“To realise one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” (Paulo Coelho, Brazilian novelist)
Cork boxer Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan connected with Paulo Coelho’s debut novel ‘The Alchemist’ from the moment he turned the first page. The adventures of Santiago, a shepherd boy, who embarks on a long journey in pursuit of treasure, has resonated with him ever since.
In the early hours of tomorrow morning (Irish time) in Las Vegas, the 34-year-old Mahon native get his shot at the jackpot.
He will trade leather with former world middleweight champion David Lemieux from Canada on the same bill as the ‘Fight of the Year’, the middleweight rematch between Gennady Golovkin and Saul Canelo Alvarez.
O’Sullivan’s fight has been designated by the World Boxing Association as an official final eliminator for a world title contest. So if the Corkman prevails, he can look forward to a crack at the winner of the Alvarez/Golovkin showdown. Regardless of how he would fare, such a high-profile fight would propel him into the millionaire bracket.
His journey toward boxing’s El Dorado has been anything but straightforward.
There have been crippling setbacks: losses in clutch fights to Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank Jr in 2013 and 2015 respectively – his eardrum was perforated in both contests – caused him to question his destiny.
On other occasions, he was his own worst enemy.
He once had to shed 18lbs in 14 days to make the weight.
“I ended up getting conjunctivitis which was caused by putting too much stress on my body both mentally and physically. I was living the life,” he acknowledges.
He still won that fight against a useful British pro Matthew Hall.
His lifestyle was a throwaway to a different era in pro boxing. He was drinking to excess and eating too much junk food. He had to expend too much energy to make the 160lb middleweight limit.
“After the Eubank fight I thought I was finished with boxing. I had a lot of time to think. I had a lot of regrets because I didn’t prepare to the best of my ability.
“Paschal Collins, my trainer, was always telling me that I had never given it 100pc. He used to say, ‘you haven’t even given it 80pc’.
“I remember thinking, ‘Jesus Christ, my career is over here and I didn’t even try. I am a changed person now. I’m trying to give it all I’ve got in every single way.”
O’Sullivan, now on the books of Oscar De la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, quit drinking just over six months ago and ever since his appetite for junk food and fizzy drinks has disappeared.
His performances have improved incrementally, highlighted by his showing in what was essentially his breakthrough fight against American middleweight Antoine Douglas in Quebec last December.
Knocking out Douglas, who was being groomed for a possible shot at a world middleweight belt, was the best Christmas present the Cork native ever received.
It enabled him to become a player in the big stakes and with the backing of Golden Boy he can reach for the stars, provided he keeps on winning.
There is a genuine belief in the O’Sullivan camp that victory is within their grasp.
For the third time in his career he faces a moment of destiny – the difference this time is that he couldn’t have prepared better. He can now trust destiny.