Out in the Midwest, Oisin Fagan, a former Leinster Junior Cup finalist with Portmarnock is pursuing an almost accidental ring career that has him enmeshed in a rivalry with the teenage son of Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr.
The Oklahoma City-based lightweight is state champion and 8-3 with five KOs since making what he thought would be a one-off pro appearance to raise money for a one-way ticket back home nearly two and a half years ago.
His last hopes of a soccer career shattered by knee problems and struggling to find a decent job 12 months after graduating from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO), Fagan had decided to return to Dublin but was short on his fare.
So he looked around for a fight to make a quick buck and was offered $200 to go four rounds with one Sheldon Mostly at the AMC Flea Market in Oklahoma City. Fagan starched Mosley in the final heat and looked so good doing it that the trip back home was put on hold. He’s still around, still fighting and has a day job, to boot.
The Columbus Elementary physical education teacher is also feuding with the Chavez camp, furious that they’ve allegedly reneged on what he understood to be a verbal commitment they made for a rematch on the June 25 Gatti-Mayweather show in Atlantic City.
“What’s annoying is that they had given verbal assurances that we’d get a rematch on June 25. I’d even changed my flight arrangements,” said Fagan, before flying back to Dublin for a six-week summer vacation.
“His management team said I was too tough for him. I’m disappointed,” he added.
With just three amateur fights under his belt from the four-year period that he trained with an amateur club in Dublin to improve his soccer fitness, Fagan gave the then 18 year-old Chavez all he could handle in their first bout at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas early last year.
“George Foreman told me I was unlucky to lose. He thought I deserved at least a draw,” recounted Fagan, who was dropped in the third stanza and lost a four round unanimous decision.
“It was a flash knock down. More of a slip than anything else,” he said dismissively of his trip to the canvas.
He hopes to get Chavez Jr., son of Mexico’s greatest ever fighter and a kid who grew up breathing boxing, back in the ring some day. But he also has his sights set on an Irish crown.
“It’s not out of the question that I can get a minor world title,” Fagan muses.
As wild a departure as it may seem from his youthful ambition to play professional soccer, boxing has been part of his life for the past decade.
“I started boxing at 21 in Dublin and the reason being I was a stickler for fitness,” he explained. “My team only trained three times a week and we played Sundays. I wanted to train every day so I joined Portmarnock boxing club.”
Fagan was a 5-foot-six midfielder for Dublin amateur side Portmarnock with a quick temper and equally quick fists.
“I was a small fellow and all the bigger guys thought they’d have a go at me,” he said recalling the bullying he experienced on the pitch.
He dreamt of football fame and fortune and showed enough promise to attract the interest of a Leeds United scout at the 1996 Leinster Junior Cup Final before the Elland Road club’s fall from glory.
“Next season,” the scout promised.
Then the first of two life-altering injuries struck. Fagan spent most of the next year sidelined by a pelvic injury. But as his Leeds prospects slipped away, another door opened.
An offer came in for a soccer scholarship to a small liberal arts school in Oklahoma from another scout that had been at the Leinster final. Fagan accepted and moved stateside where he began his freshman year at USAO in August 1998 at age 24.
A physical education and political journalism double major, he starred at USAO where he captained the soccer team and won All-Conference and All-American honors.
Approaching his senior year, things were looking up for Fagan.
“I was hoping for an MLS future. I had a few contacts and they were inquiring.”
But once again fate struck. A cartilage problem in his left knee meant a career ending operation in his last year in school. Things got worse after graduation as he struggled to find a job.
Unable to support himself on his uncertain income as a personal trainer, Fagan approached Buck Smith, a former pro who run a gym, for a fight to make some money to buy a ticket back home.
As it turned out, Smith was looking for fighters and threw him in against Mosley. Smith insisted the Dubliner stick around after his impressive debut and became his manager.
They picked up their first title when Fagan, after a stint in Las Vegas training with Wayne McCullough, pointed Lee Cargle over six rounds for the then vacant Oklahoma State lightweight championship.
Fagan describes his style in the ring as terrier-like.
“I’m short and stocky and like to fight inside a lot. I’m boxing a lot more now after starting off as a brawler-puncher.”