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DEAN BYRNE was having visions and, for a gambling addict in a Las Vegas casino, was probably in the wrong place.
But on this occasion, it was the right time.
On May 1, 2009, Byrne picked up a win at the South Point Casino in Sin City — one night ahead of sparring partner Manny Pacquiao’s two-round destruction of Ricky Hatton seven miles up the road at the MGM Grand.
Byrne, a 10-0 prospect with the world at his feet, had dreamt about the ending — and told everyone to go big on it.
Speaking to News Ireland boxing podcast ‘The Rocky Road’ this week, he recalled: “I saw a vision when he fought Hatton and I told him and all his people to bet on the second round because I see Ricky Hatton flat on his back in a vision. I had a dream.
“And then it was something like eight seconds before the end of the second round and I was going, ‘I’m after losing my money’, and then next thing you know, wallop, he was asleep on the floor and it came to pass. I was jumping around, ‘Show me the money!’
“I had fought in the South Point Casino the day before against a tough Mexican Jose Reynoso, it was a tough eight rounds.
“I had a good camp, sparring against some Filipinos from Pacquiao’s crew. I was too tall so I wasn’t sparring him for Hatton. They needed shorter guys. But I was sparring with some tough, tall Filipinos because I was fighting a tough, tall Mexican.
“I had my guy down three or four times in the first four rounds but he was tough and it was a battle. Obviously these battles that you have in sparring were the ones that kept me going.”
He had made another precise prediction when underdog Pacquaio routed Oscar De La Hoya the previous year.
Byrne said: “I picked the ninth round and I don’t think he came out for the ninth.”
The ‘Golden Boy’ didn’t. Byrne, at that stage, had a habit of winning — as a punter and as a puncher — but back then, as he admits himself, he was loco.
The light-welterweight had begun his career Down Under after following his cousin Paul Griffin out to Sydney.
He turned pro and picked up six wins — claiming the Australian title in just his fifth outing with victory over the unbeaten Chris McCullen.
Then came the lure of Hollywood and Byrne was off again.
He recalled: “Obviously Steve Collins was previously with Freddie Roach and I was looking around. I spoke to Paschal Collins, he spoke about Freddie and I just went over — I just showed up at the gym.
“I told Freddie about my career, ‘I’ve been in Australia with Johnny Lewis, I’m undefeated and I won an Australian championship title in my fifth fight and I defended it in my sixth’.
“He told me to come in on Monday and he had me sparring with Michael Katsidis that first time. Straight away, trun me in. I hadn’t even been training that much. And Katsidis could hit — he had power in both hands. Very, very strong.
“By Monday, bang, I was having a war with Katsidis and then after that, Freddie says, ‘Sign me up’, he became my trainer and he co-managed me with Steve Feder, a good guy that really looked after me.
“It was only four rounds with Katsidis but I knew him — his previously undefeated friend was the one I beat up when I was 4-0 and took his Australian title!
“So here I am now, he’s face to face with the man who beat his friend. It was just a war. Obviously I proved myself that day in the Wild Card.”
Nowadays Byrne is a born-again Christian and a character reborn. Back then, he was a cocky Dubliner unafraid to mix it with killers.
He added: “I have more faith now and I just love people — but then I was wild. I had no fear and still today I have no fear. I have a godly fear. I still don’t fear man or things of this world but I fear God.
“And I have a healthy relationship with Him that I’ve built over this last two years that’s helped me progress on this journey of life. But yeah, I was mental. You could put me in with anybody.
“One day, I was after coming back after sickness and I wasn’t well — I had a bit of a flu or something — and I came back to the gym after having a few days off and Freddie says, ‘Do you want to spar?’
“I was like, ‘Who?’ and he looks over and he says, ‘Him’. I say, ‘Yeah, no problem’. And it was Victor Ortiz. So I jumped in and took lumps out of him. He went back to the corner and said, ‘Why are you getting your guys to beat me up, Freddie?’
“I didn’t know who he was! And that’s what it was like in the Wild Card. Some of them — the ones that have no names — they were probably tougher and better than the ones with the big names.
“It was a learning curve and we learned from the best of the best — Crumlin Boxing Club. We would jump in and we’d just go hell for leather.” Pacquiao, Amir Khan, Ortiz, Katsidis — Byrne sparred them all.
He saw Roach tell his star man to lay off his English recruit.
Byrne added: “I saw a few glimpses with Freddie maybe holding Pacquiao back. Amir came in and obviously he had a weak chin. And Pacquiao is dangerous, do you know what I mean?
“I felt his power, I knew that, but he never hurt me.
“Thank God I was a good mover and I got out of trouble a lot, kept moving, but he was powerful and strong. It was like a machine gun, his punches.
“Pacquiao could show people up when they came in, just stick it on them. But Freddie had a relationship with Khan at that time so would have probably been telling him to take it easy on him.
“You could see Khan’s speed. Khan is faster than Pacquiao because I’ve been in with both of them. But there’s a difference in their speed and power.”
Pacquiao, 42, was back in action in the early hours, taking on Yordenis Ugas for the welterweight world title. Ortiz, 34, was the chief support, mixing it with Robert Guerrero. Khan, 34, is looking likely to finally take on Kell Brook later this year.
It seems every veteran around is ready to keep swinging but Byrne, now 36 and inactive since 2016, has another fight on his hands — staying clean.
He added: “I had problems with gambling, drug addiction, you know, cocaine, the whole boxing career.
“I wasn’t fully 100 per cent in, I was always off gambling, I was always off partying after my fights.
“I had never been 100 per cent. I’d have always had one fight in, one fight out.
“I’d think I could juggle it. Because I’d always get away with it with my skills, I’d always just do enough. I wasn’t committed 100 per cent.
“But since I found God, I threw everything into God. I’ve put God first in everything.
“It’s transformed me to this new person. If I wanted to do boxing now, I’d be disciplined, dedicated, give it 100 per cent. Because I’d be doing it for the right reason.
“I wouldn’t be doing it for an ego or I wouldn’t be doing it for a show or for money. And the right reasons would be for to glorify God, to see what you can do if you put your mind to anything.”
How bad did things get?
Byrne answered: “They were bad. I went to recovery programmes but I couldn’t get clean, I couldn’t stop taking cocaine or I couldn’t stop gambling.
“But when I found God and I put everything into God, Jesus set me free. I really believe that people, if they put everything into God and their faith in Jesus — cos he’s real, he showed up in my life.
“I’m 3½ years clean of drugs. I graduated from college. I got a diploma in theology — and I couldn’t even read at one point. I couldn’t read that good. I got kicked out of school when I was 15, so God has really transformed me.
“Now the Bible is all I read. God has really changed my life and everything I do, I do to glorify him.
“I see that in Pacquiao now. Everything he does is to glorify God — building 1,000 homes for the Filipinos and all the money that it generates — he’s helping people. That’s what it’s all about.”
You can take the man out of Crumlin — Byrne now lives in London — but you can’t take the Crumlin out of the man. A man of peace still up for a fight.
He reckons Conor McGregor should have sought his advice for his bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2017 and will be torn if the ‘Notorious’ ends up in the opposite corner to Pacquiao some day.
Byrne said: “It’s a different fight (to Mayweather). Both southpaws. I couldn’t comment on that unless I sparred with Conor.
“I wish he’d got me in for sparring when he fought Mayweather, that would have been a good idea. I can imitate any style.
“But we’ll see. That would have been a big fight. I laid everything down for my faith. I don’t desire to punch anybody in the face anymore — or any part of their body.
“That’s not to say that the Crumlin is not still in me. I’m fighting the good fight of faith now.
“If someone was to give me an opportunity — because I am still training, still doing 300 push-ups a day, I still run. I may not be punching but I still keep my body active and healthy.
“We’ll leave it and see if God opens up any doors. I’ve still got it — I haven’t lost it. You have Pacquiao at 42 coming back.
“But if I was going to do something, I’d do it so that people would benefit out of it.
“People of faith. The kingdom — finance the kingdom
UFC chief Dana White offered MMA great Georges St-Pierre Khabib super-fight to make up for Oscar De La Hoya boxing match
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