Home Boxing News In Depth with Dean Byrne

In Depth with Dean Byrne

Irish welterweight star Dean Byrne features on Nathan Cleverly’s massive undercard at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday 28th April when he takes on Terry Holmes over eight rounds.

It’s the first time world championship boxing has been held at the iconic venue in 13 years and it will televised live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).

Cleverly headlines the action packed card with the fourth defence of his WBO World Light-Heavyweight title against WBO number four ranked Robin Krasniqi.

Boxing writer Glynn Evans talks to Byrne about his background, career and future plans.

Name: Dean Byrne

Weight: Welterweight

Born: Crumlin, Dublin

Age: 27

Family background: I’m the eldest of three. I’ve a younger sister and a younger brother. Me brother boxes. He’s 24 and took to it late. He’s just had his first couple of novice bouts.

There’s always been boxing on me ma’s side of the family; me granddad and me uncles. Paul Griffin (the 1991 European amateur featherweight champion) is ma’s cousin.

Today I live in Mile End (east London) with me son Deano and me partner.

Trade: I do little ‘one-to-one’ personal training sessions and take seminars on personal fitness and my boxing career. Otherwise, I’m a full time pro.

Nickname: ‘Irish Lightning’. When I first turned pro it was ‘White Lightning’ but I changed it when I went to America.

What age did you become interested in boxing and why? Dad took me down the Crumlin gym when I was about ten and within a fortnight, I’d had my first fight against the visiting Ladywood club from Birmingham. I won so must have been a natural. I fell in love with it ever since.

What do you recall of your amateur career? I stayed at the Crumlin club all the way through my amateur career and was coached there by Phil Sutcliffe (a two time European amateur bronze medallist 1977 and 1979) who once boxed Daniel Zaragoza in the Olympics.

I had well over 100 amateur contests and I’d say I only lost about 14 or 15. I won two All-Ireland Intermediate titles but, when I was just 17, I had a baby daughter who was ‘still born’ and, after that, I needed a bit of time out.

I should’ve won the seniors too but, after easily eliminating the favourite Eugene MacEneaney by something like 20 points to 3, I celebrated a bit too early and got beat the following week by Keith Boyle in the semis. Beating MacEneaney was probably my amateur highlight. I also beat Paul and Patrick Hyland.

I boxed a few internationals. I beat (future British superfeatherweight champion) Gary Sykes and also (hot prospect) Bradley Skeete on a Dublin versus London Select show at Crystal Palace. I also got a bronze at a multi-nations in Bosnia and I boxed over in Australia.

The scoring in the amateurs was a joke. Boxing away from home I’d always find myself about ten points down at the end of round one when I’d felt I’d dominated the round. It seemed they marked them up for me hitting them! Still, I enjoyed the amateurs and I’m not bitter. Whether your arm was raised or not, it proved a great learning curve that served me well when I began my pro career over in Australia and later in America

Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? I went with an amateur squad to Australia which I thought was a great country. Ma’s cousin Paul Griffin was out there and I got working with (legendary Aussie trainer) Johnny Lewis and a guy called Jimmy Reynolds. They were very good to me. I decided to settle out there, went pro and, within five fights, I was Australian light-welter champion. They move you quick out there and, for my seventh fight, they wanted to get me an Intercontinental fight with someone world ranked which I thought was a little too fast so I took a step back and moved to America where I had a couple of aunts.

Tell us about your time in the States: I was looked after by Freddie Roach and trained at his famous Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California. My first spar was against Michael Katsidis and we had a bit of a war. I wasn’t fit, had just come off the plane, but Freddie must have been impressed and said I could stay. I ended up there for three years, staying in the house Freddie has for some of his fighters beside the gym.

Sparring was mental. You think you can fight but the fellas over there can really fight! I needed to watch, listen and sharpen my own tools which is what I did.

I won six fights straight but didn’t have as many as I’d hoped because of visa problems. I had some hard, hard fights; fought a tall Mexican southpaw called Jose Reynosa who was 10-2 at the time, was smart and could bang. I dropped him three times but he just kept getting up (Byrne won unanimously after eight rounds).

Eventually I left because I was missing my son so much. I was missing crucial months out of his life I could never get back. Family is more important than boxing.

You conceded your unbeaten record last October when, at just 24 hours notice, you stepped in for Frankie Gavin against Frank Haroche Horta: Yeh, I spent my first year back training in Manchester with Arnie Farnell. He had a great set of lads in Frankie (Gavin), Matty Hall, Ronnie Heffron, Don Broadhurst. It was a good crack and I did a lot of sparring with Frankie, a really talented kid, great skills, but I was still away from the family. Manchester might as well have been California.

A week previously I’d outpointed Michael Frontin in an eight rounder and I’d been out the gym resting on a couch for a week when I got the call. I’d not had any southpaw sparring for a while either. I didn’t even have any butterflies in the dressing room.

Horta was tough but slow and less strong than Frontin had been. (Dean retired on his stool after eight of a scheduled 12 rounder).I’d love to fight him again to get over the hump. I know I could beat him.

Tell us about your back up team today: I’m managed and promoted by Frank Warren and really hope he can do for me what he’s done for others.

I’m trained by Mark and Jimmy Tibbs at the TKO Gym in Canning Town and feel like I should’ve gone there from the get-go. Being close to my family again, I’m really enjoying my boxing now.

I feel I’m really starting to come good. The Tibbs have had positive input in so many areas. Coming from America, I trained my heart out every day but they’ve slowed me up, showed me that’s not the way to do it. They’ve improved my defence and head movement.

In sparring, you can’t tell too much because you’re not trying to rip the guys head off –  just working on moves and defence – but I’m really looking forward to showcasing my talent with the help of Team Tibbs when I return in an eight rounder at the Albert Hall on 28th April.

What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? At the minute, I’m training Monday to Friday mornings for a couple of hours with the Tibbs’s at the TKO and I run every other day. I always have a good run on a Saturday morning.

At the gym, I do whatever Mark tells me but it’d be something like eight rounds of shadow boxing, alternating between one round with hand weights and one without. At the minute, I’ve been sparring (recent British light-welter challenger) Ben Murphy which has been very good. Then I might have 15 minutes on the bike and a ten minute skip before finishing with about 20 minutes groundwork for the core; the push ups, dorsels, bunny hopping up and down the gym. I’m learning a lot of new stuff and I’m really enjoying it. There’s a lot of trainers and fighters at the gym from our camp and others, so there’s always lots of good banter.

I most enjoy the sparring. You can run and punch pads for as long as you want but, basically, tough sparring’s the only way to really get fit for a fight. You need that physical contact. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I least enjoy making weight and think I’ll be moving up to welter. My body’s growing and lately I’ve become a lot bigger and stronger. With the extra seven pounds, I’m sure I can bring my power up with me.

Describe your style? What are your best qualities? I’m a box-fighter. Personally, I don’t mind a scrap but my trainers are always on at me that I’ll win easier if I stick with my boxing. I’ve a bit of power in both hands – right cross, left hook- and I like to think I’m smart enough.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? When I first turned pro in Oz, I went into six (three-minute) rounds straight away. At the time, the amateurs was four-twos so you needed to learn to take your time. Still, I’d advice all young fighters to ‘stay in school’ (amateur) and get as much experience as possible. Use that World Series of Boxing, get to know the ring.

Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? It’d have to be Pacquiao.

In Australia, I sparred Sakio Bika, Tony Mundine, Billy Dib, Lovemore NDou and Gary St Clair.  Then, at the Wild Card, any given day there’d be any number of world champions in there and I sparred the likes of Pacquiao, Victor Ortiz, Amir (Khan) several times. I’ve sparred (Yuriorkis) Gamboa and he’s superfast but Amir’s speed is ridiculous, overwhelming. It took quite a while to figure it out.

But, overall, Manny would have to be the best. His work rate was unbelievable. You’d not know what to expect. He’d just detonate these explosive combos and he’s very clever with. Freddie sees to it that he has excellent game plans. Every camp, Manny gets bigger, stronger, smarter.

All time favourite fighter: I’d have to say Ali. Legend isn’t he?! Growing up it was Prince Naseem (Hamed). He was ‘The Man’.

All time favourite fight: I’d say the first Pacquiao-Marquez fight when Marquez was down three times in the first round but clawed his way back to a draw.

Which current match would you most like to see made? Amir Khan-Kell Brook. Amir’s a friend but I think Kell beats him. He has all aspects needed.

What is your routine on fight day? I’ll have a lie in until about 9.30 then I’ll have a porridge breakfast. You spend all the weeks in the build up analysing your opponent, considering your tactics so, on the day, I just want to try to forget about it, enjoy some time with my son, go the park.

When I go out the front door, I’m going to work, just as your average man does on a Monday morning. In the changing rooms, I like to put my feet up and listen to what my coaches want me todo. I try to stay as calm and relaxed as possible.

Entrance music: ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ by the Dropkick Murphys. It was the theme to the movie The Departed.

What are your ambitions as a boxer? After this fight, I’d like either a Celtic or Irish title fight. Whatever comes along, I’ll fight for. I have a dream in my heart to be world champion. I’ve sparred with so many and always held my own, never felt out of place.

How do you relax? I like to spend time with my boy, bring him down the park. There’s not a shop we’ll pass without him getting ice cream but he’s a good kid. I like to play the pool and snooker on Sunday, my day off. I’m not bad. I also like a spot of poker but I’m trying to give up the gambling!

Football team: I’m not really into it. I played the Gaelic sports at school.

Read: Not much, just the boxing magazines.

Music: I’m easy, listen to all types. I’ve loads on my iPod.

Films/TV: I like the action packed films; Scarface, Gladiator, Shawshank Redemption. On the box, I like the quizzes; Deal or No Deal, The Weakest Link, The Chase.

Aspiration in life: Just that my memory lives on. To be remembered for good things, in and out of the ring.

Motto: Train Hard. Fight Easy.

Cleverly v Krasniqi is live and exlcusive on Saturday 28th April on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).  Join at www.boxnation.com

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