CRAIG O’Brien continued his rapid rise as he landed the vacant Irish super welterweight title to go with the BUI title he won at the back end of 2017 last Saturday at the National Stadium.
The Henrietta Street flats man got a unanimous decision over Sallynoggin’s Jay Byrne on the scorecards of the 10-rounder, extending his record to eight professional wins with no defeats to date.
The event took place alongside the Last Man Standing competition and was one of few sporting events in the city to beat the snow. Indeed, O’Brien said afterwards that 28 family members were stuck in London and could not attend due to the weather conditions.
Nonetheless, he was not about to blow his opportunity, fulfilling a long-held belief that he could attain the Irish belt.
He turned pro in 2015 but, after three initial bouts, he spent 18 months without a contest before Red Corner promotions got in touch to give his career that extra impetus. This was his fifth win since February 2017.
“I knew one day, three or four years ago, the Irish belt would be mine,” he said afterwards.
“I trained hard for it and maybe my time came a little bit too soon as I am only really back in the ring in the last 12 months and this is just my fourth fights. But I have picked up the BUI belt and Irish title so it’s a dream.”
As for the bout, O’Brien paid tribute to his opponent – indeed, they embraced ahead of the final round – but felt he always had the upper-hand.
“It was a pacy fight, a good fight and tough going at times. Jay is game and he kept coming. He was banging his chest and wanting more but I thought I had the bigger work rate in between the rounds.
“I probably gave him one or two rounds. But don’t forget this is my first time doing a ten-rounder so I will probably drop to an eight-rounder in the summer and then go back up.
“When you are in there, you can’t really think too much about [your performance]. I will have to watch it back. The scorecards were very wide so it must have been [good].
“At times, it was natural to me and I didn’t have to work; at times, Jay made me work very hard. He is a gentleman and without him, the show wouldn’t have gone on. It takes two to tango. He’ll come back but I always visualised this would happen.”
He is now looking forward to more opportunities in an Irish boxing scene that is back on the way up.
“It’s amazing. To have TG4 here, Irish boxing is coming back and its booming and its great to be part of it. I remember being at the Bernard Dunne days and thinking ‘it would be great to be part of that’ and we’re not too far away from it.”