Inaugural Prizefighter winner Martin Rogan looks forward to the All-Irish version of the eight man, seven fight event at the Kings Hall on Saturday and gives BoxRec News his picks, along with his blueprint for Prizefighter success.
Rogan is unequivocal that fitness and work rate are two ingredients for Prizefighter success. The former Commonwealth champion explains:
“One of the key factors is fitness level. Going out with the intention to win the first and second round non-stop – just give it your lot, because you do tend to drop back in the third, you have already sealed it with two. But fitness would be the biggest key.”
“Going on my experience in the first Prizefighter, nobody else thought I could do it – even in the gym I was in back then. I continued to train myself, and did my boxing in the gym - but it is not all about boxing, as you will see in my slugfest. I worked on fitness and determination in the leisure centre, and outside.
"So, I think the key ingredients would be fitness level and throwing plenty of punches – throw them in bunches of threes and fours, continuously, because you are going to make the judges take notice of you. Fitness is the key to throwing plenty of punches, and winning the first and second rounds.”
“The key is to win the first round. If the second round goes evenly, you are still in with a great opportunity. Every round I went out flying – like a greyhound out of a trap. But, I didn’t go out to win just one or two rounds. I had it locked it in my head that I was going to win all three, which is all about positive thinking and believing that you can do it.”
Rogan didn't put too much emphasis on tactics:
“I didn’t read into it so much, very simply - it is over three rounds and you are coming away from the professional-side if you have done four, six, eight, ten or twelve. You're coming back down to the amateur-level. It is all about your work rate."
How big an advantage is being able to fight first?
“You are getting so many bonus points. First of all, if you win, you go back and you're relaxing and watching. But people get caught up in this. If you are fit enough, you should be able to go out there and blast those three rounds – its nine minutes. Go back in and relax. Your body should be well tuned in to go back out there and do it all again.”
“The bonus of coming out first is that you get out soaking up the crowd right away and you have already got that built into you. And you are also able to watch. In my Prizefighter, there was a TV and monitor in the room. So you are able to watch the next opponent that you are going to fight and you are able to watch how hard his fight was without your trainer having to go out there and watch it for you and come back and tell you. It is nice to have your own eyes on the situation. By time you go again, it is as if you haven’t been out at all, you have already warmed to the crowd – you have taken the crowd in, you know what to expect and you a couple of furlongs of the finish line – that is the way I was looking at it. The next one is the semi final – you can nearly touch the cup."
Rogan was asked who he fancied to win Prizefighter and initially backed Immaculata fighter Eamonn O’Kane:
“Eamonn O’Kane knows now who he is fighting in his first fight, so if he wants to do a bit of homework on that now – he can. I would take a quick glimpse at him, but I wouldn’t dwell too much on it because he should have positive ideas and his fitness should be that much that it doesn’t really matter what comes at him. It is the same for the other boys – be positive and be confident in what you have done in training because everybody changes for every fight – I would be going out there with the confidence that I am just going to beat everybody there that is in front of me.”
“I fancy Eamonn O’Kane to win it. Eamonn has got the hardest fight [against Anthony Fitzgerald]. If he comes through it, which I believe he will, then he'll win it outright. I've watched Eamonn in the gym. I came up with him in the amateurs, and have watched him in his professional career. I've seen the amount of work that Nugget Nugent (Gerry Nugent, Immaculata coach) has put into his fitness, and he has a strength and conditioning coach.
"He is in absolutely fantastic shape, he is hungry. I spoke to him a few weeks ago about Prizefighter and what my thoughts were, inside of me, on the night, and he was actually glad to hear them. He has a great work rate and when it comes down to three rounds, he is going to be even faster again. He can go hell bent for leather over three rounds.”
The winner of Eamonn O’Kane and Anthony Fitzgerald will face the winner of Ciaran Healy and Ryan Greene in the first semi final. Rogan was asked how he felt the Healy and Greene fight would go:
“I think Ryan will demolish Ciaran. Ciaran can thump, he can punch, but I am reflecting on Ryan Greene’s fights as an amateur and it will suit him to a tee. I loved watching him in the amateurs because he was hungry when he was in the ring. Unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to watch him fight in the pros."
So if O'Kane and Greene come through, they meet in the semi final. Although Rogan stated earlier that he fancied O’Kane to win Prizefighter, he mulled over the potential O’Kane-Greene match up before giving a verdict:
“It's a hard one for Ryan, it's a hard one for Eamonn and a hard one to call. Ryan is suited to that style of fighting. I hope what Ryan does do is throw his boxing out of the window and turn it into what I did. He turns it into what I done, and puts his head down like he done in the amateurs – I think you might have a champion from Lurgan.”
“This is a competition were you can’t waste time and box. Be careful, and be defensive, but you have to let your hands go and Ryan Greene has the ability to let his hands go because he has done it for years and he has got that attitude. I am very excited just talking about it.”
Rogan admitted that he wasn’t as familiar with Simon O’Donnell and hadn’t seen much of either Darren Cruise or JJ McDonagh, but one fighter he knows well is Ballymena’s Joe Rea:
“Joe Rea is a good boxer, he can tag people. He learned a lot in the States, a lot of skill and stuff like that, and three rounds might suit Joe, but he blows hot and cold.The question mark hangs over Joe - has he trained?”
Rea has moved over to England to undergo a rigorous camp under the eye of respected trainer Kevin Maree, sparring with top quality fighters including Tony Bellew, Joe Selkirk and Kenny Anderson.
“If Joe Rea has trained and is on his game he will probably beat him (O’Donnell), but I think when it comes down to the nitty gritty I don’t think Joe will be able to handle it, because Joe hasn’t been in the gym in a while. [Rogan is referring to extended breaks between fights rather than in the run up to Prizefighter].”
“I don’t mean that in a bad way, because I was out of the gym for a while. What I mean is that with Joe is that he would be out having a beer, and he would be out for six or seven months."
Rogan explains: "I might not be fighting, but I am in training. I am hitting the bags and keeping myself in shape, where Joe will say ‘Oh, there's a fight coming, I'll train for six or eight weeks'. Joe’s boxing ability will be enough to get him through his first fight if your man (O’Donnell) is not too hungry. But, if Ryan (Greene) goes through – Ryan is a winner.”
After discussing the draw, going through the opponents and potential semi finals in each half, Rogan gave his final verdict on who he believes will win the first All Irish Prizefighter:
“I think Ryan Greene and Eamonn O’Kane will go through to the semi final and the winner of that will win Prizefighter.”
Referring to the boxers in the second half of the draw, Rogan said:
“I don’t think they can handle Ryan Greene, and I don’t think they can handle Eamonn O’Kane because they are too fast, they want it too much, and there is too much in them.”
Prizefighter Quarter-final draw:
QF1: Eamonn O’Kane (4-0) v Anthony Fitzgerald (13-2)
QF2: Ciaran Healy (13-19-1) v Ryan Greene (5-0)
QF3: Darren Cruise (3-1) v JJ McDonagh (6-1)
QF4: Simon O’Donnell (11-1) v Joe Rea (7-7-1)