Burning Ambition

02 July 2008 – by Padraig Hoare

The bulging shelf that is fit to burst with trophies, plaques and medals is the first indication that Gary Spike OSullivan is deadly serious when he says he will not rest until he is champion of the world.

The light-middleweight from the tough suburb Mahon on Cork’s Southside is days away from his television debut on TV3s inaugural Big Time Boxing show, which is run in association with Tommy Egan Promotions. His searing intensity and desire to be the very best at everything he does has got him this far and he does not intend stopping now.

He is currently 3-0 with three knockouts, two in the first round. He put the boxing world on notice in his very first fight when stopping Peter Dunne in the sixth round in January.

To put it in perspective, Dunne has only been stopped in 11 of 112 contests. Despite being a perennial loser, Dunne is one of the worlds toughest journeymen. He had not been stopped in more than 40 fights when he met Spike and has gone eight contests without being stopped since.

In his upcoming contest on TV3, which is being broadcast from the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght from 9.15pm, Spike faces Romanian journeyman Eugene Stan.

It will be the first televised fight on the undercard of Jamie Moore and Ciaran Healy who fight for the Irish light-middleweight title.

Stan has never been stopped in 43 contests and his chin has become legendary around Europe. Prospects from all over the continent and beyond have tried but none have been successful including Irish light-welterweight prospect Paul McCloskey. While he is a man that rarely sees victory, Stan is known as the man that cannot be knocked out.

Spike OSullivan wants to change that.

If I knock him out or stop him, I will put the boxing world on notice. I never go looking for the knockout because if you worry about it, it wont come. I will do what I always do – break him down from the start and if the opportunity comes, I will take it. Im feeling fantastic. The power is there and I cant wait to show it off for my supporters at the National Basketball Arena and on TV3, he says.

As an amateur, Spike OSullivan recorded an awesome record of 175 wins from 190 contests. It meant five national titles along the way. He also found time to win medals for rowing and soccer. He can even boast two trophies for winning sheet metal worker of the year, which he does for a living when he is not in the ring.

I cant help myself, I have to be the best at everything. I cant even play a computer game or a game of pool with my girlfriend without wanting to win, he says with a laugh.

The 23-year-old honed his skills at various amateur boxing clubs in Cork down through the years, such as St Brendans in the Glen, until his family set up Loughmahon Boxing Club nearly five years ago. His parents Denis and Jacinta are both qualified coaches and his five brothers all box.

There are more than 50 members and it is designed to keep youngsters active in the community. Spike is a qualified coach.

Its good for young lads there to have someone to look up to like myself. I looked up to the older lads when I was boxing as a young fella and it gave me discipline and a code to live by. We have kids, teenagers and adults in the club and have had a lot of national champions since we started nearly five years ago, he says.

Spike could have stayed in the amateur game but had something in his arsenal that was more suitable to the professional game – bone-crunching knockout power.

Im very good at body-punching. I had my eye on the pro-game for a while because of my power. I can hit with power in both hands. The three knockouts so far have shown that. I dont know how quickly it will happen but with my tools I can be champion of the world, no doubt.

I watched Steve Collins and Chris Eubank in Pairc Ui Chaoimh fighting for the WBO super-middleweight title and I would love to emulate them some day. Fighting for a world title ten minutes from my house – it wouldnt get much better than that.

His zealous dedication to training is also an advantage. Its not unusual to find him running up and down Patricks Hill (it is no exaggeration to say the hill lies at something akin to a 30-degree angle) in the morning before he goes to work in Tipperary at 6am.

Its a gruelling schedule that takes incredible discipline, but Spike insists it is necessary to emulate his hero Evander Holyfield, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The Real Deal was known for his superb conditioning and Spike took note from an early age.

You always knew Holyfield would come to fight in peak condition. He taught Mike Tyson a boxing lesson. It was a scientific demolition and that physical preparation was as key as his boxing skills.

You could see that once he had the preparation right, it would fall into place. He would be so relaxed. If you get in that ring tense, youll start to think you could lose.

I loved watching him. In Scoil Criost Ri where I went to school, I was the bould one. For the confirmation, all the lads were taking saints names and I took Evander.

The gilded age of light-middleweights and middleweights in Ireland is something that Spike OSullivan has taken careful note of. With John Duddy, Andy Lee, Matthew Macklin and now Jamie Moore all established, Spike can see some huge fights down the line. He is not in a hurry however – another light-middleweight from Mayo with knockout power has caught his eye.

Fellas like Moore and Duddy are a bit older than me and I am just starting out. But Henry Coyle from Mayo has started well in his career. He is 7-1, with seven knockouts. That could be a cracking fight down the line for an Irish title.

Manager Paschal Collins and promoter Tommy Egan certainly have high hopes for Spike OSullivan.

Egan told the Evening Echo: Pachal had been telling me about this ferocious kid from Cork. I was blown away when I saw him for myself. Spike had all the tools to become champion of the world. Awesome power, beautiful body-punching technique, the lot. I insisted he had to be on TV3 for my first show.

Tickets for the National Basketball Arena are available from ticketmaster.ie.

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