CHRISTMAS is canceled for Kelyn Cassidy – whose bid to become an Olympian begins now.
The Waterford star cemented his place as Ireland’s top light heavyweight by securing three consecutive Irish titles in Dublin on Saturday evening.
Cassidy, 26, had to do it the hard way and beat one of his best friends, Galway puncher Gabriel Dossen.
Dossen, a two-time elite middleweight champion with European gold to his name, had moved up to the 80kg class after his 75kg class was dropped from the Olympic squad.
The winner here was a certificate to make the team for a world qualifying tournament in Italy at the end of February – and Cassidy took it with both hands.
It was a southpaw who dropped Dossen in the first round, while his right hook looked dangerous for the duration of their bitter three-round fight.
After the verdict was announced, the two hugged each other in the ring as they realized the magnitude of the result.
Cassidy told SunSport: “Christmas is canceled – the big picture is the Olympics.”
“If I want anything from boxing, I just want to be an Olympian.
“I want to do my best to become an Olympic champion.
“I’m really emotional. I box there with one of my best friends; we have been boxing together in the Irish team for years. All credit goes to Gabriel, a class operator.
“But at the end of the day you have to forget about the feelings in the ring. Look, he pushed me right to the wire.
“I had to pull out all my tricks to beat him.”
The knockdown gave Cassidy momentum and while Dossen was strong, especially in the third round, the Déise warrior was able to land enough to stay in the lead.
He added: “My left hand is my strongest hand. It’s good to get the result. I knew I needed a good win here to definitely make the weight.
“We’re like brothers, so it’s emotional. See, we ended up standing there for a while holding each other because we’re really good friends.
“And I know it’s sport and you can’t be friends in there, but I’m going to meet up with Gabriel afterwards and meet him for a drink or whatever. Nothing but respect for him.”
Their fight was arguably the most anticipated bout of the night, along with the featherweight decider in which Jude Gallagher defeated Adam Hession.
Cassidy summed it up, adding: “This is the fight everyone wanted to see. I was on social media for an hour in the morning and it was the talk of social media – Gabriel Dossen and Kelyn Cassidy. People were posting bits of our sparring and everything.
“Those are the big fights you want to be a part of.
“You remember the fights when Darren O’Neill fought Darren Sutherland and the excitement of it.”
Cassidy has reached the quarterfinals of the World Championships and European Games, suffering narrow defeats even though he would have finished on the podium with victories.
He added: “I’ve just had a few difficult draws. I had a tough draw at the European Games, achieved two good victories and in the fight for qualification I will ultimately face Oleksandr Khyzhniak from Ukraine.
However, the Olympic silver medalist and actual gold medalist was eliminated while leading 2-0 in the third round.
“I only got beat on countback. But you can’t let these things discourage you, you have to enjoy them and keep going.”