Emmet Brennan: “For me, it’s all or nothing, I’m all in.”
By Lewie Laing
“For me, it’s all or nothing, I’m all in. I see a gap in the market that has not been exploited, and I’m going for it” says Irish Olympian, turned pro, Emmet Brennan who is looking to create his American Dream.
Every fighter who steps between the ropes is risking it all. One fight can change and even end a career. Sacrifices are made by all of those chasing the same dream, to lift world titles and become financially secure. But risking it all just to put yourself in the position to risk it all is not something every boxer can stake claim to. One who can is Ireland’s Emmet Brennan, who has turned pro at the age of 30, following Olympic heartbreak in Tokyo, and he is ready to double down on himself once again.
It was against all odds that Brennan was even boxing again, never mind making it to the Olympic games within four years of re-lacing the gloves. Following two National Elite titles, Brennan disappeared from boxing for a while, living life like any normal lad. That life wasn’t one Brennan enjoyed and by 25, following a period of self-reflection, he was back through the boxing gym doors, and ready to strive for more, even if it seemed far-fetched to others.
“I was a pipefitter, but it did nothing for me. I was working, getting paid, and spending it on drinking and gambling, just what lads do. At the time I was blaming everyone else. But at 25, it hit home, I was the problem, and my life wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I went back to boxing, dipped my toes back in. I didn’t have much training but chanced my arm, entered the Haringey Boxing Cup, and won that at 75kg. I then entered the National Elite’s and won that! I had entered them three or four times before. I was more mature, I had a different mindset and a different outlook on life. I did what I had to do to get over the line.
” I’ve gone further than most in the sport, taking out the credit union loan, quitting my job, I wasn’t a funded athlete, it was a job I wasn’t paid for but knew I could make it if I dedicated myself to it and believed in myself, so I went all in and it paid off and got me to Tokyo.”
The elation of making it to 2021 games, following time away from boxing, was brought to a halt following defeat in the Round of 32 to Uzbekistan’s Dilshodbek Ruzmetov. The heartbreak and pain, however, were nothing new to Brennan and actually part of the reason he made it to the Olympics in the first place and continues to back himself no matter what. At just 11, a loss in an all – Irish boy’s final displayed a side to boxing that up until that point he had never experienced but that stood him in good stead along with an upbringing where hard work was the only way to get by.
“I lost to Jason Quigley and it is one of my first real memories of boxing, an all Irish final. It was my first negative and real drawback out of boxing. I remember the heartbreak and the feeling of hurt, I was in bits, so emotional. But I went back to training the next week with the drive and determination to do better and be better. And to be honest, the Olympics was a very similar feeling, but the stakes were higher. It’s all respective to where you are at the time in your life and career. My interview after the fight went viral and got a lot of exposure so there are always silver linings.
“As a kid, in a working-class area, nothing was given to us. My mother and father worked so that we had clothes on our backs and food on the table. We were by no means poor, but that stays with you. Then on top of being in a boxing club from such an early age, 10, 11 years of age, I was around some talented, hardworking people. I saw fighters putting in the miles on the road, the rounds of hard sparring. At that Elite, senior level, you don’t get there on talent alone and that was instilled in me from what I was seeing. You get nothing without hard work.”
It is hard work that continues now, as he turns professional knowing his time frame is short to make a mark, but forever the optimist, Brennan is determined to succeed and even has a blueprint on how he is going to break into this game.
During rehabilitation on injuries following the Olympics, Brennan used his time wisely to gain knowledge from those who have been there and done in the professional ranks. He researched and studied how to make the biggest impact possible knowing time is against him.
“I had an injury after the Olympics, which delayed me from turning pro but it gave me the time to talk to a lot of respected people in the game. The number one thing I got back from people was to look after your money, you’re the one taking the punches, don’t let anyone else handle your money. You aren’t going to be a multi-millionaire, don’t waste it.”
Emmet Brennan sees a gap in the market that has laid untouched for many years, certainly since the evolution of social media and it is one he is eager to unearth. His starting point is a slot on the undercard of the Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano undercard. Matchroom, Eddie Hearn, and Frank Smith have been bombarded from as many angles as the come-forward Irish fighter throws punches from, via emails, messages, and mentions on social media, in a bid to secure a fight on the show at Madison Square Garden on April 30th. The level at which Brennan has done his research is not something you come across very often at this level of boxing where fighting is the priority and his mindset is bulletproof. Every word is said with pure conviction and belief, so much so, the former Irish Olympian is in the coming weeks, moving over to New York full time, to put his plan into motion.
“I’m training now for that fight as if I’m on the show, that’s the mindset. I sent Frank Smith an email, I imagine he is a very busy man, but hopefully, he gets back to me.
“For me, it’s all or nothing, I’m all in. I see a gap in the market that has not been exploited, and I’m going for it. That is why I’m moving to New York, there is a huge Irish community but there has never been an Irish boxer consistently living within the community. And I’m a normal person, a normal bloke, who people will relate to. Because I am a little bit older, I can see this now. I’m going to be living there, walking the streets, going to sports events with my people, charity events, having dinner with them. Just look at Johnny Fisher, for example, 2,000 fans turning up to his fights because he’s a humble man, down to earth, he’s just a normal person and people relate to that. You get Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan coming over once or twice a year maybe but not living in New York year-round. I know this can work and I will have a whole community behind me. If I was to get on the show, I’m telling Matchroom and Eddie, you don’t have to promote me, I’m promoting myself. I’m not ignorant or arrogant, but I know this can work. The proof is there, I’ve got a lot of people within the Irish community in New York, well-connected people, and it is amazing how many people want me on the Taylor Serrano show. I’m going to be a massive ticket seller.
“I’ve done all my homework. I’m not asking Eddie to put me on this show because I am an Olympian. I’m going to Matchroom and Eddie because I really, really believe I offer him something on the east coast of America that he hasn’t had before. It’s not just because I can fight, I am offering more than a fighter, I’m offering a profile, a backstory. I have done all the numbers, I’ve done my research and my homework. And I’ve sent them an email with all this, to show I am a serious operator, I’m hoping they can see that. I’ve done all this off my own back, no manager, nothing. This is why it makes sense to have me on this card. For DAZN to have shows and to have fans watching from the UK and Ireland, they have to be on the East coast. You aren’t going to have as many people watching on the west coast, it is too late in the morning, so it makes sense to have British and Irish fighters on the shows on the East coast. If I’m on this Taylor Serrano fight, I’m going to sell a serious amount of tickets, and there will be a big audience following and staying up to watch. Then the next time Matchroom has a show in either Boston or New York. I have an answer for anything that Matchroom comes back with, I’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, I’m all in and covering every angle.
“I’ve been pushing getting this fight on social media, and it’s blown up but I want to keep it going. There is so much competition now with Matchroom and DAZN, Boxxer and Sky Sports, Top Rank, Frank Warren, and Probellum coming up. The more Matchroom and DAZN are getting mentions, the better. I know social media doesn’t guarantee ticket sales but there is a link, it’s a numbers game, Eddie is a numbers guy and I can certainly drive those numbers.
While the ongoing pursuit of a shot on one of the biggest fights of the year ramps up, Brennan has not taken his eye off the work that comes with uprooting your life across the pond and at 30, realising there are both pros and cons to turning over at an older age than most. He has to give himself every chance of maximising both potentials in and out of the ring. Time away from boxing helped him figure out what he did and didn’t want, helped him mature and be honest with himself. He is meticulous in mapping out his future while backing up every move he plans to make. Couple that with crunching the numbers for a show he may or may not be on and it leaves you wondering whether he would be better suited on the other side of the ropes.
“I’m all in, going professional at 30. I feel very, very good. I know there are negatives to turning pro at 30 but there are also positives. I know my worth and will not be walked all over. Living life and being that bit older, I’m a lot smarter and switched on now. I have a short window, five, six, maybe seven years at a push in this game.
“I’m building a team around me. As a pro, you want to give yourself every opportunity. I’ve got a nutritionist, In the next few weeks, I’m looking at bringing in a coach, strength and conditioning coach, manager. Come fight week I don’t need my phone buzzing and things distracting me. That’s when you can slip up. I’m a shrewd operator, and I’m looking at everything. You want to give yourself the best chance of succeeding. My family is backing me, telling me to make a life for myself, and give myself every chance in New York. The plan is to make it big, to get money in the bank, to eventually have the money to buy a house outright. I’m just a normal person, I’m not going to be stupid with money and live some lavish lifestyle.
“In the first year, I want six fighters. If I get on that Matchroom show, I’ll take what I can get but I want six-rounders. Early 2023, I want to be in 10 rounders. The level of opposition won’t be journeymen, but it isn’t straight into the fire either. There is no waiting around. I’m looking 18 months, take the stabilisers off, start getting really stiff opposition. I want to be top 15, top 10 in the world, at world level in 3 to 4 years. You have to be realistic but I will take chances along the way because I have to get up the rankings a bit quicker.
Brennan may not yet have fought in the pro ranks but already has one eye on a business venture that will spawn off the back of his career over the next few years. He indicates who has come before him, how he has learned and joined the dots on what could possibly be a great fit not only for himself, but his fellow Irish fighters coming through.
“In six or seven years I could potentially be in New York still, bringing over the next wave of fighters, managing them, giving them the platform to fight from that I have created. I could be earning money from that while helping other fighters. John Duddy, a possible person to join my team, was the last boxer really to live within the Irish community in New York from Ireland. He was selling 4/5000 tickets for his last few fights, he had some great success yet is down to earth with no ego, and that’s who I’m looking to mimic my career off in the states. I’m not looking that far ahead, but the plans are there. I am not being naive to anything, I just know what is possible and what hasn’t been done yet.
Whether Eddie Hearn answers the Matchroom phone remains to be seen, but Brennan is no stranger to things not going to plan and finds ways of adapting. In the coming years, only time will tell whether these plans come to fruition or not, but judging by his story, you wouldn’t bet against Emmet Brennan and the luck of the fighting Irish.