MASSACHUSETTS NATIVE DANNY O’CONNOR IS BRINGING EXCITEMENT BACK TO BOXING
By Kim Dunbar
Danny O’Connor enjoys the good things in life because he’s been to the bottom.
In April 2011, right before a big Showtime-televised fight, O’Connor began coughing up blood. He fought, but suffered a broken nose and the first ~ and only ~ loss of his career (18-1, 7 KOs). At the hospital, after many tests and surgery for his nose, O’Connor was diagnosed with anemia caused by a bleeding ulcer.
“It was one of those instances where I should have broken out and become a star,” said the 27-year-old Framingham native. “Everything went opposite of how I had played it out.”
But O’Connor, with the support of his wife Diane, never stopped believing. A few months later, he bought a one-way ticket to Houston to train with boxing pro Ronnie Shields. “I didn’t know what would happen,” said O’Connor, who left with no money and without Diane and their then three-month-old son.
In Houston, O’Connor was reunited with an old friend ~ Worcester native Edwin Rodriguez ~ with whom he came through the amateur ranks and trained at the Worcester Boys and Girls Club when they were teenagers. Being with his old roommate was a bonus, but like Rodriguez, O’Connor was there for Shields.
“His style as a coach fit my style as a fighter,” said O’Connor. “I am learning every second I am around him, as a person and as a fighter.”
O’Connor, who started boxing at age 16, has always focused on progression. As an amateur, he amassed a 95-8 record and in 2008 was an alternate for the Olympic team, as well as the National Gold Gloves Champion and U.S. Future Stars Champion. The future was bright for Danny O, who often fought in homemade boxing shorts (growing up without cable, his mother taught him to sew ~ O’Connor is also a sophisticated baker!).
With the help of Shields and new manager Dropkick Murphys frontman Ken Casey (O’Connor met Casey while working with the musician’s foundation), O’Connor is back on track and bringing a new edge to his sport. In May, he headlined the first ever fight at the House of Blues in Boston (he won by TKO) and in August, O’Connor, a huge soccer fan, became the first boxer to ever fight at Gillette Stadium, directly following the conclusion of a New England Revolution game.
“I want to get fans excited about the sport,” O’Connor said on combining boxing with music and other sports. “It’s new and it’s something great. People like to see new stuff ~ it’s an opportunity to get people excited.”
When he’s not in the ring or spending time with his family ~ he splits time between Framingham and Houston ~ he’s in the gym or staying active. “I might work out too much,” he joked.
But O’Connor, a self-proclaimed perfectionist, knows what he needs to do in order to become a world champion. “That has been my goal since the second I picked up the gloves,” he said.
After all, he knows what it’s like to be at the bottom.
Visit www.dannyoconnorboxing.com for more information on O’Connor’s upcoming September 29 fight at Foxwoods.