Lightweight contender Oisin Fagan, a Dublin native who fights out of Oklahoma City, cannot believe his good fortune. When he learned that he would be fighting on the pre-St. Patrick’s Day show called “Gaelic Storm” at Madison Square Garden on March 15th, he was over the moon.
The card is being promoted by the newly created Celtic Gloves Promotions.
“I was absolutely delighted about the opportunity to fight at the Mecca of Boxing,” said Fagan. “This is the same place where Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Joe Louis and the original Cinderella Man, James J. Braddock, fought so many times.”
Making things even more exciting for the 35-year-old Fagan, who uses the moniker “Gael Force” because of his exciting style, is the fact that Irish junior middleweight James Moore, 14-0 (10 KOs), is headlining the show.
Fagan is eagerly anticipating lacing them up in front of more than 5,000 boisterous fans, nearly all of whom will be Irish in spirit. Also scheduled to appear on the show is undefeated junior middleweight Pawel “Raging Bull” Wolak, 19-0 (13 KOs), who was born in Poland but now lives in Brooklyn.
He, too, can be expected to bring scores of partisan fans, which equates to a great night of boxing for fans of several ethnicities.
Although Fagan, 20-5 (12 KOs), has been plying his trade on the Midwestern circuit, with most of his bouts taking place in and around Oklahoma City, he feels no pressure about fighting on such a high-profile show in the media capital of the world.
“I recently watched the movie “Cinderella Man” for the 50th time, so lots of things are going through my mind,” said the always exuberant, high-energy Fagan. “I can totally relate to that character. I’ve come around at a different time, and I got into boxing accidentally, but I consider myself a contemporary Cinderella Man. This fight will give me a lot of good exposure, which hopefully will lead to a title shot.”
Fagan arrived in the United States in 1998 after receiving a soccer scholarship to the University of Science and Arts in Chickasaha, Oklahoma. Anyone who has seen him fight is not surprised that he played center midfield because, in his own words, he likes to be “in the thick of things.”
Fagan had earned degrees in physical education and political journalism when a family emergency necessitated that he get home to Ireland in a hurry. With no money for airfare, he visited boxer Buck Smith’s Oklahoma City gym and asked if he could make a few dollars as a fighter or a sparring partner.
Fagan’s experience at the time consisted of about three amateur bouts, all of which had taken place years earlier in Ireland.
“I told Buck I needed money, and I asked him to put me in with anyone,” said Fagan.
The colorful Smith, a veteran of 224 pro bouts who made a living barnstorming the world for two decades and last fought in 2007, put Fagan to work and liked what he saw.
With very little gym experience, Fagan turned pro in February 2003 and rattled off three straight knockout victories before incurring his first loss.
Fagan was making lots of fans, one of whom was a public school principal named Phil Cunningham. After one fight, Cunningham approached Fagan and told him that he was in need of a new physical education teacher.
A personal friendship, as well as professional relationship, was born. For the past few years Fagan has taught physical education to children aged 4 to 10 at Columbus Elementary School in Oklahoma City, while also training for boxing at night.
“There must have neen some kind of divine intervention on my behalf,” said Fagan, who is single and says he greatly misses his family and friends back home.
As busy as Fagan is as a teacher, he has been equally busy as a fighter. Until December 2007, he trained seven days a week. Only after he was advised against such vigorous workouts did he slow down the pace a bit.
In his seventh pro fight, in February 2004, he battled Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and lost a four-round decision. At first Fagan believed the youngster was living off of his father’s name, but now thinks he is talented enough to eventually create his own lasting ring legacy.
“He can go all the way,” said Fagan. “He just gets better and better. I think Julio Jr. has even more power than his dad did.”
Fagan was thrilled when Julio Sr. told him that he had given his son his toughest fight to date. Because Fagan and Chavez Jr. have both improved since their meeting, he would love to fight him again if the opportunity ever presents itself.
In Fagan’s last fight, on December 30 at the Mountaineer Race Track in Chester, West Virginia, he lost a 12 round split decision to Verquan Kimbrough, who was 18-1-1 (7 KOs) going in. At stake was the vacant USBA lightweight title. Fagan was not happy with the outcome.
“The record book shows that he beat me by split decision, but that’s just not the way I saw it,” said Fagan. “How could he have beaten me when afterward he went to the hospital and I went out drinking?”
Fagan probably won’t be fighting a rematch with Kimbrough at MSG, but he says whoever they put in front of him will be fine with him.
He is just thrilled to be part of the resurgence of Irish boxing in the United States, and says that it seems like yesterday that he was regularly reading about the exploits of amateur sensations James Moore and Andy Lee back home.
While John Duddy is currently the face of Irish pro boxing in America and beyond, it was Moore and Andy who were the most talked-about amateurs in Ireland for years. Fagan is elated to be sharing a card with someone of Moore’s caliber, whom he greatly respects as both a fighter and a person.
“I am not surprised by his success,” said Fagan. “I’ve been reading about him for years, and I got to know him a while back. He’s a great guy and a great fighter. It’s bomb’s away time for James; it’s time for him to show the world what a great fighter he is.”
Fagan hopes to box for three more years and then contemplate another sporting activity. A self-described gym rat, he needs to be in the mix of whatever activity he participates in. But come March 15th, he will show the world what he already understands about himself.
“I’m not the best fighter in the world, but I have a real fighting Irish heart,” he said. “Win or lose, all of my opponents know that they’ve been in a fight. Anybody I fight is going to get all that they can handle.”
Tickets are expected to go on sale late in the week of February 11th, and can be purchased through Ticketmaster or by calling Celtic Gloves at 917-559-8467 or Gleason’s Gym at 718-797-2872.
For sponsorship and advertising opportunities, contact Mike O’Sullivan at 516-242-0428