Shawn O’Sullivan Canada’s Golden Boy Of Boxing Falls Short On His First Big Test

By Gary Tate - 03/05/2020 - Comments

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A wildly partisan throng packed Toronto’s CNE Coliseum on Sunday June 8, 1986 to help encourage Canada’s Golden Boy of pugilism 23-year old Shawn O’Sullivan in his first big test as a pro. Unfortunately, O’Sullivan could not overcome the ring craftiness of top 10 welterweight Simon Brown (Ring Magazine rated him number 5). It had all the makings of a mismatch right from the date the contract got signed.

O’Sullivan’s manger Mike Trainer and trainer Pete Wylie had taken the advice of Sugar Ray Leonard that Brown was beatable. They were wrong – very wrong. A merciful referee Fern Chretien saved Shawn O’Sullivan from any further battering at 2 minutes and 37 seconds of the third round. Being Irish, O’Sullivan wanted to fight on, but it was a wise decision to save the courageous boxer from possible long term damage.

“Both of Shawn’s hands were down by his side and he was getting hit flush to the head. I didn’t want to see him get hurt.” Is how Fern Chretien explained why he grabbed Brown by both arms to prevent him from delivering a punch that would have sent Shawn to the canvas

The first round was fairly even, although O’Sullivan probably won it with his crisp jabs and confident fighting. Things quickly turned around in the second round, with Brown becoming the aggressor and O’Sullivan assuming the unfamiliar role of boxer/counterpuncher. He may have been hurt in the dying seconds of that round. The third round was marked by a deficiency of defensive skills on O’Sullivan’s part, in failing to halt Brown’s relentless advance. The most damaging punch was a straight right hand followed by two crunching left hooks. By then, Shawn was only there for batting practice only as his punches lacked any meaning to counteract Brown’s hammering offence.

Broadcast on NBC to a North American audience, the gamble that Shawn would perform in a way which would garner him a contract on US TV did not pay off.

O’Sullivan, a silver medalist at the 1984 Olympic Games, suffered his first pro loss in 11 starts. His career would continue on for another 11 years, but his only notable opponent was Luis Santana at Bally’s Las Vegas in a 1988 NABF welterweight title bout when he lost via an 11th round TKO. Ironically, two years later Santana would lose a unanimous decision to Brown, who by then held the IBF welterweight title belt.

Brown more than lived up to his lofty reputation of 22-1 with 16 KO’s, and that one loss came by a split decision to future welterweight champ Marlon Starling. A devastating puncher with both hands, Brown’s victory over O’Sullivan raised his record to 23-1 with 17 KO’s to his credit.