Promoter Frank Warren’s end of year extravaganza at the ExCeL London on December 15th was further bolstered last weekend with the announcement that Liverpool’s unbeaten Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith and West Drayton’s Steve O’Meara are to collide for the vacant Commonwealth light-middle title - bringing it to a staggering SIX title fights on the night. Already several respected judges are highlighting it as the potential Fight of the Night.
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Though O’Meara stopped just two of his first pro opponents, his three most recent scalps crumbled inside five rounds combined, including a couple of one round blow-outs in Southern Area title fights.
Jim McDonnell has coached the 28 year old father of two throughout his entire 18 fight pro career. Here, in his own words, the former European featherweight king and two time world title challenger discusses O’Meara’s dramatic development and explains why he is so confident that his man shall prevail over Smith.
“I’ve been working with Stevo from Day Scratch, before he even turned professional.
When Simon O’Donnell first brought him to my gym, Stevo had no amateur pedigree, just a bit of unlicensed stuff. Physically he was The Weakest Link, easily the weakest pro I’ve ever worked with. His ground work was abysmal and I thought he was going to get really chewed up in the pros.
But, in almost five years, he’s only lost two fights, both controversially. Boxing News had him up when he was supposed to have been outpointed over six rounds by Joey Selkirk up in Liverpool. I also had him up. He definitely won it nicely but it was against a Scouser, in Liverpool, with a Scouse referee. Other than that, Steve’s only other loss was a split decision over three rounds to Brett Flournoy in Prizefighter. Steve ain’t a three round fighter.
Lately ‘The Quiet Man’ has really come through and made himself known. I’ve had him spar with James DeGale, Carl Froch, Darren Barker, Nathan Cleverly and even Floyd Mayweather. He surrounds himself with excellence. He’s a very late developer and the best is yet to come. There’s not a light-middleweight in the world I’d not put him in with. If I managed a different light-middle, I’d be swerving Steve O’Meara like the plague.
When Stevo wins the Commonwealth title on December 15th and he will, it’ll be my proudest achievement and greatest triumph as a coach. He came to me with no amateur CV and was technically basic. Once a kid wins a title they flourish. He’ll improve 20% and be unstoppable. Then let the show begin!
The transformation has occurred largely due to three things; his determination, his physical strength and the timing of his punches.
For a start, he really lives the life. There’s no alcohol intake. Even as a novice pro, he used to make a round trip of 70-80 miles a day to train with me. He’s got young children and, trust me, they’re his everything. But for this, he’s put his family on hold, hooked himself up in a hotel nearby and is training like a lunatic, three sessions a day. I physically have to stop him.
Nobody deserves their opportunity more than Stevo does. He’s such a good guy, a great friend to James (DeGale); often helps him out at very short notice with sparring even though he doesn’t live local.
From being the weakest at my gym, he’s now pound for pound the strongest. Physically he’s a proper force at 154 (lbs). He does a lot of rope climbing and he’s got this Russian strength and conditioning coach called Serge. Together they do a lot of MMA work and grappling. He’s throwing fit 17 stone guys all over the place. Now he’s sparring 12 rounds straight off and he looks the real deal.
But the reason that he’s started knocking everybody out lately isn’t so much his strength as his timing. Before, he was looking for the knockout too much. Now he’s relaxing more and his timing on the floor-to-ceiling ball is unbelievable. Floyd Mayweather doesn’t time a right hand any better than Steve O’Meara. He’s knocked three out consecutive plus several others at the gym. Make a mistake against him and you’re going to pay. Now he’s going to start destroying kids at top level.
His mental strength is phenomenal. He’s really in the zone right now and just won’t be denied. If you played in a football team, Steve O’Meara is the man you’d want to drive it. He’s one tough son of a gun. He’s got an iron will to go with that iron right hand!
People just don’t realise how good he is. He looks like a model, hardly ever has a mark on him because he’s got great all round defence. He’s learnt his art. As Floyd Mayweather told him: ‘Any fool can get hit!’
People say that this is a risky fight but, if I’d not taken it, I doubt Stevo would have spoken to me again for the rest of our lives! Anyway, when you’ve handled yourself with the type of kids he has in sparring, you’ve not got to worry about the Liam Smith’s of this world.
That said, we’re certainly not underestimating Liam, he’s a hell of a good fighter, a former senior ABA champion and a very proud Scouser from a proper fighting clan. He’s strong, has good skills, both offensive and defensive. He’s also got deceptively long arms plus he’s a thinker. We know he’ll turn up in good condition and with plenty of fire in his belly. He’ll be really up for it too.
It’s because of the respect we have for him that, that Stevo’s left no stone unturned in the gym and will ensure he’s 110% on the night. That’s why we’ve been sparring bigger, heavier world champions. It’s gonna be a great fight for the British public.
But Stevo wins because he refuses to lose. He works alongside winners every day and it rubs off on him. I’ve seen him work flat out with Floyd Mayweather in the gym and he took care of himself. After that, Liam Smith is a day off for Steve O’Meara!”
WBO World Lightweight Champoin Ricky Burns v Jose Ocampo headlines a massive six-title card that features George Groves defending his Commonwealth Super-Middleweight title against Glen Johnson in the chief support; plus Commonwealth Middleweight Champion Billy Joe Saunders defends his title against Nick Blackwell with the vacant British title also on the line; unbeaten Bradley Skeete challenges Southern Area Welterweight Champion Chas Symonds for his title and WBO International Cruiserweight Champion Tony Conquest defends against Neil Dawson.
Friday Night Fights welcomes back heavyweight champion Amir Mansour Jan. 25 at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino
DOVER, Del. — Dover Downs Hotel & Casino announces the next Friday Night Fights series event will take place on Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, in the Rollins Center. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, Dec. 5 at noon for between $40 - $200 and may be purchased by calling VIP Services at 800-711-5882 or visiting doverdowns.com.
Headlining the event will be heavyweight superstar Amir “Hardcore” Mansour, winner of the World Boxing Foundation Intercontinental heavyweight championship title. Mansour, out of Wilmington, Del., has a flawless record of 16 wins, 12 by knockout.
Female super featherweight champion “Queen” Ronica Jeffrey, 11(1)-0, of Brooklyn, N.Y., headlines the undercard. Also appearing on the undercard will be featherweight Omar “Super O” Douglas, 6(4)-0, of Wilmington, Del.; WBF Intercontinental super middleweight champion “Mighty” Mike Tiberi, 20(7)-1, of Wilmington, Del.; light heavyweight “The Bull” Anthony “Caputo” Smith, 13(10)-1, of Kennett Square, Pa.; and light welterweight “Rockin” Ryan Belasco, 17(3)-5-3, of Wilmington, Del.
The first bout will begin at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Will call will be open from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. Visit doverdowns.com for updates. Event, times and card are subject to change or cancellation without notice. For media credentials and interview or photo requests, please contact Lisa Rollins at [email protected] .
On Thursday Dec. 6, ESPN.com’s No. 8 (The Ring’s No. 10) ranked Lightweight contender Ray Beltran (26-6, 17 KOs) will meet former Lightweight title challenger Ji-Hoon “Volcano” Kim (24-7, 18 KOs) in the 10-round main event in an ESPN Boxing: Friday Night Fights Special Edition. Thursday’s card from Las Vegas will air at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN2 HD, ESPN Deportes, and will be available online through WatchESPN.com, and on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app. The card is presented by Top Rank Promotions.
Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas will be ringside for ESPN2 HD at the Mirage Hotel & Casino describing the action, while studio host Bernardo Osuna will be on site presenting all the latest news and boxing highlights. Alex Pombo and Delvin Rodriguez will call the fights for ESPN Deportes’ Viernes de Combates (Friday Night Fights) with Leopoldo Gonzalez and Pablo Viruega in the studio.
Both shows will include interviews with Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao as they prepare for their upcoming bout scheduled for December 8 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. ESPN Deportes will also include live interviews with 50 Cent, and Yuriorkis Gamboa, and 2012 U.S. Olympian Jose Ramirez, both on Saturday’s undercard.
North Hollywood California’s Beltran, a sparring partner of Manny Pacquiao, is trained by International Boxing Hall of Fame 2012 inductee Freddie Roach and 1992 U.S. Olympian Pepe Reilly. Beltran won his last fight in July with a 10-round majority decision win over Hank Lundy on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights.
After that fight, ESPN.com boxing writer Dan Rafael wrote: “Beltran nearly stopped him (Lundy) in the final seconds of the third round. Beltran, who was cut over his left eye, trapped Lundy against the ropes and was teeing off on him. He badly rocked Lundy and was close to a stoppage. Time and again, Lundy found himself against the ropes with Beltran serving as the aggressor throughout the bout. He continually stalked Lundy and outworked him en route to the upset decision.”
Beltran said of Friday’s fight, "I've seen Kim fight a few times. I think he's a very strong fighter. He's very aggressive. He comes to fight. I think it's going to be a great fight, a tough fight. I've got to be careful with him.”
South Korea’s Kim has won his last three fights, including a May 10-round decision over previously undefeated Alisher Rahimov.
“Kim has now won three fights in a row and probably would test any lightweight in world just based on his sheer aggressiveness,” wrote Rafael after that fight. “He is so much fun to watch and dangerous because he is fearless, in great condition, and loves to wing big right hands that could hurt anyone.”
Thursday’s co-feature will pit undefeated Junior Featherweight Jesse Magdaleno (12-0, 9 KOs) of Las Vegas against Jonathan “Thunder” Arellano (13-1-1, 3 KOs) of California. Magdaleno is coming off a first-round knockout win over Jose Silvera, while Arellano will look to rebound after an eight-round unanimous decision loss to Roman Morales.
Follow ESPN’s Friday Night Fights on Twitter @ESPNFNF or like it on Facebook. Follow ESPN Deportes’ Viernes de Combates on Twitter @ESPNBoxeo