against Dillian Whyte.

Losing on points, O’Sullivan was dropped by his corner after seven rounds due to a burst eardrum, and while defeat number two would go down on his records, O’Sullivan had now reached the periphery of world level with most valuable asset. in the game of boxing, earning a reputation as an entertainer, a crowd pleaser, a knockout artist and ready to step into the ring against the best.

If the money is right, it is.

Because O’Sullivan spurned the chance to face the best in the middleweight division, Genady Golovkin, because it made more financial sense to sign a multi-fight deal with Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.

Money talks – Spike signed a lucrative deal with Golden Boy

O’Sullivan made boxing headlines in 2017 as he stopped a real prospect in his tracks, knocking out middleweight prospect Antoine Douglas on the undercard of the world title fight between Saunders and David Lemieux.

O’Sullivan would meet Lemieux soon after, another former world champion, two fights later on the biggest fight of the year undercard between Canelo Alvarez and Golovkin, in what was considered a title eliminator. global.

A feature documentary followed Spike through his build, however, the Prizefighter would not see the first round, getting caught with a huge punch from the naturally heavier fighter.

O’Sullivan’s next move was to drop some weight in pursuit of the light middleweight title, but coincidentally he would end up fighting the former champion who was moving up to the marquee division.

The fight with Mexican star Jaime Munguia, predictably, was a very entertaining encounter, with plenty of low blows and a spell midway through the contest where it looked like O’Sullivan would cause a major upset. .

However, in the end, it was loss number four for Spike, and while the quest for the light middleweight title continued, Covid would put everything on hold for a few years.

One punch – there was no return of that punch from Lemieux

But the opportunity presented itself once again, coincidentally coinciding with Katie Taylor’s big night in New York as news of O’Sullivan’s next fight was about to break; another Irish fighter seeking global glory in the Big Apple.

As a result, O’Sullivan really only had seven weeks to prepare for his first world title fight, but thanks to the motivation and dedication that remained burning inside Mahon’s man, he didn’t. There was no hesitation when it came to taking the fight once offered. .

“I think this is his best chance of winning a world title,” O’Sullivan’s coach Paschal Collins said, speaking to RTÉ Sport ahead of the fight.

“He’s fighting someone who’s older [39 to O’Sullivan’s 37] and move up a weight, and the fights he lost were against Saunders, Eubank and Lemieux, who are all super middleweight.”

Longtime trainer Collins said he saw a different side to his fighter throughout that training camp and believes it was self-motivation that led him to excel throughout. preparing for this fight.

“I think Spike is going to win the world title, and if you see the way he’s been doing in camp, the way he’s been training and the way he’s talking…

“He speaks in the past tense as if he were a world champion, that’s how he speaks.

“I’ve seen a change in Spike and I feel like he’s gone a level above his norm in terms of pushing in training. is pushed beyond what it needs to do.

“He wants to leave all his work in the gym and wants to do more than he needs to. He works and I think hard work in the gym is what’s going to win this fight for him.”

Manager, coach, friend – Paschal Collins and Spike have been together for 14 years

Collins also thinks he could face the once-gifted Lara at an opportune time, as he feels there was no reason for the Cuban exile to gain weight other than because he didn’t. was not training properly.

“When I look at Lara, I see a boxer who’s gaining weight, not because he’s getting fat, but because he’s not training as hard, that’s what I see,” Collins said.

“He’s left-handed and has a good left hand. Is he as big a puncher as Jaime Munguia? Probably not.

“And I think Lara is coming to the end of his career. He fought Canelo and probably should have made the decision, but that was seven years ago.

“I don’t think Lara has the engine to go 12 tough, tough rounds with a puncher like Spike.

“A lot of great fighters have one fight too many and I hope that’s what happens with Lara.”

Should O’Sullivan get the belt, his trainer believes it would put his fighter in a prime position to dictate future fights and reap the beneficial rewards that come with being the world champion.

There was talk of O’Sullivan appearing alongside Katie Taylor on a Croke Park super card, while there would also be the option of challenging for other divisional belts or returning to light middleweight to compete.

However, Collins knows that O’Sullivan would love to take the belt back to the banks of the River Lee to put on a show at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“Spike’s first fight was in Páirc Uí Chaoimh to see my brother Steve (defend his world title against Chris Eubank in 1995), and it’s only a stone’s throw from where he grew up in Mahon .

“Spike would love to fight in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and wouldn’t it be amazing to close that circle and bring another world title to Cork?

“But you know what?” Collins added.

“He has to win that world title first. Otherwise it’s just talk.”