Home Town Hero

by Jonny Stapleton
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‘I’m about to have the biggest night of my life. I’m about to become Celtic champion and it’s down to hard work’

For the last 18 months, Dublin Docklands BC star and former Olympian Emmett Brennan has worked relentlessly in the gym – and equally as hard out of it – to ensure he’s ready for his dream shot on the Katie Taylor card, as he tells JONNY STAPLETON

There was something strangely emblematic about the last run of Emmet Brennan’s second pro-fight camp.

As he splashed through puddles under open heavens, drenched to the extent he was unable to tell if he’d got the sweat he wanted on, the Dubliner couldn’t help but think the Friday night trek symbolized the tough road he’s journeyed over the last 18 months.

However, before he had time to feel sorry for himself, undisturbed puddles in the horizon began to reflect a beautifully lit-up 3Arena, proving a timely reminder as to why he has toiled and sacrificed so much over the last year and a half.

The 3 Arena, which is still The Point in boxing parlance, will play host to a massive breakout opportunity for the Olympian on November 25. The 32-year-old will trade leather with Jamie Morrissey for the BUI Celtic light heavyweight title on a show broadcast around the world and promoted by Eddie Hearn, a fight maker with career-making capabilities and tendencies.

Despite the sizable profile afforded to him by shedding tears in front of the RTE cameras after his Tokyo exit, it’s a stage the former Irish amateur standout has had to battle hard to get to.

Indeed, he has at times suggested the 18-month fight to get to the ring, secure recognition and an early chance to level up could prove harder than the 10 rounds with the teak-tough Limerick man.

There was a prolonged recovery from a shoulder injury, a realization drink was no longer a suitable boxing bedfellow, and there was no fun to be found in the bookies.

Brennan also found it more difficult than expected to fight managerial representation and promotional backing, and his bite out of the Big Apple tasted a little bit bitter.

However, for the last 18 months, he has worked relentlessly in the gym to fight fit and equally as hard out of it to ensure he has a big fight to be fit for.

“It was absolutely horrible, my last long run of training camp. I did 12 kilometers in the pissings of rain again, but the run brought me down by the 3Arena,” a reflective Brennan said.

“That has been the motivation for me throughout training camp, running by here dreaming of nights like this.

“18 months ago when I came back from New York after throwing loads of opportunities away these are the nights of dreamed of.

“I’ve worked relentlessly hard to get here. I gave up alcohol, I made lots of sacrifices,” he continues.  

“The moral of the story is you keep going, keep chipping away, keep knocking on doors opportunities will eventually come.

“I’m about to have the biggest night of my life. I’m about to become Celtic champion and it’s down to hard work, never giving in and never giving up.”

It’s not the first time Brennan has tapped into that never-say-die attitude to make opportunities flow.  

Indeed it’s becoming his modus apparatus. The Dublin Docklands graduate came from far left field to become an Olympian at the turn of the decade.

A known fighter but not a regular international, he changed weight, went full-time courtesy of a Credit Union loan, and forced his way into the High-Performance reckoning ahead of Tokyo. Eventually selected to represent Ireland at the qualifiers he then made his Olympic dream come true under pressure in the ring.    

“It’s down to hard work, I graft. Day in day out I’m in the gym. I do the work in the background,” he explains when asked about his tendency to make things happen.

“Before the Olympics, I had no connections in the Irish team, so I had no one who could do me a favour. That meant the only way I could get onto that Irish team was to work as hard as possible, do the small things right, show up every single day and perform when it mattered. That’s what I did. When It mattered against Thomas O’Toole [in the National Elite Championships] I performed and in the Olympic qualifier, that’s what you have to do. You can’t crumble under pressure and I don’t. When there is pressure I’m good. So when the pressure is I succeed.

“That’s the boxing side, then it’s about the mindset. You have to live this every single day. The first thing I think of in the morning, the last thing I think of at night is boxing and everything in between is about how can I be a better boxer.”

It’s not quite as simple as putting in that graft or having the right mindset when it comes to the pro game. There are plenty of business factors at play in the murkier professional world and things like ticket selling and social media numbers can at times be more valued than talent, desire, and dedication.

So while the former amateur did plant a seed with regard to fighting on Taylor undercard last year and did his best to water it since the card was first rumoured, he admits he needed help to make it blossom.

The man with the green fingers in this case was his manager Darren Barker. The former world champion is friends with Matchroom boss Eddie Hearn and works for DAZN, who will broadcast this Saturday’s card.

“On the professional side of things you need connections. You need people to open doors for you. I have Darren, the perfect man for that can open doors. He can help me get my foot in the door.”

So through a combination of hard word and a connected manager the Inner City Dub’s foot is in door – and he has a chance to step inside on Saturday.  Which inturn means victory in an earlier-than-normal step up against a two-weight BUI Celtic champion on the massive card should allow to make moves not many 2-0 fighters in the world could.

“Once I keep winning Darren can open doors for me, so it’s down to me to keep winning now. After this, 2024 you never know what doors he can open. Be it an Irish title, a fight in New York or more fights on Matchroom cards.”

Although the neutrals tunning into DAZN and turning up to watch the mouthwatering all-Irish clash will be delighted to hear winning may not be enough for Brennan, who has sold a whopping 600 tickets.

“I can’t turn up and stink the place out. Stink the place out and that’s your opportunity gone, rolled up, and thrown in the bin. That’s not going to happen though. This is going to be a humdinger. We are going to be in a very entertaining fight,” he adds before making sure not to give Morrissey too much credit.

“I’m very confident I’m going to win in great fashion.”

Light heavyweight Emmet Brennan during a Tokyo 2020 Team Ireland Announcement for Boxing in the Sport Ireland Institute at the Sports Ireland Campus in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

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