The funny thing about Gary “Spike,” O’Sullivan is that you never know when he is going to strike next. He is a one-man flying column. A guerrilla fighter schooled in the dark art of verbal beat downs. He leaves no stone unturned and no opportunity missed to ridicule his rivals to an army of adoring fans on social media. Opponents should be warned that when you throw the gauntlet down to “Spike,” O’Sullivan you better be prepared for war.
The most recent incident involving the exciting Irish middleweight occurred a few weeks ago just off a quiet street in his native Mahon, Co. Cork in a Subway restaurant.
That morning the impressively framed O’Sullivan entered the Subway restaurant completely naked save for a florescent green Borat style mankini to spare his modesty. With his handlebar moustache curled within an inch of perfection he resembled what you might imagine a pirate would look like whilst on holiday in Ibiza.
O’Sullivan locked eyes with the proprietor and in his broad Cork accent he greeted the man, “How you getting’ on today?” before the proud Rebel begun his interrogation of the restaurant manager.
“Have you seen the dancing queen?” inquired O’Sullivan.
“The dancing queen?” the perplexed Subway employee replied.
“Yeah the Dancing Queen,” affirmed the boxer. O’Sullivan was referring to Anthony Ogogo the former British Olympic Bronze medallist and current middleweight prospect who fronted an advertising campaign for the sandwich chain during the 2012 Olympics and who also participated in the BBC reality dance competition, Strictly Come Dancing in 2015.
“Anthony Ogogo, have you seen him anywhere?” queried O’Sullivan
“Oh the ‘Sauerland brothers,’ rang him” [Ogogo’s promoters] the bemused manager answered, playing along with the farce. “I think he ran that way,” he said as he pointed down the street.
”The Sauerland brothers called him?” O’Sullivan mused.
“Yeah,” the vendor replied.
“He ran really quick?” asked the boxer. The restaurant manager nodded in agreement.
Satisfied with his cross-examination O’Sullivan relinquished his pursuit of Ogogo, “I’ll catch him the next day,” he said and then added with menace “Tell him I was here looking for him,” before turning on his heel in his colour co-ordinated florescent yellow trainers and exited the restaurant. It was just another comedic episode in the life of the Irish middleweight, captured on video and relayed to his fans with huge applause.
If O’Sullivan seems like a bit of a joker then think again. He has a sense of humour but he is nobody’s fool. A short conversation with the man reveals depth and character. He might like to play the clown outside the ring but he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Every joke has a jab with Spike. Ultimately he is a proud Cork man, passionate about where he has come from and where he is going.
In the following interview fans will get an insight into the life of O’Sullivan which should lift the veil on one of the most passionate and interesting fighters to emerge from the island of Ireland in the last twenty years.
Hi Spike, let’s start by asking what are you up to at the moment?
I’m just tipping away in the gym getting ready for my next fight. I’m fighting in New Hampshire on the 17th September. My opponent is Marquis Davis (8-1-2, 5 KOS) from Florida. He’s a tough fighter so it should be a good fight.
Your pursuit of Anthony Ogogo on social media has been a joy to behold but what prompted you to pursue him in such fashion?
I think Ogogo is a bit of a plonker. I read an interview with him in February where he said he’d like to fight either Billy Joe Saunders, Eubank Jr. or me. He said if he knocked a couple of guys out he would be ready for any of us. Since that interview he’s knocked out three guys so he’s got to man up now or shut up. When a guy calls me out it gets my attention.
The clip you posted searching for Ogogo in the Subway in Cork was very funny do you enjoy making those videos for your fans?
I had a great laugh making that Subway video. When I left the restaurant there was a guy driving past and he crashed up on the kerb when he saw me in the mankini. It was hilarious. If I had got that on camera it would have been the best thing ever. It’s a good laugh doing things like that. It passes the time and it’s nice to interact with the fans.
Where did the idea for the video in which you publicly challenged Gennady Golovkin to a world title fight, whilst wearing a ‘mankini,’ come from?
It all originated from when Saul ‘Canelo,’ Alvarez avoided fighting Golovkin after the Cotto victory. I’m a top fifteen ranked contender so I’m eligible to challenge Golovkin for his world titles. It was just a case of Saunders didn’t want to fight him; Eubank Jr didn’t want to fight him either; so if nobody wants to fight him, I thought I’ll fight Golovkin. Considering Golovkin is from Kazakhstan it was only appropriate that I call him out Borat style in the mankini. That’s where I got the idea. It was just for a laugh.
Did you receive any backlash from Golovkin’s fans?
There were a few messages that I received on social media that I had to get translated. I think they were people from Kazakhstan basically giving me grief for what I had done but it was grand. They just want to see him knock me out.
You are very active on social media especially with fans but have you ever been the victim of abuse either on-line or on the street?
I get the odd person trolling me on-line but I don’t think they’d be brave enough to challenge me on the street. I get fewer than most. I think a lot of people like me on-line.
It must be noted that your trademark in the ring is your impeccably groomed facial hair. What style of moustache are you currently sporting?
(Laughs) I have a bit of a handle bar moustache at the minute.
Do you enjoy having a flamboyant image in boxing?
Yeah, I do enjoy it. I like being different and not the same as everyone else. Although I don’t want it to go to my head either (laughs).
Let’s get down to business. How did you become interested in boxing?
My father Denis trained me from the age of five. I went to my local boxing club [Loughmahon ABC] at seven and I began my amateur career. I won national titles and boxed for Ireland. When I was eighteen, I stopped taking it seriously and I got an apprenticeship as a sheet metal worker. There was a good five years where I was away from boxing but I was actually in the gym training other people. I trained a lot of amateurs. I trained nine national champions out of my home town of Mahon. Eventually I got back into it and had a few amateur fights. Then I met Paschal [Collins] who signed me up and I made my professional debut in Cork which was a great day for me.
Training nine national champions is a great achievement; would you have ever considered becoming a boxing trainer?
I really did enjoy it. It was great to see lads from my home town become national champions. I got a real buzz from that. Yeah, maybe it’s a possibility in the future. I like the idea of training amateurs, there’s no money involved. I like the idea of giving young guys good habits, so it would be good to one day get back into training amateur fighters.
Early in your professional career you followed in the footsteps of Steve Collins by spending some time in the world renowned Petronelli’s gym in Boston. How was that as an experience?
I did some training in Petronilli’s gym and it was a great experience. There was so much history associated with the Petronilli’s. My father would have always talked about Rocky Marciano who grew up with the Petronilli brothers and my mother’s favourite fighter was Marvin Hagler who they managed for his entire career. My favourite fighter of all time is Steve Collins, so to think of all the gyms in America where I could have ended up to have ended up there felt like destiny.
You mentioned Steve Collins as being your favourite fighter so it comes as no surprise then that you linked up with his brother Paschal Collins as your trainer. Can you describe your relationship with Paschal?
I was Paschal’s first fighter in Ireland and next year will be our tenth year together. He’s the godfather to my youngest daughter Aisling. He’s a great man and we have a great relationship. He’s pretty strict, he’s tough in training but he makes you do it right and gives you grief if you’re not doing it right.
After you turned professional in 2008 you went on a fourteen fight winning streak, but your fight Matthew Hall for the vacant WBO International middleweight title, really made people sit up and notice you.
I took that fight on short notice. I hadn’t fought in four months and I only had two weeks to train for what would be my first twelve round fight. It was crazy really but I told Paschal if I lost I would pack it in, so I just adopted the attitude that I would go out and enjoy it.
You earned a unanimous points decision over Hall and claimed the vacant title. What did it mean to you to win the title that night?
I really enjoyed that fight, it was on the day of my birthday and it was being held in Upton Park. There were lots of celebrities in attendance like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Andy Murray and Dynamo the magician so that added to the atmosphere. Previously, I had been boxing in smaller halls with about twenty people in attendance so to box in front of a stadium filled with thousands of people felt great. Where I come from in Cork is a working class area, people like me aren’t expected to achieve at that level.
After winning the WBO international middleweight title you were invited to a reception with the President of Ireland; Michael D. Higgins, at his residence in the Aras An Uachtarain. How was that as an experience? Did you find out if the president a boxing fan?
When I think of where I grew up, to becoming the first man Cork man to win a WBO title and then being invited to the President’s house it’s the stuff of dreams. It was an amazing experience; I got to bring my parents and my missus. They were all very happy for me that day. I don’t know if Michael D. Higgins is a boxing fan but he’s a lovely guy, very welcoming and down to earth so it was a great experience.
After beating Hall you endured a lengthy lay-off and in 2013 you lost your undefeated record to current world middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. Can you explain the situation at the time?
I was out of the ring for eleven months and I was forced to vacate my WBO international middleweight title. I had one tune up fight that Paschal had arranged for me two months before I fought Saunders. It was a third round stoppage of Tadas Jonkus in Dublin. When I eventually did fight Billy Joe it was for the WBO international title I had vacated. Saunders burst my ear drum early in the fight and I had to deal with that for the rest of the night. I suffered from ring rust but I still believe I could beat him.
You were initially promoted by Frank Warren and then you switched to Murphy Boxing, the brainchild of Ken Casey from the band Drop Kick Murphy’s. Can you explain how that happened?
I knocked out Anthony Fitzgerald in Dublin in November 2014 and someone in the crowd threw a stool at me and it went viral on the internet. Murphy Boxing picked up on it and they offered me a fight in the US in conjunction with Golden Boy Promotions. After the first fight they brought me back for a second one and that’s when I signed a contract with them. They are good people it’s nice working with them.
So with that in mind what’s your favourite music?
Rod Stewart. I’ll probably get into trouble for not saying the Drop Kick Murphy’s but I have to be honest (Laughs).
In 2015 you knocked out Milton Nunez in three rounds in Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Day. Mickey Ward was in your corner that night. How was that experience for you?
It’s one thing to be lucky enough to fight in Madison Square Garden, but to have Mickey Ward in my corner was the stuff of dreams. Paschal couldn’t make my fight because he had to be with another of his fighters so when I heard Mickey Ward was going to be in my corner I was super excited. Nunez was a tough guy, I had seen him warm up on the pads backstage and I thought, ‘holy shit, this guy can punch,’ but after a few rounds he got tired and I got him out of there. It was just an amazing night Mickey Ward is an unbelievably down to earth guy and we went out for a few pints afterwards.
So how did the celebrations go that night?
There is a bit of a story to that night. There had been an after party organised by the promotional team but a couple of days earlier I had been in a bar/restaurant in New York called Jack Doyle’s, I got chatting to the bar man who was from Cork and he invited me to an after party in the bar. After the fight Mickey Ward asked me what I was doing and I said I couldn’t go to the promoters after party because I had promised this other guy I would go to Jack Doyle’s. Mickey said he would go with me, and that was it. It finished up it was a late night but it was a great experience. I’ve met Mickey Ward a few times since and we’ve become friends
You have only lost twice in your professional career. Once to current WBO World middleweight champion; Billy Joe Saunders; who you have an amicable relationship with. The other loss was to Chris Eubank Jr. What’s your opinion of Junior?
I think he’s an arrogant guy. He is a good fighter, he’s very fit, he hits very hard but I still believe I could beat him. I’d like to fight him again down the road if I get the opportunity.
What would you do if you were Chris Eubank Jr. for a day?
I’d probably work on my attitude.
Do you think he believes his own hype?
He does believe his own hype but he’s justified because he is a good fighter. I think he is one of the biggest attractions in boxing. The bottom line is he puts bums on seats. I’d like to see him fight Golovkin. I think there is a real possibility that Eubank Jr. could beat him
While we’re on the topic of fantasy fights, what would be your dream fight right now?
I’d like to fight Golovkin or Eubank Jr. again. I’d like to fight them for a world title.
The last twelve months have seen the retirement of Irish middleweights Eamonn O’Kane and Matthew Macklin, were either of these fighters ever on your radar?
There was a time when Eamonn O’Kane was being touted as an opponent for me, it nearly happened. I had actually sparred with him and I was confident I could have beaten him, but it wasn’t meant to be. There were numerous times when I was offered as an opponent for Matthew Macklin but he didn’t want to fight me. It’s one I also thought I could have won. They are actually both very nice guys but neither of those fights happened and that’s it.
One of the interesting sides to your character is that you seem game for anything, but giving your chosen career would you describe yourself as even tempered?
Yeah I am very mellow but I am also very competitive when I play sport.
Are you a sports fanatic?
I’ve always been sports mad. I love soccer, my favourite team is Manchester United; I’m pretty good at snooker. I love Hurling. I played [GAA] football as recently as two weeks ago. I play junior league football for my local GAA club, Ballinure at the minute.
So how do you manage to fit GAA training around your boxing?
I don’t really train with the lads in the team; I think I only managed one training session with them this year. I just turn up for the matches. I’ll usually play a match on Monday then go to Dublin from Tuesday to Thursday for sparring then back to Cork on Friday to Saturday for my strength and conditioning.
How do you like the dynamic of switching between a team sport and boxing where it’s all about you as an individual?
It’s great being in a team all the camaraderie is good craic. I grew up with all the lads, in fact that’s how I got pulled back into the football when I met some of the lads in a shopping centre at home. They needed players and they asked if I would play, so two hours later I was out on the pitch.
Does being from Mahon in Co. Cork mean a lot to you?
I love where I come from and I’m very proud of that. I like other people from Mahon to do well. I like to encourage people to think, if I can do well at my sport then it’s possible for them to achieve at that level as well. I want to be a good role-model to others. It means an awful lot to me.
You have a young family consisting of your partner and three daughters, how do they manage their feelings about you when it comes to fight night?
I have a young family, three daughters and we’re expecting another child on the 26th September which is just nine days after my next fight. I’ll be getting on a plane straight after the fight and coming back to Ireland. It’s different for them all when it comes to my fights. My missus gets very nervous; she gets a sick feeling in her stomach. My mother [Jacinta] on the other hand is very brave, she knows I am strong and can handle myself. My daughters aren’t at the stage yet where they are aware that I could get badly hurt so it’s not the same for them.
Would you ever encourage any of your daughters into boxing?
Definitely not, maybe I’d show them what to do just for protection, but I would like them to do something else.
This year is my 27th year in boxing. My dad got me into it and I don’t know much else. It takes its toll on your body. I’ve had three broken ribs, burst eardrums and two broken hands. So I wouldn’t like to see my children go through that. Add to that the emotional ups and downs fighters experience outside the ring with promoters and managers. It’s a very tough sport all round and I wouldn’t like my children to go through it.
Outside of the ring you have some acting credits to your name is that something you would like to do after boxing?
Definitely I’d like to be an actor. I’ve done a few shorts, In 2007 I did a film; Strength and Honour with Vinnie Jones and Michael Madsen. I enjoy acting, it’s easier than boxing.
What about Borat 2?
(Laughs) Yeah, sign me up.
What would be your ideal movie role?
I would love to have a role in a boxing movie. I know the sport inside out. I enjoy a lot of boxing movies and I would love to be in one. If I’m being honest I would be interested in doing something in the media if I could get a break.
On the topic of ideal things, what is your ultimate dream day?
Ultimately I would love to win a world title, but any day with my three daughters is a great day. When they are happy I’m happy.
Finally, which would you rather fight a Tyson Fury sized duck, or twenty duck sized Tyson Fury’s?
(Long pause) I think it would have to be twenty duck sized Tyson Fury’s. I think a Tyson Fury sized duck would just puck the head of me and eat me (Laughs).
Thanks for the Interview Spike.
Follow Gary “Spike,” O’Sullivan on twitter; @spike_osullivan