Despite routinely risible claims to the contrary from Jesus headband-wielding footballers and arguably every NFL player since time immemorial, the concept of destiny plays no part in sporting outcomes.
A lifetime of work
And yet in boxing, it can churn out some uncanny pre-fight narratives.
20 years ago last March, Cabra’s ‘Celtic Warrior’ Steve Collins dethroned previously undefeated WBO World super-middleweight champion Chris Eubank in Millstreet, Cork, before going on to repeat the feat at the 50,000-capacity Páirc Uí Chaoimh – the legendary home of Cork GAA.
Two decades removed, and a Collins-influenced Cork man who was present in ‘The Páirc’ that famous night is aiming to upset the apple-cart live on Sky Sports Box Office. On Saturday night, Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan faces son-of-legend Chris Eubank Junior, having forged a career in Dublin’s Celtic Warrior Gym under the tutelage of both childhood hero Steve Collins and – more so – his brother, veteran trainer Paschal Collins.
Taking time out from his final preparations for a good old-fashioned career-definer, Spike told Boxing News and Views that he believes his trainers’ experience in toppling Eubank Senior back in ’95 provides a supplementary psychological edge just days out from war with father and son Eubank at London’s O2 Arena:
“I think Eubank is very, very similar to his father. In every way, really, but I don’t think he’s quite as good a boxer, or any way as tough as his father would have been,”
Says O’Sullivan, 22-1 (15 KOs).
“He’s cocky as well, and it’s very much to my advantage to have Packie and Steve on my side going into the fight. They’ve been there and done it with a better version of Chris [Junior].”
But if the 31-year-old O’Sullivan once uprooted to Dublin to cultivate his skills within the Celtic Warrior ranks, he returned to a personal harborage during Sky Sports’ The Gloves Are Off segment, where he went face-to-face with a man who – even if it was via the Irishman’s concerted efforts on social media to land the fight – has become his nemesis over the past three years.
Staying true to himself
Spike was observative, calculated and refrained in front of the Sky cameras, receiving both praise and criticism in equal parts for shutting up shop on a platform where many have concocted scenes.
(Spike v Eubank – ‘The Gloves Are Off’ Sky Sports show)
It was certainly a curious approach, but one that the Cork middleweight reminds is no different from his behaviour prior to any of his past fights:
“If you look back at all my press conferences I don’t really do much talking. I’ve never actually really given anyone grief on Twitter either apart from Chris Eubank himself – the reason being, I was just trying to get the fight. I didn’t have a big enough promoter backing me in the UK and I wouldn’t have been able to get the fight on Sky Sports otherwise.
I mean, even if you look back at my fights with [Anthony] Fitzgerald or Robbie Long, or any of these guys – if you look back at those press conferences I’ve never, ever given any of these guys grief. I’ve never been mouthy, it’s not my style.”
But, just because he wasn’t vociferous in his indifference to former opponents, doesn’t mean there isn’t still a palpable disdain between Spike and the WBA Interim champ ahead of Saturday’s feverishly anticipated clash.
“Well, to be honest… I actually don’t like the guy,”
“I did use Twitter to get the fight and slag him off, which I don’t really like doing to tell the truth. But I needed to get the fight for my family – to get a big payday for them – and to get the opportunity to win a world title and get some big fights afterwards.
And there’s certainly no love lost:
But no, I don’t like him. No, no. I think he’s very fucking arrogant, you know? I just do not like him as a person.”
Like him or not, Eubank has been making waves fractionally below world level, particularly across the Irish Sea. In terms of self-promotion, the 20-1 (15KOs) slugger is on the precipice of ‘chip off the old block’ territory, becoming more articulate and methodical in the manner in which he carries himself outside of the ring, appeasing a once indifferent British boxing public.
But despite a 71% knockout ratio, Spike agrees with suggestions that the 26-year-old’s power has been overstated by fans accustomed to watching him blow lowly opponents out of the ring on Channel 5.
And the man who handed each middleweight their sole professional loss has convinced the former Irish champion of as much:
“I’ve very, very little respect for his power. The only guys he’s gotten out of there are guys that just weren’t up the mark. I’ve discussed Chris Eubank Junior with Billy Joe Saunders as well, and Billy Joe told me he just has no power whatsoever,”
“But it’s not just his fight with Billy Joe. It’s the Chudinov fight as well and other fights with guys at a lower level. His defence isn’t the greatest in the world and I think that’s going to be his downfall when he gets in the ring with me. When he gets hit by me, it’s a whole different story. I hurt like hell.”
(Eubank Jr vs Chudinov highlights via BoxNation TV)
On possible tactics from Eubank, Spike said:
“I just think he’s a deluded bastard. Adam Booth will probably tell him to run and box, but his ego is too much. He’s just such a fucking plonker that I don’t believe he’s going to come out all quiet. I think he could come out and try to take me out from the bell in round one. It’d be a big mistake, though. A big, big, big mistake.”
Saturday’s title eliminator showdown binds a monumental day for Irish sport; before the boxing action kicks off in London, the national football team will learn who they’ll face at next summer’s European Championships.
And a few hours after the dust settles on a manic night of action along the Thames, a man who has frequently worked on his boxing skills with both Spike and trainer Paschal Collins at The Celtic Warrior Gym will look to assert himself as the pound-for-pound number one, albeit in a different sport.
And Spike plans on tuning in while in celebratory mode:
“I was actually going to go to that fight until I got the call to say I was fighting myself! I was going to head over to Vegas with the missus, but obviously I had to cancel my plans. So a few of us are going to have a party afterwards and watch Conor McGregor clear Aldo out. Only one winner for me. Conor will do it.”
Heads will roll
And though he’s not one for ‘picking rounds’ in the same fashion as his occasional gymmate in Corduff, the Corkonian believes that he doesn’t simply want to knock his own opponent out, but that it’s a necessity behind enemy lines.
Cork’s leading fighting son concluded:
“I plan on just going in there to take Eubank’s head off, to tell the truth. I don’t think I can get the fight on points because so much has been invested in him financially, and you have Eddie Hearn and Sky promoting the guy. I don’t know when it’s going to happen but from round one to round twelve, I’m just going to try and take his head off, and I’ll land it eventually because his defence just isn’t good enough. Weight is fantastic, everything really couldn’t be better. I can’t wait to get in there now on Saturday night and smash him up.”
If the concept of destiny has no place in sporting outcomes, theoretical dates with it tend to pop up at least once in a fighter’s career. On Saturday night beneath the London lights, Spike O’Sullivan will seek to perpetuate one Irish fighting legacy while also building upon the foundation of his own.
Whether it’s Bad Blood or just business, heads will roll at the O2 London.
(Image credit: Sky Sports)
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