Stephen Haughian knows his career has been a case of what might have been and that’s why he is thankful to promoter Mick Hennessy handing him the opportunity to change the storyline.
The Lurgan man will turn 28 this month and despite holding the Irish welterweight title he hasn’t boxed in 18 months. To say he was demoralised would be a serious understatement.
A cocktail of rough justice, missed opportunities and periods of inactivity all added up to being overwhelmed by frustration as his career stalled.
So on December 1 at the Odyssey Arena on the supporting bill to Tyson Fury, Haughian will seek to re-ignite his belief that he can go on and win the British welterweight title with a victory over John O’Donnell.
Former Commonwealth champion O’Donnell is looking to find a way back to British title contention having lost to Craig Watson last year for the vacant title — the man who he had taken the Commonwealth belt from two years earlier.
Haughian said: “I can’t believe that it’s 18 months since I last boxed, it’s like I’m coming out of retirement to fight again.
“But you know all the experiences that I have had have just made me stronger. I thought my career could have gone better, I believe that I still have to fulfill my potential and I’m just glad that I’ve been given the chance to fight again.
“And it’s great that I’m getting to fight John O’Donnell because it’s a bit of a grudge fight — he avoided me two years ago when we wanted the fight but now it’s on which is great.
“It was suggested that the fight should be for my Irish title but I wouldn’t have had enough time to get ready so it’s an eight rounder and there’s a lot at stake for both of us.
“I’ve had a tough time, I just seemed to be ignored even though I have a record 21 wins two defeats and one draw but I’m feeling great and I’ll be ready to go and win.
“Of course being out for 18 months means there will be a little rust but I’ll get rid of a lot of that in the gym and I always keep myself in good shape. I work in a community centre in Lurgan and take fitness classes there.”
Coach John Breen is confident that Haughian can come through to win what he believes is a “50-50 fight” with the winner then on the trail of British welterweight champion Frankie Gavin.
Breen said: “Boxing’s a tough business and Stephen has really had a tough time over the past couple of years but now he can get going again with a win over O’Donnell.
“It’s a fight we have wanted for some time and obviously with Stephen being out of the ring for 18 months it won’t be easy but I believe Stephen will win it.
“And a win over O’Donnell will put him in the frame for a fight with Gavin for the British title — that’s the aim.”
Meanwhile, Paul McCloskey has announced that he will now be coached by Bernardo Checa.
McCloskey tweeted: “John Breen was made fully aware of my issues days after my last fight by my manager. He and I know the reasons why I have moved on.”
Tickets for the Odyssey show can be bought from Breen’s Gym (078 0289 8054).