08 December 2009 – By Padraig Hoare
One of Ireland’s most talked about prospects of recent years, Cork’s Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, realised his long-held dream by becoming the middleweight champion of Ireland on Friday night, beating Belfast’s Ciaran Healy in his home town.
That’s the good news.
The not-so-good? Spike (10-0, 7 KO) made a long, long night’s work of it, labouring to get his shots off and looking bereft of inspiration when Healy would not succumb to his attacks to the body. The score by referee Emile Tiedt over ten gruelling rounds was 98-94 – this reporter had it closer at 96-94.
No matter to the 600 rabid supporters or so in attendance in Cork’s Neptune Stadium – they loved it. Spike has a way of connecting with his fans – young, old, male and female. He’s a Cork lad through and through and by God, the Cork crowd adore him for it.
Even the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Michel Martin, was ringside to roar on the 25-year-old from Mahon, as was the former two-weight world champion Steve Collins, TV3 frontman Trevor Welch and former Olympian and eleven-time National champion, the legendary Michael Roche.
Spike is a talented boxer and body puncher. However, he is no middleweight, certainly not at this point in his career. Last night he looked like a 154lb fighter trapped in a 160lb body – the power wasn’t there, the speed and the execution all missing a beat.
Ciaran Healy surprised us all, the pride at the chance of becoming a two-weight Irish champion burning inside and bringing one last great performance to the fore.
He flew out of the traps in the first round, forcing Spike to cover up immediately. Spike looked a bit static as the punches rained in – however some spiteful punches to Healys body evened things up.
Much to the chagrin of trainer and manager Paschal Collins in the corner, Spike stood and traded in the second round, forgetting how good his jab can be. His over-reliance on his body shots was also a contributory factor, with Healy not budging.
The third round saw a different Spike, with fine jabs setting up some wicked hooks. One left hook to the body looked particularly nasty, but again, Healy took it on board.
Round four was an excellent round for Spike. After listening intently to Collins in the corner, Spike rolled and slipped punch after punch in the first two minutes of the round – it was a master class in movement. Surely now it was only a matter of time?
Not so. The next three rounds were much the same. Healy refused to be bullied, Spike looked short on ideas on how to break him down, and looking short of power at 160lbs. One of Spikes great assets in his first nine contests at light-middle was the effortless way he threw people around the ring like they were rag dolls. It just was not happening here.
Drawn into a slugfest, Spike did not use his jab effectively until the eighth round where he looked like a championship boxer again. It was too late however, as in round nine and ten, he looked very tired. The last round was a frenzied affair, Healy giving it all and Spike responding with the machismo we know and love down in Cork.
Emile Tiedt (who was excellent in his handling of the fight – no nonsense, let the fighters fight and took no lip from the corners) scored it 98-94, a little harsh on Healy. This reporter had it six rounds to Spike, four to Healy. The joy at winning an Irish title was there for all to see on Spikes face. Emulating one of his heroes, Steve Collins, who won the Irish middleweight title back in 1988, Spike clung to the belt like a child with the latest hi-tech gizmo from the toy store.
“It is great to win it – to follow on from winning a national amateur title to this. It was a tough week leading up to the show, with it being off and then on, so I had to keep my concentration and not let it be disrupted. Fair play to Healy, he was tough and came to fight. He had been preparing for weeks and it showed. I take my hat off to him.”
He conceded middleweight might be a weight to high at this stage of his career.
“Possibly but I so badly wanted this Irish title that I moved up the weight. I can still make light-middle and am not afraid of anyone at either weight. Never have been and never will be. Coyle, Moore, Fitzgerald, Long – Ill fight anyone.”
Paschal Collins could make this weeks Budget sound like a giveaway, such is his gift at putting a positive spin on events in the ring.
He said: “I knew Healy would come to win. He takes a lot of fights at short notice and thats why he loses. But he put in weeks of training for this one – eight or nine weeks. Spike is green still. It was a ten round fight and was a great learning experience. We didnt want a knockout.
“Spike is a light-middleweight. Hell eventually mature at middleweight but hes a pro less than two years. Im pleased.”
There might be a move on the cards to maximise his potential, according to Paschal.
“In Ireland its very hard to get quality sparring. There is a financial issue going to America, but I am going to spend a bit more time there from now. Ill use my connections in Boston and Los Angeles and well see what we come up with. Well enjoy Christmas and hopefully be on a Frank Warren show in February.”
On the undercard, Eddie Hyland, who is the Irish human highlight reel, surprised us by putting on a – gasp! – boxing lesson. The Tallaght man who only knows how to thrill was superb in a six-rounder with Maurycy Gojko, boxing beautifully. He decided to have some of his usual fun in the last round, when he invited his opponent in for a three-minute war. Emile Tiedt scored it a shutout.
Ian Tims made a welcome return to the ring with Kronks John Rooney and Michael Roche in his corner. The ring rust from a long lay off showed in the first round against Radoslaw Musial, who tore into the former national champion with the glittering amateur career. Tims was even forced to hold for a few seconds.
The second round was the complete opposite, with Tims looking a million dollars as he showed his superb technical skills. A beautiful body shot had Musial down at the end of the round, and he could not continue. Tims moves to 7-0, (2 KO).
Young Paddy McDonagh looked like a Mexican warrior in only his second fight. Like a young Jose Luis Castillo, he stalked his opponent Mariusz Radziszewski from bell to bell. He showed superb hand speed and mouth-watering combinations. Gary Hyde has an excellent prospect. Emile Tiedt scored it a shutout over four threes.