Boxing: Egan grateful for revolutionary series
Published 08/12/2010 | 15:14
When Kenny Egan controversially came up short in his Beijing Olympic light-heavyweight final against home favourite Xiaoping Zhang, many believed they had seen the last of the Ireland captain in an amateur vest.
In a sense they were right. While Egan resisted the lure of the professional game, he would indeed trade in his vest and headguard to sign up for the Miami Gallos for inaugural season of the global World Series of Boxing.
Many, including Great Britain, resisted the lure of the new competition, in which fighters sign three-year contracts and receive salaries. But Egan jumped at the chance to further his amateur career.
Egan told the Press Association: "I did have the chance to go professional but after coming so close in Beijing it wasn't such a hard decision to stay in the amateurs and look at giving it one last shot in 2012.
"If you'd told me before Beijing I was going to come home with the silver medal I would have taken it with both hands but the way it happened with the scoring in the final it did leave me with a little something more to aim at.
"I've been Irish national champion for 10 years but it will mean nothing for the next two years. There are young guys aiming to take my place and I needed that little bit extra to aim for - and that's what fighting for the WSB gives me."
As well as being funded in Miami, Egan remains contracted to the Irish Sports Council as a podium squad athlete, providing him and his fellow Irish WSB fighter John Joe Nevin will almost unprecedented financial security.
According to the WSB's chief operating officer Ivan Khodabakhsh this system means many leading fighters with the organisation receive cash incentives few fighters in the unpredictable professional ranks can hope for.
"Kenny, for example, has his health insurance fully covered, his accommodation, food and training costs covered, as well as still being able to receive any additional funding from his country because he is on their Olympic team.
"The figure may not seem much but when you factor in the costs it is virtually a net amount. The overall package is for sure much better than you would see anywhere in professional boxing outside Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao."
Great Britain were not so convinced. A prospective London team was abandoned due to financial concerns, and no British fighters are currently contracted to the WSB, although the British Amateur Boxing Association say things could change.
Derek Mapp, the BABA's executive chairman, said: "We are supportive of the aims of the World Series of Boxing; however, the current financial structures mean it would be unwise for us to commit to running a franchise at this stage."
Egan believes the benefits to him personally will be huge. The format, which has been deliberately designed to mimic the paid ranks with five three minute rounds fought without vests or headgear, fosters a professional attitude in an ostensibly amateur sport.
"It was my first time boxing without a headguard in 20 years of boxing and to be honest I felt naked at first," added Egan. "I was nervous and didn't know what to expect. But it's all an experience which is going to help me."
Egan's debut went to plan with a points win over Dorian Anthony which helped Miami record a debut 3-2 win over Los Angeles Matadors - although Egan sustained a cut which will rule him out until the new year.
Having returned to his home in Clondalkin, just outside Dublin, a national hero after his exploits in Beijing, Egan struggled to get to grips with his new-found fame and found his personal life splashed across news pages.
For a man who insists he has no interest in the celebrity lifestyle, his drafting across the Atlantic may have come as a blessing in disguise as he seeks to buckle down and claim that elusive Olympic gold.
Egan added: "To be honest I'm glad I'm out of the country for a while. I'm only interested in getting on the back pages. I worked hard to get where I am today but I'm an Olympic silver medallist and nothing more.
"I'm an athlete, not a celebrity. I'm not going to go on an island with a load of other celebrities. I got offered to go on some ice skating thing but I'm not interested. All I care about is finishing my career with an Olympic gold."