EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 28, 2014

Point guard turns puncher

North Andover's O'Connell gunning for Lowell Golden Gloves title

Hector Longo
hlongo@eagletribune.com

---- — You can imagine Tommy O’Connell tonight in the locker-room before his Lowell Golden Gloves championship bout ...

“So, I was in my Forensic Psych class this morning and the topic of extreme political idealogy and its influence on the forebrain came up.”

You just don’t see the boxing crowd engaging in that one do you?

And here in lies the amazing dichotomy of O’Connell, a 21-year-old former Eagle-Tribune Super Team point guard out of North Andover High and currently a senior at Roger Williams College. Tonight, he puts the books down long enough to fight for the Lowell Golden Gloves novice middleweight championship under the direction of Haverhill Downtown Boxing Club trainer Ray Hebert.

“Let me tell you. there’s no comparison to fighting at the Lowell Auditorium in sports. I’ve fought in other places, played other sports in different venues my whole life,” said O’Connell, a marketing major in his final semester at Roger Williams. “Lowell and the Gloves are simply a totally different world.”

Out of boredom at school, O’Connell joined a boxing gym down in Rhode Island, but he didn’t get too serious until he met up with Hebert and the folks at the Haverhill club.

“It’s just a lot tougher than I thought it would be. I mean, you have to be ready to take a punch to give a punch,” said O’Connell. “You see kids coming into the gym all the time. They train for a week, and then once they spar, you never see them again. You have to have that certain toughness to box.”

Growing up in North Andover, that toughness isn’t really asked for on a daily basis.

“I never got pushed around,” said O’Connell. “But I was able to hold my ground.”

The fight game actually is in his blood. O’Connell’s grandfather Homer Rogers of Haverhill was a Lowell Gloves champion. That fact didn’t do much to dissuade his parents from stepping in.

“Of course, they were skeptical,” he said. “They just didn’t want to see me get hurt. Now they are happy I am succeeding and they just want me to do well.”

O’Connell took his hobby/full-time job seriously starting in the summer. In the fall semester, he remained home to train and took his courses on line in preparation for the Gloves.

Now 6-2 with three of the wins coming in this Golden Gloves Tournament, tonight represents his last chance to remain in the novice ranks. An amateur’s 10th fight has to be against open company.

So O’Connell is looking to move up with a bang. How long he will stick to it remains to be seen. He’s not taking it to the pro ranks, at least that’s not in the plan. But that doesn’t mean his boxing days are over.

“My grandfather always told me, you’ll know when to get out, but that’s not right now,” said O’Connell, who has the grade point average of 2.83 as graduation approaches.

“I love the adrenaline rush, being rewarded at the end of the day for all that work you put in it. It’s what makes it special. I don’t see me ever going pro, but I don’t see this coming to an end either.”