On March 3rd on Ireland’s ‘Last Man Standing’ card, one of the most eagerly anticipated domestic fights of the year will take place. Craig ‘The Iron’ O’Brien 7-0 will take on Celtic welterweight champion Jay Byrne 6-3 for the Irish light-middleweight title. It’s a bout that has hardcore boxing fans and casual fans alike interested, and it’s a fight that ‘The Iron’ is buzzing for –
“Im delighted it got made. There was some rumours about it going back a while and on social media so it just took off from there. I think it’s a fight that makes sense at this stage in my career and it’s a Dublin derby so it’s really got the general public interested. Even the other day, some aul fella in the gym came up to me talking about it saying he was reading up on it in the paper, so it’s generating a buzz already, which is great.”
Looking ahead to the bout, and Craig acknowledges that it’s a step up in class for him and despite Jay moving up in weight, he doesn’t think size will play a part –
“Look it’s definitely a step up, no doubt about it. It’s a step up in rounds and opponent, but it’s a step I have to take to get to that next level. I dont think size will really matter too much to be honest, looking at Jay and I think he’s more of a natural light-middle anyway, even look at him compared to Crank Whitehouse in his last fight.
“But saying that, il be a lot better than Crank, Il have a longer reach and better all round I think. I think this is a great fight and im happy just to let my boxing ability do the talking on the night.”
The fight also has extra significance with TG4 broadcasting the show nationwide, something which hasn’t been done since the Bernard Dunne era. The tv deal will give the fighters an opportunity to showcase their skills to the nation and make household names for themselves. And Craig say’s it’s a deal which can only be good news for Irish boxing –
“It’s brilliant and fair play to the lads in Red Corner and Assassin for getting the deal done. I think it can only help bring pro boxing here to the next level. Even looking at the show and they have Andy Lee & Kenny Egan doing analysis which is great and adds a celebrity element to it.
“Nights like this are what you get into boxing for at the end of the day. These are the kind of fights you want on tv and a big stage. But for me, once im in there and the bell goes il zone in and forget about the cameras and all the rest of it.”
If Craig wins this fight against Jay, in less than a year he will have won the Celtic & Irish titles, something he could only have dreamed about previously –
“On paper il be a pro three years this year. But really it’s only a year with having 17 months out, so for me to be where I am and win the Celtic title and the Irish title it would be amazing.
“Looking back a few years ago when I used to do my runs at night through town, I actually used to visualise winning the Irish title, so it’s finally in my hands now. Looking ahead, if I manage to win this title and get a European ranking then anything can happen.”
* Tickets for Ireland’s ‘Last Man Standing’ show on March 3rd in the national stadium, Dublin are available through Craig directly or from https://secure.tickets.ie/Booking/EventTickets/37276/last-man-standing-the-national-stadium-3-March-2018