Shannon O’Connell on world title opportunity: “I know that I’m in for a hard fight”

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NOTHING has ever come easy for Shannon O’Connell.

A hard upbringing and a far from easy journey as a professional has given the Brisbane-based mother of two a perspective on the sport unlike many others who have competed before her.

The road less travelled has now led her to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she will challenge IBF super bantamweight ruler and lineal champion Marcela Eliana Acuna (45-6-1, 19 KOs), for the right to be named the best fighter in her respective division.

True to her narrative as both a person and athlete, O’Connell (15-4-1, 7 KOs) has the opportunity to win a legitimate world title, albeit in the most difficult of circumstances, having had just four weeks to prepare whilst dealing with the loss of her late grandfather.

“I haven’t had the most ideal preparation,” admitted O’Connell in an interview with Aus-Boxing.

“My grandfather passed away the other week and he was more like a father to me than a grandfather. The way I look at it – nothing has ever come easy to me – I’m hoping that when I’m in that ring, things will all kick in. I don’t know anything else but to fight.”

“It’s going to be really hard to win over in Argentina. Obviously it’s easier to win a fight in your own backyard – I understand that – and I know everything is going to be against me. She didn’t want to come to Australia, so I didn’t have any other option.”

“We really pushed hard to have the fight on the Pacquiao-Horn undercard, but they felt they were ripped off last time when she fought here. So it was either fight in Argentina or I lose my mandatory position. At the end of the day if it’s what I have to do to fight for a world title, then that’s what I’ll do.”

O’Connell, 34, is the first Australian to challenge for world title honours in Argentina in over four decades, since Australian boxing stalwart Tony Mundine challenged the great Carlos Monzon for his WBA middleweight throne – also in Buenos Aires – in 1974.

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Given that she is a firm underdog and fighting away from home, O’Connell believes that she needs to be concise in both her approach and execution on fight night. As Acuna has been stopped just once in a two-decade long career, there is a strong likelihood that the Australian will be going the full ten round duration.

“I believe I need to beat her to the punch,” she explained. “I’m not going over there thinking I can knock her out. It’s not my plan, but hopefully I can make it convincing enough so that the judges see it my way.”

“I don’t believe she has been in the type of fights I have been in. My fight in Canada proved that I won’t give up and that I will be there until the end. I know that I’m in for a hard fight, but I know I can do it.”

In her past challenges against world level opposition in fights with Dianna Prazak, Dayana Cordero, Gabisile Tshabalala and Hyun Mi Choi, O’Connell has always fought above her natural weight. However, as fate will have it, her latest title tilt will come at a weight which is most natural to her, being in the super bantamweight division.

Although opportunities are often aplenty in boxing, O’Connell plans to make a statement in her most significant fight yet.

“I have never had this opportunity at this weight division before and I don’t look at this as experience,” she concluded. “I’ve already had the experience; it doesn’t mean anything to me. I have fought in front of 10,000 people. For me, it’s knowing that I have fought hard, I don’t believe that I could’ve fought harder than I have in the past.”

“I do believe that if I fight as hard as I have in the past that I can win. With everything that has gone on in life and what I have been through in the last month, it would be good to get away and focus on just boxing.”

“From the day I turned professional, I always just wanted to be world number one – and Acuna is the world number one – so beating her would make me the best in the world. To be able to say that I’m the best in the world in the sport that I have chosen, means more to me than any belt.”

“I really believe I can win. If I don’t win, I can say I lost to the best in the world.”

Photo: Louie Abigail

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