‘Future World Champion’ was Freddie Roach’s response when irish-boxing.com asked the legendary coach about Dean Byrne some years ago.
The ‘greatest trainer on the planet’ certainly held the Dubliner in high regard. However, Byrne, who arrived in LA via Australia, has never matched the high praise with high ring achievements.
There were always those who said the Crumlin BC graduate’s shortcomings in the KO department prevented him for moving up the levels, and while he was a skilled operator, he doesn’t posses the power to compete at World level. Others hinted that Roach had seen and used the skilled and durable Dub as the perfect sparbot for the likes of Amir Khan and Manny Pacqioua. There were also rumours the likeable Dubliner didn’t live the life.
However, when Byrne relocated from America to the UK with a 14-0 record even his detractors expected him to make an impression on the domestic stage. It hasn’t quite happened and Byrne has become something of an opponent over the years.
A draw with Carson Jones, in a fight most believe he won, showed his capabilities, but has ended up being cannon fodder for some heavy handed prospects of late, becoming something of a gate keeper in the process. Byrne would argue if he had been managed and minded by a big name promoter he could be a big stage fighter now and has previously told irish-boxing.com he had to take high risk or late notice fights just to keep busy and get paid.
However, speaking to Sky this week the fighter, who faces Peter McDonagh for the vacant Irish title on November 7, revealed a little more of his personal life – and said a gambling addiction hampered life both in and out of the ring.
After he comfortably outclassed Michael Frontin at York Hall to go 15-0 in 2011 things looked good for Byrne, but a week later, financial necessity meant he was back in action filling in for Frankie Gavin and the slide from prospect to gatekeeper began.
He told Sky Sports: “For the Horta fight, I had to lose a lot of weight and I was shadow-boxing with sweat pouring. I worked so hard to get back in fighting shape towards the end of that week. I never told anyone my situation – I just needed the money because I was gambling heavily.
“There was weight on my shoulders coming here after Freddie Roach saying I’d be a world champion and after a while I got to such a low point, I was stood there with holes in my shoes shaking the change out of my kids’ piggy banks.”
“Addiction is a powerful disease and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy – whether it’s drink, drugs or gambling. I think gambling is the worst because people can’t really see it on the outside,” Byrne added.
“I’ve been in rehabilitation for over four years and right now is the longest I’ve ever been without gambling. I chair some of the meetings these days and the newcomers are the most important ones in the room.”