Victory in defeat promises more big nights for O'Kane

Eamonn O'Kane lost his IBF Eliminator to highly-rated Bahamian Tureano Johnson but earned plaudits for his gutsy performance
Neil Loughran

SOMETIMES in boxing even when you lose, you can win – just ask Hosam Abdin, the Egyptian who is going to next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio despite being out-Fought and out-thought by Ireland’s Michael O’Reilly in Doha last week.

Dodgy decisions aside though, a gutsy performance in defeat against a top-level opponent can often benefit a professional pugilist’s career more than a first round knockout of a mid-ranking opponent on a small hall show.

And so this could be the case for Eamonn O’Kane after the Dungiven middleweight hauled himself off the canvas twice in the first round to take highly-rated Bahamian Tureano Johnson all the way, hardly taking a backward step for the whole 12 rounds.

The fight purses released beforehand showed O’Kane was pocketing a paltry $7,500 (£4,856), as opposed to the cool $2m heading back to Kazakhstan with bill-topper Gennady Golovkin.

But the real value for 33-year-old O’Kane was getting his name in lights in New York before a sell-out crowd at the iconic Madison Square Garden.

“Here we are, oh yes, New York City, the Big Apple and we are right at its core, if you’ll excuse the expression,” drooled Steve Bunce from the comfort of BoxNation’s Bermondsey studio, nowhere near the core, or even the doot, of the Big Apple.

“I’ve got this down as a bang-up to be fair,” chirped the excitable Cockney.

And Buncey wasn’t far off the mark either.

Unfortunately for O’Kane it was Johnson doing the banging and the Derry man having to get up after a couple of hefty rights sent him down.

“He’s going to do well to get through this,” was commentator John Rawlings’s prediction with 30 seconds left of round one.

This was a world away from the relative home comforts of the Lavey GAA club where O’Kane last stepped between the ropes competitively back in May.

“Ooooohhh… dear,” winced co-commentator Barry Jones as yet another clubbing right connected with the top of O’Kane’s head, the empty gaps in parts of the stadium only serving to enhance the sound of each thudding blow.

But the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist O’Kane is as game as they come, and stormed back to take the third on Jones’s card, his non-stop work-rate preventing Johnson from being able to land cleanly.

The crowd rose to their feet when the great Roberto Duran was caught on camera at the end of the sixth, and they were clearly warming to the brave Irishman’s endeavours.

“They’re appreciating the gutsy effort, he is right in Johnson’s face and forcing the pace,” observed poet-but-he-don’t-know-it Rawlings.

Despite O’Kane’s incessant pressure, it wasn’t to be as Johnson landed the cleaner shots en route to clean sweep from the judge.

But the wide smile he wore as he returned to Paddy Fitzpatrick in the corner at the end of the 12th tells you there could be more big nights down the line for ‘King Kane’.


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