By Gianluca (Rio) Di Caro
I’m sure that the majority of those reading this will already be well aware of the talented young Light Middleweight prospect Erick ‘The Eagle’ Ochieng from Stoke Newington in London. It’s hard not to be as Erick receives a lot more column inches in the boxing press than most seven fight veterans. Rightly so as young Erick is proving to be a true star in the making.
His undoubted talent has already earned him a shot at the British Southern Area title. Whilst this would normally be a huge step-up in class for most young fighters, who are highly protected and fighting only carefully matched contests for their first ten or so bouts, Erick’s manager-trainer Brian Lawrence has always felt confident enough to take any fight offered for his young charge throughout his fledgling career.
Prime examples are his third and his most recent fights. Back in May last year Brian was offered another unbeaten prospect Curtis Valentine, as an opponent, which he gladly accepted.
On learning he was to fight Valentine, Erick told Boxing News’ Andrew Wake, “I don’t really want to be put in with journeymen. The better people I fight now will show my potential. If you are protected you don’t get better, if you are challenged in your early fights it makes you a better fighter in the long run.”
That statement just about sums up Erick’s attitude, he doesn’t want to be protected he wants well matched fights where he is tested. Something you would have expected when he took on the challenge of facing reigning British Masters Light Middleweight Champion Lee ‘Lightning’ Noble in a non-championship bout for his sixth fight back in February.
The stern test he had been hoping for failed to materalise as Noble closed shop and pulled down the shutters, preferring to go on the defensive and hope for a chink to appear in the Eagles’ armour. It never did and Erick cruised to a shutout 60-54 points victory having barely broken into a sweat.
Immediately after the victory over Noble, Erick was told that he will be challenging for the Southern Area title at the first opportunity, which will probably be sometime in May or June.
With his first title shot on the horizon you could easily expect young Erick to sit back and relax before starting his preparations, but you’d be wrong as on the 18th March he fought again, on Spencer Fearon’s Hard Knock Boxing Promotions ‘Shamrock Showdown’ – and controversially lost.
As before Erick had accepted another tough challenge, this time against Castleford’s Luke Robinson, who had a five win, one draw and one loss record. I say controversial loss because everyone, the assembled media and packed York Hall crowd, felt he had clearly won by at least three rounds to Robinson’s one, however the only person who didn’t share that view was the man that counts – referee Ken Curtis – who for some reason scored it the complete opposite way with a 38-39 points decision in favour of Robinson.
My fight report of the Shamrock Showdown event, which was taken from the round by round recordings I make during the breaks, clearly shows that in my view Erick is the clear winner by a country mile – a view that was shared by all the journalists present.
Back to the action as the second bout of the night, between highly rated and unbeaten Erick ‘The Eagle’ Ochieng and former ABA winner Luke ‘Lionheart’ Robinson, proved to be a cracking fight, albeit with a highly controversial end result.
Robinson was out of the traps quickly to close down Ochieng, to neutralise his highly effective jab. Ochieng used a bit of savvy and went on the back foot to find some room to get his jabs off. Robinson kept coming forward throwing some pretty wild shots until eventually he had backed Ochieng onto the ropes. Robinson kept throwing wild off target shots at the ever ducking and weaving ‘Eagle’. Ochieng responded with some highly effective stiff jabs to force Robinson back until his next rally. It was a close round, Robinson the more aggressive, but failing to hit the ever moving target, whilst Ochieng was more controlled and getting results by landing good solid jabs.
Round two was more of the same with Robinson pushing. Ochieng on the other hand was content to stay with his back to the ropes and pick off Robinson at will, with stiff jabs and punishing one-twos to the body. An easy round to call as Robinson barely landed a punch for all his wind milling whilst Ochieng, who barely threw a couple of dozen shots the whole round, landed each effort solidly, much to the delight of this fans who in unison chanted ‘Eagle, Eagle, Eagle’ after each contact.
Both rounds three and four were more of the same, Robinson flies out of the trap but ‘The Eagle’ just stays calm and picks him off at will – Robinson pushes forward but barely lands a glove on the ever mobile Ochieng, yet gets caught himself by every precision counter.
The crowd jeer as the referee raises Robinson’s arm aloft declaring him victorious by a 39-38 points margin. Ochieng and his manager-coach Brian Lawrence look around confused as Robinson celebrates.
Shortly after the result was officially read out promoter Spencer Fearon announced that there will be a rematch at his next show, much to the delight of the assembled crowd.
Even after being robbed of a clear win Erick just shrugged his shoulders and said. “I know I won and the fans know I won, that’s what matters. I’m disappointed to have a loss on my record but have put that behind me and focusing on the next fight, which I have been told will be for the Southern Area title.”
You just can’t help admiring Erick’s attitude, I don’t think I for one would just accept such a blatant bad decision so easily. Saying that there is a lot to admire with this young man, as I found out when I caught up with him, at the TKO Boxing Gym in Canning Town, and got to talk with him about his career to date as well as his future aspirations.
Rio) Hi Erick, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. How’s training been going?
Erick) First of all I want to thank God for my career. I also want to thank my supporters, they’re awesome I get such great support
I’m focused and coming on strong with my technique, you know I’m really happy with the progress and the coaching. Brian Lawrence, my coach-manager, does great work, great support.
I’ve had seven fights now, six wins, one loss and I’m looking for the Southern Area title, which will be my next fight. So things are looking bright, as I say I am already World Champion as the world is about to find out soon.
Rio) Your first couple of fights were unusually tough for a prospect. How do you feel having such tough fights against quality opponents so early on in your career has benefited you?
Erick) My first fight I had Matt Scriven, for my second fight I had Prince David, that was his debut fight. When you go in against them kind of guys they’re coming to win. It was good to have this fight, fights like this make you stronger.
I knew that I had greatness in front of me, fighting those kind of guys showed me what kind of fighter I am. It shows what category of fighter you are fighting people like Prince David.
I then fought Curtis Valentine, who was also unbeaten, so you can say I have been tested and not protected. Which is good, too many fighters are protected until the reach ten or sometimes even twenty fights before they get a proper challenger in their career.
So for me it’s good, because I know having these kind of fights just make me stronger. You know I get stronger every time. The better my opponent perform, the better I perform. The higher I go the brighter I shine.
Rio) I was at York Hall when you stopped the highly durable Alex Spitko, it was a classy performance, could you give us your view on the fight?
Erick) Alex Spitko, he’s known as a hard man, hard chin, he doesn’t crack and give in. He’s a tough fighter and I just stayed with him and just boxed him. Looked good, I was in great shape, I had great fun there and I just picked him off with my jab. He was like walking into my jab and then I just boxed him.
On the last round I knocked him out. He walked into my right hand, ‘cos I couldn’t hit him with my jab, after you hit with the jab you couldn’t hit him with any other punches. He’s a good fighter. I’m happy I’m getting this kind of fight in my early stages.
Rio) Your fight was against British Masters champion Lee Noble, not quite the nonstop action type of fight we’re used to seeing you in, why was this?
Erick) I was quite relaxed on the fight because I knew what kind of fighter he is. He came out covered up and was waiting for me to run out of gas and get tired. But I knew what kind of fighter he is so I just used my jab. I listened to my corner and just worked my jab, I was setting him up with my jab so that if he opened up I could have caught him.
Ever since I see what he did with Pat (TKO Gym mate Pat McAleese), I respect him as a good fighter, he’s strong. He’s not a bum, he’s been down that road plenty of times.
He’s had twenty five fights, he knows his stuff. He’s quite strong and was heavier than me. I knew I had to be smart, use my jab. I feel I could have done a bit more because I knew what type of fighter he is. I made sure I had a lot more in reserve. After the six rounds I feel quite good, I could have done more rounds. But it’s all good I was happy to do the six rounder, now I’ve a six rounder under my belt.
Rio) OK, now we’re up to your last fight against Luke Robinson – The referee Ken Curtis gave the decision against you. What are your thoughts on the fight?
Erick) I’m disappointed to have lost, It was supposed to be a six rounder, but it was reduced to a four rounder.
My plan for a six rounder was to break him down and then knock him out. I stuck with the plan even though it was now a four rounder. I rocked him a couple of times but didn’t have enough time to take him out. I thought I had done enough but the referee said I lost by just one point. That’s boxing, I’m disappointed to have a loss on my record but have put that behind me and focusing on the next fight.
Rio) You’ve got the Southern Area coming up soon, and you just touched on your aim to fight for the British by the end of the year. I assume these are the first titles you aim to fight for?
Erick) We’re looking to the Southern Area soon and then our eyes are on the British. We’ve got time to wait as I am young, strong and smart. But I’m ready to rise and do the business, we don’t want to have padded fights and then wait before challenging for the British title, that doesn’t make sense, that’s a lot of time being wasted.
I have the potential so why not go for the title when I can do it. I’ve got what it takes, I’ve got the goods and I believe I can go for it soon.
My plan is by my fifteenth fight I’d want to challenge for the European, I could then challenge for a World title when I’ve had around twenty fights. So we’re looking for on my tenth fight the British, God willing, and then a couple more fights under my belt and a bit more experience then the European and then we’re going to knocking at the Golden Boy for the World title.
We’re aiming high, but I can’t say enough about Brian Lawrence, he’s an expert coach and he’s been at that level. When he looks at me as a fighter, he looks at me as a World Champion, that’s why he wants me to perform at a higher level. That’s why he push me to perform higher. He has the experience, as you know he’s worked with Don King and others, so you can’t go wrong. And I’ve got Christ on my side.
Rio) You’ve been with Brian from the start, what made you choose him?
Erick) As I have said Brian is a very good coach, experienced and he knows what he’s doing. He knows how to watch fighters and can see things before it happens. Some coaches, to be honest, don’t know what they are doing. They might get you fit but they don’t know when to let you rest and the like. Brian is an awesome coach.
He’s got Ian Napa on the team. I learn a lot from Ian, his style, his defense. He’s a great fighter and has been European champion, he’s been there and knows what it takes.
It’s good because he’s also got Ben Murphy, he’s strong and you learn sparring him, it’s a different style. I’ve even sparred Damian, we did a two or three rounds.
The TKO is an awesome gym, always buzzing, fighters of all weights and experience. Great sparring anytime, you can’t ask for more than that. Awesome.
Rio) You touched on that you get great sparring, who have you sparred recently?
Erick) I’ve sparred here with lots of the guys here. I sparred Sam (British Light Middleweight Champion Sam Webb) when he was preparing for Martin Concepcion, Ben (Murphy) obviously. I sparred Kevin Mitchell here when he was preparing for the Michael Katsides fight. Sparred lots of the guys here
I’ve sparred Darren Barker and Lee Purdy, not here though. I sparred with Sugar Jackson in Belgium. I went there and really had to dig deep you know. I went there for a week and then they bought in another guy for the second week, but he got tired so they sent him home and called me and said could you come back for another week. So I went back for the second week. Which was awesome, because he’s a strong fighter and keep coming forward. I’m strong myself, however that taught me to be able to box on the back foot, use my jab and make him miss. It went great, it’s that kind of sparring that make me a great fighter.
Rio) Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today, finally is there anything you would like to add?
Erick) I want to give a shout out to all my supporters, you know who you are – EAGLE, EAGLE, EAGLE – I want to give special thanks to Ken from BoxFit, he sponsor me at the moment, and I want to give special thanks to Tim, Dan and Paul of my sponsor King Apparel . Thank you for your support, it’s much appreciated.