Heart of a Lion: O'Brien Looks to Bounce Back

O'Brien turned professional earlier this year (Photo courtesy of Team O'Brien).

Written by John Archibald, Resolution Sports

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Welterweight Vinny O’Brien Returns to Action on September 14th

As someone who has seen every second of welterweight Vinny “The Lion” O’Brien’s (2-1, 2 KOs) professional career, I can confirm that there has never been a non-entertaining moment amid the 11 rounds he has boxed over three fights. His brawling demeanor has allowed no breaks from the action, although that open style eventually cost him his first defeat when he suffered a setback at the hands of scrappy Rafael Montalvo this past May in Newark. Some may have already jumped ship on this young prospect from East Hanover, New Jersey, but I am one boxing journalist who has not. Just like he has proven each time he has stepped into the ring, all it takes is a quick conversation with O’Brien outside of it to know that there is not an ounce of quit in his heart.

“I truly think that loss was a blessing in disguise,” O’Brien commented to me in a recent conversation. “It really made me go back to my blueprints of who I am as a boxer and who I am as a person. My personal opinion is anyone can handle wins, but when you’re faced with a loss, it truly forces you to show what your character is and what you’re made of.”

Following that loss to Montalvo, time could not pass quickly enough for O’Brien to prove exactly what kind of character he had.

“From the get-go, I just wanted to get back in the ring. That’s my home, and I love being in that ring and that environment,” he said. “This camp, we went back to the blueprints. We brought in someone to raise my boxing IQ, and we focused on becoming more elusive, as well as being a more tactical and technical-style fighter. I’m just really trying to grow in this sport.”

After O’Brien dropped Montalvo in the second frame of their pairing, he appeared to have regained control of the action, only to see his Puerto Rican counterpart retaliate with a knockdown of his own in the same round. The battle then see-sawed the rest of the way before referee Earl Morton called a halt in the fourth frame. The action was so close that it would have been a tossup had it gone to the ringside judges, but O’Brien feels the result that occurred may have ironically been the best that could have happened for him.

“If I would’ve squeaked by and gotten that win, I don’t think I would’ve humbled myself and learned as much as I did in this camp,” he admitted. “Everything happens for a reason.”

And what are some of those things O’Brien and trainer Lou Esa worked on most heavily in this camp?

“Being more technically sound, keeping my hands in the places where they need to be. Not always having a brawl and being a smarter boxer,” O’Brien remarked. “I’m not a veteran right now. But if I act like it, if I preach it and if I do it, sooner or later, I will be a veteran boxer. I have three fights under my belt, so I know what it’s like to be in there. I know it’s wild and crazy, so I need to be more relaxed. I need to be more technically sound as a fighter and not always a brawler. I can brawl when I need to brawl, but mainly I need to box when I need to box. I want to leave this sport still talking. I don’t want to just get hit in the face all day.”

Something that O’Brien has been receiving high accolades for within the boxing community is his extreme toughness in the ring, and deservedly so. While he appreciates the acknowledgement, the New Jersey native says that he has a long way to go before he is satisfied with himself.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing those things. The respect and the good press are great, but I’m truly nobody in this sport right now,” he stated. “I’m a little ripple in this big pond. I’m no wave yet. I’m trying to get up there and be a world class champion fighter – that’s who I want to be. I have to keep growing, and I have to keep learning.”

Beginning his amateur boxing career at the age of 20 in 2008, the 24-year-old O’Brien did not have the opportunity to gain as many years of experience as fighters who start at an earlier age. The 2010 New Jersey Golden Gloves Champion is the first to admit that disadvantage has shortened his learning curve.

“For me, I’m learning on the job,” he said. “I didn’t have an extensive amateur background like a lot of guys do, so everyday I’m doing something to better myself as a boxer, whether it be watching film or working on something in the gym. Like I said, I’m a ripple now, not a wave. It’s nice when people give me a little bit of homage or respect for what I’ve been doing in the ring, but, at the end of the day, I’m nobody yet. However, I’m doing everything I can everyday to become somebody in this sport.”

O’Brien now looks to continue creating that wave when he next returns to the ring on Wednesday, September 14th, at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, New Jersey. Tickets for that show are available now by contacting Lou Esa via phone at (973) 885-7962.

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