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O'Donnell wants to follow that Carl

PUBLISHED: 16:32 29 July 2009 | UPDATED: 14:39 24 August 2010

John O'Donnell (Shepherd's Bush, red/white shorts) defeats Craig Watson (Manchester) in a Welterweight boxing contest for the Commonwealth Title at York Hall, Bethnal Green, London, promoted by Hennessy Sports -  11/04/09 - MANDATORY CREDIT: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO - Self billing applies where appropriate - Tel: 0845 094 6026

John O'Donnell (Shepherd's Bush, red/white shorts) defeats Craig Watson (Manchester) in a Welterweight boxing contest for the Commonwealth Title at York Hall, Bethnal Green, London, promoted by Hennessy Sports - 11/04/09 - MANDATORY CREDIT: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO - Self billing applies where appropriate - Tel: 0845 094 6026

Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO, 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Tel: 0845 094 6026 - contact@tgsphoto.co.uk

By Ben Kosky WORLD champion Carl Froch followed a long route to glory – and now stablemate John O Donnell has his sights set on borrowing that map. Froch held English, British and Commonwealth titles during seven years as a professional before finally cla

By Ben Kosky

WORLD champion Carl Froch followed a long route to glory - and now stablemate John O'Donnell has his sights set on borrowing that map.

Froch held English, British and Commonwealth titles during seven years as a professional before finally claiming the WBC super-middleweight crown at the age of 31.

And O'Donnell, the Shepherd's Bush welterweight, is hoping his own Commonwealth title victory earlier this year will prove to be just the first stepping stone towards emulating the man he trains with each day.

O'Donnell, who trains with Rob McCracken at Hainault, is due to make his first title defence against Ghanaian Phillip Kotey in September at Watford Colosseum.

"Everyone who starts boxing at a young age wants to win an area title, then a national title and eventually a world title," the 23-year-old told the Times.

"Carl Froch is a good example of that - he went down the same road as I'm taking, now he's WBC world champion and it'd be brilliant to follow in his footsteps.

"I'm in the gym with Carl, I can see what it takes to get there and I'm learning a lot from that. I have sparred with him but not full force because he'd knock me clean out!

"Nothing's really changed for me just because I've got a Commonwealth belt. Once you get to a certain level, it's all about staying there and that's the motivation for me to train 110 per cent every time."

Provided O'Donnell can safely negotiate his mandatory defence against Kotey - who has 19 wins from 24 bouts, but has never won outside the African continent - he has fresh targets in mind.

A rematch with Craig Watson, the man he beat on a split decision to take the Commonwealth crown in April, is a possibility, but British title holder Kell Brook - who announced a defence against former champion Michael Jennings earlier this week - is the man he would like to face next.

"Hopefully my first defence will go well and I'd love a shot at Brook after that," O'Donnell added. "But what's important is to improve with each fight and my trainer knows what it's all about - he'll make sure I step it up."

Despite mixing with the likes of Froch these days, there's no danger of O'Donnell forgetting his roots - the Galway-born boxer is still a regular visitor to Dale Youth Club, where he first learned his trade.

O'Donnell began training at the Ladbroke Grove club as a nine-year-old and remained there until he turned pro five years ago, but sees himself as a member of the extended Dale Youth family.

"Just look at the talent the gym has produced - people like Lee Beavis, George Groves and James DeGale," observed O'Donnell - whose cousin Simon also trained at Dale Youth before joining the paid ranks.

"I haven't seen James for a while, but I still chat to George regularly and I see Steve O'Meara quite often as well because he trains just down the road from me.

"I try to go and show my face over at Dale Youth Club every now and then. To be honest, if it weren't for people like Mick Delaney and Ernie Harris, I wouldn't be where I am today.

"Mick did so much for my boxing and Ernie was the one keeping me on the straight and narrow. I think the two of them deserve an MBE or something like that for the way they've helped so many kids over the years.


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