Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 1/25/13
2012 was a banner year for local boxer Danny O’Connor. For a guy who purports his mission to be bringing boxing “back to the city” (more on that phrase later), it’s not necessarily mission accomplished, but the 27-year-old Framingham native absolutely made some major strides towards expanding the sport’s popularity in New England. Back in May, O’Connor headlined the first-ever night of boxing at the House of Blues Boston, which was not only a success in terms of breaking in a new venue, but O’Connor earned a four-round TKO of New York-born Daniel Sostre — when a New Englander can take out a New Yorker, it’s always a good night. But that wasn’t all O’Connor had in store during the year, as the fighter had even bigger venues in mind. In August, O’Connor took on Eddie Soto, besting the man from Pawtucket at another first-time venue: Gillette Stadium. Appropriately enough, the match happened after a Revolution game, as O’Connor counts himself among the team’s supporters. Another fight scheduled for late in the year at the TD Garden would have capped off one heck of a year, but after sustaining an injury while sparring during training, O’Connor had to postpone the fight. Nonetheless, he counts the Garden staff as exceedingly gracious in terms of being willing to move the match to this Saturday, in an event called TD Garden Night at the Fights. And, earlier in the week, O’Connor stopped by a Bruins game to survey his newest venue, as well as give some feedback on a brawl with Barry Pederson and meet another local athlete-celebrity. “The Bruins were great to me,” says O’Connor. “I got to meet Aly Raisman, and Joe Thornton‘s going to be helping me out with the fight.” And here’s where O’Connor’s local boy roots show. Ken Casey of The Dropkick Murphys is one of O’Connor’s managers, and has been in his corner for the last five fights. However, with the band on the road this time around, Thornton gets to take on one of the most glorious roles in all of sports. “Ken’s gotten really good at holding the bucket,” says O’Connor, referring to the spit bucket. “So Joe’s going to have to figure it out. It’ll be a little weird without seeing [Casey] in the corner, but I’m sure [Thornton] will do good.” But while O’Connor is totally focused on his Saturday opponent, Derek Silveira, he’s also well aware that fighting at Boston venues named “Garden” has a lot of history behind it. Guys like Micky Ward and Rocky Marciano used to rule the days of the old Boston Garden — which was specifically designed for boxing — part of a golden age of the sport. O’Connor even got to meet once such legend, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. “He was hanging around the gym one day when I was training,” says O’Connor. “He gave me a few tips … When a guy like that has something to say, your ears really perk up.” And, in that vein of passing the sport onto the next generation, O’Connor always keeps the objective in mind of bringing the sport he loves “back to the city.” Beyond representing himself well and committing himself 100 percent to his craft, O’Connor might have at least one plan in mind for planting his own roots. “I can’t see into the future,” says O’Connor, “but if I ever have the money I’d like to own a gym some day. I’d like to pass on my knowledge and give people more opportunities to be able to have a place to box.” So, whatever the outcome of Saturday night’s headline card, in one sense O’Connor has already been successful. He’s attained one dream of bringing boxing to larger and more high-profile venues in New England, and gets to raise the ghosts of Causeway Street and the old Garden at least for one night. Likewise, there’s probably no one more excited, effusive and well-spoken about his desire to do proud by the area he represents. So, if 2012 was a banner year for O’Connor, how about raising a banner at the Garden in 2013 for one of New England’s best representatives. TD Garden Night at the Fights is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. NESN.com will be there live blogging the matches as they take place. Photo via Facebook/Danny O’Connor Boxing

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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