By Jonny Stapleton
Joe Ward prevented Kenneth Egan from making Irish boxing history last year, but revenge is not on the decorated Dubliners mind as prepares to face the teenager in the Irish light heavyweight decider in the National Stadium tonight.
Egan has is determined to look forward to one of the most eagerly anticipated Irish rematches and not back to the defeat that prevented him from becoming the first man to win 11 consecutive National Senior titles.
The Beijing silver medalist is as excited about a return with the super talented teenager as the nation is, but says regaining the light heavyweight title he held for nine years and not revenge is the priority.
Although not looking to make excuses for last years final reverse, which but for Joe Ward’s failure to make the World Championship quarter final would have ended Egan’s Olympic dream, Ireland’s most decorated amateur boxer claims he is now an ‘better place’ and as a result producing better performances.
“What has gone before is history. I didn’t even think about the Joe Ward until I won the semi final. I didn’t even look at last years fight. I am different person now. I didn’t box last year like I have in this tournament. I am in a better place. It shows in the ring and in my training. I happiest when I am getting up in the morning and getting ready to win titles. If he wins I will shake his hand and wish him the best of luck in the final Olympic qualifiers. I am looking forward to it. I am sure the whole country is. ” Egan said ahead of his twelfth consecutive senior final.
Indeed Egan does seem in a better place. There is an air of confidence and determination about him and he boxed expertly to book his place in the finals which take place in the National Stadium tonight.
It is somewhat of a turnaround for the fighter, who has been so honest about his struggle with drink of late, and he attributes the change in attitude to one moment last year.
“When I fought last year in the Olympic test event in London I knew I had the hunger back. I was four down going into the second round of the final and I challenged myself. I asked myself do I really want this and I got up of the stool and turned it round. I could have just settled for the silver, but didn’t. I knew then the hunger was back. Not to mention I was back down to 81kgs. Heavyweight was not my weight and we all know that.”
There is a massive air of excitement surrounding tonight’s clash and although he tried to distance himself from the hype the sense of occasion isn’t lost on Egan.
“The Rematch is on. It is very exciting and it is great for the country and people around Ireland. In my case the hard work is all done now it is about tapering and peaking for Friday. It is my twelfth final but records are not for me at this stage. It is just about the performance now and I have boxed well over the last two nights to get to the final. I am boxing well and I am happy.”