TALENT AND SKILL will always shine no matter what the sport is. But the boxing world must have got quite a shock when Rathnew football star Stephen Canavan claimed the Leinster light heavyweight title at the National Stadium last week in his very first competitive tournament.
Better known on the football fields Stephen has used boxing to keep himself fit over the winter months for several years but besides sparring he never entertained the thoughts of going competitive.
"I'm more known for the football but after the football finished each year I'd go boxing down in Gorey to keep fit. This year we decided to get a boxing club up and going and this is my first proper competition. I've always had a passion for it but I never had the time because the football is so serious in Rathnew," said Stephen.
And where better to launch an amateur career at the ripe young age of 27 than in the National Stadium against the best boxers in the province. A bye in the first round sent the Rathnew man straight into the quarter-finals where he met a St Saviours fighter. Victory here saw him take on a Cellbridge boxer in the semi-final and once through this encounter he faced Phibsboro fighter Anthony Murphy in the Leinster final.
His first encounter however was slightly disturbing to Stephen as he wondered if he was signed up in the wrong weight class given the size of his opponent at the weigh-in.
"I thought I was in the wrong weight," he said. "He was tall, about 6ft 2 and I'm about 5ft 11 but they had bigger upper bodies but I suppose I'd be strong from all the football training, the lifting of tractor tyres and all that," he added.
From here Stephen plans an assault on the All-Irelands over the coming months and if he continues his preparations and gets the kind of support that travelled from Rathnew to the National Stadium to watch him box then he has every chance.
"There was about 50 people up there from Rathnew, it was fantastic," he said.
Stephen credits his decision to get into the ring to Blessington boxing coach Gerry O'Neill who advised the Rathnew man to get into the ring.
"I called over to see Gerry about advice for coaching that I do in Rathnew and he asked me if I ever boxed before and I said I had always trained and he told me to go for it.
"So I thought to myself I'm 27 now so if I don't do it now I never will," he said.