Final Thoughts: Prizefighter – All Irish Middleweights

O’Kane adds Prizefighter title to Commonwealth gold

I said going into this one that the Prizefighter format was made for guys like Eamonn O’Kane – a fighter of ability, but one who needs to be fast tracked. What I didn’t mention however was the pressure he was under to deliver. No opportunity comes without risk, and for a celebrated prospect like O’Kane, there was massive risk involved. At 30 years old and still only a handful of pro fights, he simply couldn’t afford any slip ups. For his career to push on forward, he had to come through this and he did.

It was a gamble – something both O’Kane and promoter Eddie Hearn touched on after the show – but it was one that paid off. With time not on the former amateur star’s side, they can’t afford to hang around with him. He needs to start moving towards meaningful fights as soon as possible, and winning Prizefighter will have increased his profile and should start opening up some new doors for him.

The fact he won shouldn’t come as a surprise to too many people, but the way he won might. Most felt it would be O’Kane’s amateur skills which carried him through, but it was he who most fought in the “all in” type spirit of the Prizefighter tournament.

O’Kane himself described it as three tough introductions to the pro game. His opening round bout with Anthony Fitzgerald, he called a 12 round fight condensed to 3 – a statement I’m sure the punch stats will back up. These two guys left their boxing brains in the locker room and just let fists fly for nine minutes, and while not for the purists, it was one of the best brawls in Prizefighter history. O’Kane then overwhelmed Ryan Greene by first round stoppage in a rough semifinal, before out-hustling JJ McDonagh to take the trophy.

My feeling watching from ringside was that whoever survived the O’Kane/Fitzgerald quarter, wasn’t going any further. A huge amount went into that fight; O’Kane deserves enormous credit for his conditioning and being able to see his way through the rest of the tournament.

I get the sense with O’Kane that he wants to become an attraction. He’s already a popular draw locally and he came out of this show looking like a potential star. He seems to enjoy the crowd pleasing toe to toe stuff, and over the three round sprint distance, that was exactly what was required. He will need to find more of a balance between the boxing and the brawling as he steps up in competition, but there were plenty of positives to take from his performance in terms of fitness, work-rate, determination and toughness.

O’Kane will be probably looking at challenging for domestic titles before long, but first Matchroom want to get him more experience fighting in 8 and 10 rounders. He is expected to be back out again on a big Belfast card in September, if not before then. He’s an exciting TV fighter, now with a bit of a name, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find opponents.

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