SportBoxing

Famous Collins win over Eubank inspired Spike to take on the world

BoxingBy Sean McGoldrick
Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan
Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan

EVERYTHING about the 15-minute walk to the stadium, the anticipation once he got inside, the action in the ring and the unbridled joy when the result was announced is etched in the memory bank of Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan.

He was 11 years old when Steve Collins’ world middleweight rematch against Chris Eubank took place in Cork’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh in September 1995.

Together with his father Denis and his brothers he walked from his home in nearby Mahon to the concrete bowl by the Lee. By then he had been a member of Glen Boxing Club for five years. He adored the sport and as he watched Collins beat Eubank for the second time in a year he hatched a plan.

“Ever since I’ve had this wild dream! I want to win a world title in Páirc Uí Chaoimh and walk home to Mahon with the belt over my shoulder,” says Spike.

Next Saturday night in London’s O2 Arena the dream could move a step closer to reality, provided O’Sullivan beats Chris Eubank Jr in a much-anticipated middleweight showdown. 

There is no belt at stake, but the winner has been promised a shot against either Peter Quillan or Daniel Jacobs, who fought last night for the WBA World middleweight crown in Brooklyn.

The similarities between the O2 lash and the Páirc Uí Chaoimh show in 1995 are striking: O’Sullivan’s trainer Paschal Collins is a brother of Steve Collins, while his opponent is a son of Chris Eubank.

O’Sullivan and Eubank Jr have almost identical professional records. The Corkman has 23 professional fights under his belt with a 22-1 record; 15 of his wins have been achieved by knockout.  Eubank has a 20-1 record. All but five of his wins have been by knockout.  

They both lost to Billy Joe Saunders, who takes on WBC World middleweight title holder Andy Lee in the Manchester Arena on December 19. Down the road, the prospect of a clash between O’Sullivan and Lee is a fascinating prospect.

O’Sullivan is an archetypal journeyman professional boxer; his career path has been eventful and, at times, frustrating. Between June 2011 and July 2013 he fought just three times.  Crucially, though, he kept on winning and was willing to take risks.

The lure of that single big payday kept him going through the lean times and now he is within sight of the promised land. 

“I haven’t made any money so far in my career. Were it not for the support of a childhood friend Conal Thomas I wouldn’t have been able to keep going.”

His 2013 loss on points to Saunders could have permanently derailed his career. 

“Psychologically I wasn’t in the right place for that fight, but all those issues are sorted now,” he declares. 

Ultimately, it was a series of spectacular knockout wins, beginning with the demolition of Irish rival Anthony Fitzgerald in just 75 seconds, in the 3Arena in 2014, which caught the attention of the marketing gurus in Sky Sport.

O’Sullivan was box office material and when he followed up his spectacular victory in Dublin with four wins by knockout in America in the last 10 months he was back in the frame for that elusive big fight purse.

A fascinating feature of O’Sullivan’s career has been the role social media has played in it. He joined Twitter in 2010 and now has nearly 65,000 followers. Their postings may have played a role in goading Eubank into accepting the challenge from O’Sullivan, who has promised to end the fight within the distance next Saturday night. 

“I can’t see myself getting the verdict over there on points so I will be aiming to win within the distance, he says.”

A former Irish Youth champion, O’Sullivan’s amateur career effectively ended when he was only 18, as he came a father. He became an apprentice sheet metal worker, but continued his involvement in boxing, primarily as a coach with a club he founded, Loughmahon BC. 

He was 24 when he made his professional debut at a show in the Neptune Arena in his native city.

Now the father of three daughters, Jacinta (12), Katie (8) and Ashley (4 months) he only sees his kids and partner Selina once a week. During the week he trains in the

Celtic Warrior gym in Blanchardstown, only returning to Cork on Saturday afternoon and driving back to Dublin early on Monday morning. 

But all those sacrifices will be worthwhile if he earns that shot at a world title next year. But first he’s got to take care of Eubank Jr on his home turf next Saturday night.