John O’Donnell: Past, Present, And Future

boxingExclusiv interview by Ezio Prapotnich - It is evident that, because of the hype and expectations around him, Tyson Fury has been the main attraction and focus of attention at the latest instalment of Shobox on the 10th of September at London York Hall, but it is only fair to say that former English and Commonwealth Welterweight champion John O’Donnell fought a more interesting fight and, with respect to his Heavyweight stable mate, he is likely to move quicker from the domestic scene onto the next level. While waiting for the British Board of Control to meet on the 13th of October and announce his opponent for the vacant British title, John took the time to sit down with us and discuss his past, present, and future.

EASTSIDEBOXING: When and how did you start boxing?

JOHN O’DONNELL: I was 10 years old. Both my dad and my uncle were amateurs. They brought me down to the Dale Youth gym to train with them and I liked it immediately.

ESB: What’s your amateur pedigree?

JOD: I had 80 fights overall, 26 at international level. I won 2 Junior ABA and 6 medals: 2 gold, at the Junior Olympics and Four Nations tournament, 2 silver, at Four Nations again and New Delhi, and 2 bronze at the European and Germany games.. In my amateur career, I lost 5 or 6 times and found it disheartening, but after winning my first medal I got the hunger. But, I never liked the politics of the amateur game and, against my trainer Rob McCracken advice, I decided to turn pro immediately after my 18th birthday.

ESB: How long have you been working with McCracken?

JOD: For my entire professional career. We got involved with each other because he was training my cousin Billy Corcoran under the Hennessy banner.

ESB: From your debut in 2004 to 2007, you piled up 14 straight wins and lifted the English title. Then, you had your first loss against Solano in your American debut on the undercard of Mayweather-De La Hoya. What went wrong in that fight and what did you learn from it?

JOD: Truth is I never wanted that fight in the first place. I just had a baby boy and my head was full of worries. Also, I had some minor injuries. To fly to America was the last thing I wanted but Rob and the team were insisting, so I just went along. Solano was over the limit at 10 stones 12 and got away with it. For some reason, that got to my head and I felt nervous. I went into the ring just wanting to get over with it and fly home. He hit me on the back of the head in the first round and it was all over in the second. The lesson I learned from that is to be honest about my feelings with my team, communicate, and not take a fight if it does not feel right. The loss hit me harder than I ever thought. I got sick of boxing and just did nothing for 7 months. Then Rob called me to spar with Lenny Daws (current British Light-welterweight champion). We went 10 rounds and I was surprised at how fit I still was. I got my hunger back, but because of a perforated ear drum I had to wait 5 more months before fighting again.

ESB: Then you piled up 5 wins and went on to challenge Craig Watson for the Commowealth crown. How did that come along?

JOD: I was actually supposed to fight for the British title but it fell through. At that point Mick Hennessy offered me the Watson fight and I jumped on it. Craig got under my skin in the build up, saying he was going to stop me in the 7th round. I went into the ring angry and determined to stand and go toe to toe. Bad mistake. I must have lost the first 4 rounds, but all along Rob urged me to box like I was trained to and, when I did, it turned out to be very easy. In the 7th and 8th round, when I was supposed to go down, I bashed him on the ropes and in the end he was the one running.

ESB: Your last fight with Terence Cauthen was supposed to be a step up in class. Was it really? What did you learn from it?

JOD: Yes. He was very experienced and very smart. He knew how to survive 12 rounds, his defence was cagey, and he was able to pull some tricks without being caught by the referee. Basically, he did not want to fight and that frustrated me. In spite of that, I learned to keep my cool, my hands were higher than they used to be all the way, and I fought professionally.

ESB: Michael Jennings being out injured, there are a few names rumoured as possible candidates as co-challengers for the British title: Commonwealth champ Denton Vassell, English champ Adnan Amar, former British champ Kevin McIntyre, and Craig Watson. Who would you fancy more?

JOD: Vassell. I want my old title back, as I did not lose it in the ring but vacated it because of an injury. Also, it would be nice to unify the titles.

ESB: If you win, you would have achieved everything at domestic level. Where would you go from there?

JOD: I would like a shot at Matthew Hatton’s European belt. He is far away from being the best Welterweight in the country, never mind in Europe. I would give him a boxing lesson.

ESB: Realistically, how far do you think you can go in your career?

JOD: When he won the British Super middleweight title, Carl Froch told me I could have done the same one day. I did not believe him back then, but here I am just about to do that. Now I believe I could win a world title. My target would be either the WBA or the IBF belt, as their champions are the weakest. Also, I want to fight in America again. This time my head would be in its place 100%.

ESB: Thank you for your time and best luck for the future.

Article posted on 01.10.2010

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