Steve O’Meara: The Dark Horse

Written by - May 1, 2012

When Steve O’Meara climbs into the ring at the Troxy in London’s East End on Thursday night not only will he be tussling with ring veteran Bradley Pryce but he’ll also be jostling for space in the crowded market of public attention.

Aside from the political heavyweight clash between Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone on the same night O’Meara finally gets to top a bill, the little known fighter has to contend with one of the busiest weekends of boxing this year. There’s the first all-Irish Prizefighter, Paul McCloskey trying to stamp his title credentials against DeMarcus ‘Chop Chop’ Corley, and the absolutely massive card from Las Vegas that sees Floyd Mayweather challenge Miguel Cotto for the WBA light-middleweight title.

But being overshadowed by a plethora of big names is not a new experience for the West Drayton man. Having been blooded in the same Dale Youth program and turned pro under the same trainer as Olympian James DeGale, O’Meara has long adapted to the role of being the man behind the man. Here the dark horse talks to Boxing Futures about waiting in the wings…

PLAYING THE BACKGROUND
Obviously all the limelight and the pressure is on James DeGale. He's an Olympic gold medallist and he's in the public's eye a lot more, I'm just in the background. DeGale’s always getting calls for sparring and I get to go along for the ride so I've built up a good foundation. All these experiences are coming together now, everyone thinks it’s just appeared out of nowhere but obviously it doesn’t work like that as most people in boxing know. A lot of hard work and road miles have been put in. Jimmy's [McDonnell] always said to everybody that I'm the dark horse in the team. I know James is going to go on to become a world champion and achieve everything he wants to in the sport and hopefully I’m going to sneak up on the side and get my time in the sun as well.

SPARRING MAYWEATHER
I was in Mayweather's gym for 10 days and I even got to spar him! We did about three or four rounds and I got pictures of it all, I tried to get it filmed but they wouldn't have it, which is understandable. There weren’t much in it to be honest but at the end of the day it was only a few rounds. I was being a bit smart and not falling into his traps. I got caught but I also caught him a few times, and I’ve got the pictures to prove I'm not making it up! I remember we had a little exchange and just coming back thinking don't smile, don't smile – I wanted to have a beaming smile on my face cos I just caught Mayweather with a couple of shots, which was quite surreal. It was crazy because before that the reception was quite frosty. We'd speak to his uncle Roger but Floyd didn't really make much contact and his entourage was a bit hostile. But literally after that spar everything seemed to change. We had to cut our trip short which was a real shame because after that Floyd turned into a gentleman. It was almost like it took us 10 days to prove ourselves and once we did he started to give us a bit more respect, he even invited us over to dinner so I was just gutted to be leaving.


Steve wih trainer Jim McDonnell, stablemate James DeGale and the man himself Floyd Mayweather at the Mayweather Gym in Vegas

WORKING WITH BROTHER NAZIM
When I first turned pro we went to train over in Philadelphia in Shuler's Gym. We were working with Tim Witherspoon and there were a couple of days when he had to do something and obviously we still had to train so we'd just go to the gym and join in with brother Nazim Richardson. He'd be training a couple of his nephews and Karl Dargan and Rock Allen, they all boxed for America and they're good prospects over there now with Golden Boy, so I was just joining in with them. I think most the fighters in Philadelphia are black or Puerto Rican and they don't get many white fighters. The ones they do see are usually white kids with money so they're not as hungry or on their level. So I think when I got there they just presumed I was another posh white American kid till I started sparring with them. I ended up becoming friendly with all of them cos I proved myself in the ring – I was having wars with everybody! I wanted to let them know that I was there to train for real.

CONVINCING HOPKINS
It’s strange but when I tell people that I’m a boxer I almost feel like I’m lying cos I don’t look like a boxer. I can see in their faces they’re thinking ‘is he having a laugh’. Like when I met Bernard Hopkins in the gym in the MGM during the Mayweather vs Hatton fight weekend. I told him I was a boxer and that I trained with brother Nazim up in Shuler’s gym, and that's his trainer! He kind of just gave me this look as if to say 'you know some stuff but I don't know if I believe you'. I've always had that, its like when you're a kid in clubs and you tell girls that you're a footballer to pull them, it almost feels like I'm doing that. I bumped into Zab Judah that weekend as well. I got into a lift and he was in there with all these girls with diamond grills in their mouths and everything. He had put on so much weight I couldn’t be sure if it was him so I said ‘you look like Zab Judah’ and all the girls started laughing their heads off.

CHANCE TO SHINE
It’s my opportunity to show I’m ready to go to the next level on Thursday night. I dealt with my last two opponents in good style with the first round knockouts but Bradley Pryce has fought at a higher level so for me it’s a step up. People will be able to gauge me on how I perform against Pryce. They'll be able to tell if they think I'm ready for a British title shot or not. Personally I don’t sweat it, I’m just patiently waiting and hoping the doors open for me. I'm a good ticket seller, hopefully I've got an entertaining style, and I know I’ve got a good promoter and a good trainer, so I know it’s coming.

O'Meara's brutal KO of Nathan Weise in December

See Steve O’Meara take on Bradley Pryce live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky 456, Virgin 546). Plus the debut of boxing concept show BoxAcademy from 8pm on Thursday, 3 May. Join at www.boxnation.com