Ireland’s London 2012 Olympic champion Darren O’Neill took a major step towards the Baku 2015 European Games by beating Ken Okungbowa for the national Boxing heavyweight title – his first crown since moving up two weight classes from middleweight. The four-time Irish middleweight (75kg) champion decided in 2014 to jump into the heavyweight (91kg) class. But that did not stop the Kilkenny native from beating the bigger, stronger and longer Okungbowa.
“I know how hard it is to win an Elite (Irish) title, and it’s a dream for me to come back in my ninth final and win a title at heavyweight. It’s all worth it in the end,” said O’Neill, who made his heavyweight debut in the semi-finals against John Joe McDonagh. O’Neill definitely has his sights set on Baku 2015, saying: “I’d love to say that I represented Ireland at the first European Games.”
The 2012 Olympian, who carried the flag for Ireland at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, jumped a full weight class, by-passing light-heavyweight (81kg) to go to heavyweight. “I wanted to have a look and see (about moving up). You know 81kg was the obvious option, but with (2013 European Championship bronze medallist) Joe Ward in the APB (AIBA Pro Boxing) now, he’s more likely to qualify for Rio 2016. So whether I won the 81kg or not, I may have still been sitting at home for the major championships,” O’Neill told the Irish Times.