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Ambitious Eamonn O'Kane has a renewed hope of hitting the big time

By Russell Pritchard

Eamonn O'Kane steps up for the biggest fight of his professional career at the Odyssey on Saturday night believing he can finally show his true potential.

Last year, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist suffered a bad defeat at the hands of John Ryder in a British title eliminator but has since lifted the Irish middleweight title.

Now, O'Kane faces former European champion Kerry Hopes of Wales in a vacant IBF inter-continental middleweight title fight.

O'Kane insists the defeat to Ryder was just a blip and that he has learned from that experience.

"I have never ducked anyone, amateur or pro, so when the chance was offered to me at 13 days' notice I took it, even though I had a stone and a half to lose," said O'Kane.

"I'd actually been out the gym for a while because I'd had a cut sparring Martin Lindsay at the Immaculata. I'd had no southpaw sparring to prepare for Ryder and basically worked my b***s off just to shift the weight.

"But it was my decision to step up and things didn't work out. I have to say that John Ryder is a very good talent and a great lad but I'd never take another fight unprepared, as I did that night. That was a lesson learned. You have to be 100% professional."

So now he faces Hope, who after losing his European belt then went on to suffer a fourth round knockout at the hands of Darren Barker – now the IBF World champion.

"You can watch too much of opponents but I've actually been on the same bills as Kerry a couple of times so I know him quite well," said O'Kane.

"Kerry has a very good workrate so I expect a high intensity fight, one that's really good for the Belfast fans to watch.

"But my 'street fighting' style has gone. I'll still throw plenty of punches but I'll be looking to box. No disrespect to Kerry but I strongly believe that I'm a better boxer than he is, a better fighter than he is, and stronger than he is."

* ADAM Nolan bowed out of the AIBA World Elite Championships, despite ending up with more points than his opponent.

The Bray BC welterweight dropped a split decision to France's Souleymane Cissokho in the last-64 clash in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The Brazilian judge scored all three rounds 10-9 to Nolan, but the Azerbaijani and Danish judges leaned in favour of Cissokho (9-10 10-9 9-10) and (10-9 9-10 9-10), so the Frenchman advanced on a 30-27 28-29 28-29 split decision. However, when all the scores were totted up, southpaw Nolan, who works as a garda in Bray, had 86 points and Cissokho's 85.

Nolan's Irish team-mate Paddy Barnes didn't pull any punches in his assessment of the decision.

He tweeted: "#Just watched Adam Nolan get robbed of victory after beating the French man around the ring, disgraceful and embarrassing #almaty2013."

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