Rabei: Make the fight now
BUI Celtic champ says he's looking to take on the toughest opponents
A wave of excitement swept through Irish boxing this week with the announcement on social media by super featherweight Niall O'Connor that Victor Rabei had agreed a fight at lightweight.
While O'Connor said the fight would be at the National Stadium in March, Rabei's management Assassin Promotions insists the fight has not been made as there's been no official offer from O'Connor's team.
"We know both Niall and Martin Quinn have been calling out Victor," says Assassin's Conor Slater. "But we've heard nothing from either of their teams. Besides, neither of them qualify for an Irish title."
Unbeaten Rabei (6-0, 2 KOs) won the BUI Celtic super lightweight title against Karl Kelly in July on a unanimous decision, with two judges scoring it 78-75.
I catch up with the Stephen O'Rourke-trained fighter in snowbound Moldova where he's visiting to perform best man duties at a friend's wedding.
"I've spoken to Niall and agreed to fight him as long as they can make a reasonable offer," says Rabei. "If they make an acceptable deal then the fight's on at 135lbs (lightweight)."
Both Rabei and O'Connor want the fight to be made.
"This fight makes a lot of sense," says Rabei. "There's no point in me fighting journeymen. Niall is a skilled fighter and a good puncher. When I win, I'll shoot up the rankings and get noticed by a lot of people. I want to be able to perform to my best. To do that you need a decent opponent. I'm not looking for easy fights."
TG4 viewers saw Rabei take just over two minutes to systematically demolish his opponent on the Ray Moylette Homecoming card in Castlebar last month. But Rabei would have preferred a tougher fight.
"When you step into the ring, plans can change," he explains. "In my last fight, I had my hands low not because I was cocky but because I saw all the punches coming and knew I was out of range. I bobbed and weaved my way around his shots. I was very relaxed and could see what was happening."
Impressed by his progress, Assassin Promotions predicts a busy year for Rabei.
"He'll be on big TV bills," says Slater. "He's a TV fighter now and we're certain Victor will be fighting for an Irish title this year. Hopefully sooner rather than later."
Rabei acknowledges that he's in the firing line now.
"Everyone's gunning for me and I love it," he enthuses. "I've had Sean McComb (5-0, 3 KOs), Gary Cully (7-0, 4 KOs), Stephen Webb (1-0), Martin Quinn (2-1, 1 KO) and Niall O'Connor (5-0, 4 KOs) all calling me out. I take it as a compliment."
Defeated by Rabei, Karl Kelly will fight for the Irish lightweight title next month.
"Karl promised a war when we fought and he delivered," says Rabei.
"I landed some of my biggest shots in that fight and he took them on the chin and kept going so he deserves where he is."
Rabei is confident of having his own national title fight this year too.
"We're hoping to have that in May," reveals Rabei. "TG4 are on board and we're looking at Paul Hyland Jr (19-1, 7 KOs). It's a big step up so I'd like a few fights before meeting him. I'd love to fight Paul. I think he's beatable.
"Niall O'Connor and Paul Hyland Jr are the two fights I want this summer," he declares.
"I'm looking for tough fights," he adds.