'Iron' steeled for title shot
O'Brien buoyed by training ahead of French showdown
This time last year Craig O'Brien was dreaming of one day fighting for a title.
The Dubliner revealed how a few years ago he'd turned his life around by going to a gym to get fit and give himself a new focus in life.
His talent was spotted and he was offered a few pro fights. Nothing major. But it boosted his confidence.
After a year when nothing was happening, he picked himself up and vowed to test how far his talent could take him.
Two convincing wins later, the popular Dubliner is co-headliner on Red Corner Promotions' Champions Elect show at the National Stadium next Saturday.
O'Brien, aka 'Iron' (5-0), will fight for the BUI Celtic light middleweight title.
"Everything is good for me at present," he says. "Both in the ring and in life, it's all in the right place. People are starting to believe in me. I'm starting to believe in my own ability. I believe I can go places."
While his confidence is high, O'Brien's plans were rocked when his opponent, Lee Churcher from Wales, dropped out.
In his place O'Brien will face Alain Alfred (2-4-1, 1 KO) from Brittany.
The 32-year-old Frenchman's record mightn't seem great, but O'Brien reveals: "He has a strong amateur pedigree and picked up a few French titles. He knows how to box. He'll be coming with all guns blazing. This is his world title."
The Dubliner knows that both fighters will want to take the belt home to friends and family.
"I can't afford to not take him seriously," he tells me after an acupuncture session with Darren O'Rourke at PhysiCare. "This is fighting. I'll be one-hundred-per-cent switched on."
Training in the Celtic Warrior Gym, O'Brien believes his game has changed dramatically.
"In the first few fights, I was learning," he says. "You get away with cutting a few corners but not now.
"Even in the gym, Paschal (Collins) has been making sure they're hard sessions. He's in your face shouting, 'Push it. Push it. Do the hard work now.' It's brilliant that you can feel the benefits."
The buzz in the gym has helped spur him on. "Niall Kennedy has just won a title in the States," says Craig.
"Spike O'Sullivan and myself have battered each other in sparring and Spike and Ray Moylette are fighting in Boston tonight. Bernard Roe won a few weeks ago. We've all been putting the graft in."
How would he describe the changes? "I'm completely different," insists O'Brien.
"When I was starting off, fellows could bully me in the ring. Now I'm growing into the weight.
"I'm standing with middleweights and taking their shots and coming back. Fitness levels, boxing skills, everything has improved. That's down to hard work.
"When you work hard, you have confidence. I'm going into this fight with a winning mindset."