Fighting his corner
With boxing on the rise in the nation's psyche, Peter Horgan spoke with Cork’s most recent boxing success, Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, and the importance of his local club in Loughmahon
Being the first Corkman to win the World Boxing Organisation’s International Boxing Title is no mean feat. What makes it all the sweeter is the support of your local community at every step of the way, especially in a community, county and country that is steeped in more “traditional” forms of sporting triumph – GAA, soccer and rugby.
“It’s a very important part of the community,” says Gary, on the effect his local club in Loughmahon had on his boxing career since it was formed in 2005.
“It’s become even more important now in the current climate, where people can just come down to a place to go training. We have over 120 members now, a lot of whom wouldn’t be necessarily boxing, just there to train.”
Given the recent boxing euphoria after wins by Katie Taylor, Michael Conlon, John Joe Nevin and Paddy Barnes – medal winners all – Gary admits that going down the Olympic route was just something he couldn’t do at the time he was eligible.
“I had to take a different route at the age when you normally would be going to the Olympics. I had to support my family so I took an apprenticeship, which at the time was more steady, financially speaking. That’s the thing with boxing, you can’t guarantee the money, especially when starting out.”
Instead of the amateur route, Gary chose the professional course for his career, a route that has seen him reap the rewards in recent months. With the community firmly behind him, the 28 year old describes the whole experience since returning with the title as “unbelievable”.
“It’s hard to describe really. Everyone has just been unbelievable with an official homecoming from the community where everyone turned up and there was a civic reception from the Lord Mayor as well.”
Gary's attention recently has been drawn more to the survival of his home club, Loughmahon, the future of which is under threat as they must move from the current location which is owned by the Sacred Heart Sisters in Bessboro.
“We’ve been struggling to get a new premises for the club,” admits Gary, who tries to get to the club as much as he can, despite the majority of his training taking place in Dublin now. The club recently got an extension on their current location until the end of October after interventions from the Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Murphy.
“We have land but would need to build a premises from scratch, which is nearly impossible at the moment in the current climate.”
Gary is hopeful however that the Olympic boost will mean even more young people turning up at the club to try their hand at what has traditionally been described as a “back street sport”.
"Hopefully we will see more funding heading towards funding, which has traditionally been given to sports like the GAA and soccer, who receive lots of funding.”
Gary now occupies a more ambassadorial role now with Loughmahon Boxing club, as he prepares to further expand his professional career in Dublin and maintain his unbeaten fight sequence, which currently stands at 15.
And his message for those whose boxing interests have been piqued from London 2012?
“There will be times when you are knocked down and it’s important to get up in front of any obstacles that will come in your way. Always, always follow your dreams and you’ll get there in the end.”
Loughmahon Boxing Club is based in the Heritage Park in Bessboro, Mahon and is open from 7 – 9pm on Mondays, Tueday, Wednesday and Fridays with all welcome.