Luke Keeler: Retirement consideration to knocking on the door for a world title
For a moment Luke Keeler had considered walking away from boxing.
The Dubliner turned pro in 2013 and had only ever lost to one opponent in Tom Doran, albeit twice, but he felt like he was trying to live a double life at times.
He was a commissioning engineer by trade and a boxer by craft - but as he described it himself - it was like trying to 'hunt two rabbits at the same time'. Sometimes you can end up with none.
A house, a honours degree in Structural Engineering and two kids is not a bad life to fall back on but he wanted more from boxing.
Even in the amateurs he had been bested by the likes of Jason Quigley and he always came back to the same conclusions.
'He's doing it full-time'. 'He's in the High Performance Unit'. 'Can I juggle college and boxing?' 'Can I juggle work and boxing?'
In late 2017 he decided to commit fully to boxing and before long he won the World Boxing Organisation European Middleweight Title against Conrad Cummings before then defending the belt again against Cummings in March.
"I was getting up early in the moroning and struggling to fit in a session before work," said Keeler.
"I wasn't eating right because of that and then rushing from work back to the second session. The big thing I found was just that piece of mind. Doing everything right. I didn't want to have any regrets in my career.
"That was a big thing. You just have time to get your rest right, I have gymtrition doing my meals, I'm on my way to the physio as we speak, it gives you time to just focus on one thing.
"I had anxiety about not doing things right but I was juggling things. The last year-and-a-half since I joined up with Pete Taylor and left the job... I've just built momentum.
"Pete's been big as well. I really feel like I'm developing under him. I'm soaking up the training and it's given me a new lease of life."
Keeler previously trained under Paschal Collins at the Celtic Warriors Gym but now admits that he was often trying to jam in evening sessions and that it was as much as his fault as anyone else's.
🥊 Falls Park Féile Fight Night
💥The line up so far!💥
🥊@mickconlan11 v Ruiz
🥊 Keeler v Arias
🥊@paddy_gal v @ChrisRokn
🥊 Meli v Marutjan
🥊 @paddyb_ireland v TBC
🥊 @sugarseantl v TBC
🥊 @padraigmc1988 v Collins Jnr
🥊 Duffy v TBC
🥊 Sullivan v TBC
🥊 @callumbradley10 v TBC pic.twitter.com/dLDG7c2Fwv
— Féile an Phobail (@FeileBelfast) July 9, 2019
With a very respectable 16-2 professional record there's only so much blame that can be dished around but he really feels like he's flourishing under Taylor and still making improvements at the age of 32.
"I think Pete Taylor is probably the best technical coach around," added Keeler.
"The big thing with me was I used to drag my feet. My hands weren't bad, I had fighting ability, but I wasn't able to initiate second phase attacks or get out of danger. It was my footwork. It's just come on since I got with Pete and it's really where everything starts.
"Just getting that right. Getting in and out. That's the big difference and then the way the sessions are structured it's two sessions a day. Before with Paschal it was just me popping over in the evening and I'd be missing days and it was just kind of night and day in terms of what I'm doing.
"I'm a professional six years but I've really only gone at it very seriously in the last 18 months."
A nagging shoulder injury plagued him for years and cost him some of his power but now it's healed after some surgery and he has some of his pop back.
He has a new coach, a new belt and now a potential shot at a world title should he defeat Luis Arias on the Féile an Phobail card in Belfast next month.
2 Years ago today at the National stadium in Dublin. @luke_keeler
defeated Darren Cruise on points to become the BUI Irish middleweight champion. #KeelerCruise
📸 Credit: @karenpriestley pic.twitter.com/6AEN3gxSKe
— Boxing Tickets NI (@BoxingTicketsNI) June 24, 2019
Arias has just one loss to his name, Daniel Jacobs, one of the very best middleweights in the world, and the #6 ranked Keeler could work his way into a title contention with a win next month.
His European title has put him into admitted bonus territory but he's now within touching distance of a world title when it wasn't so long ago that he considered hanging up his gloves for good.
"To be honest I just wanted to have no regrets. To give everything that I had. I'm kind of in bonus territory going forward. I'm just happy that I've committed like I needed to and the European title was a huge boost.
"I defeated Cummings and won the title, defended it and the pressure is off now. I'm enjoying my boxing. I don't plan on resting on my laurels either and being content but in terms of when you do everything right, and put the training in, the pressure comes off."
He has an education, both inside and outside the ring, a drive and all the tools necessary now to compete at the very top of the middleweight division. He just needs to go for it on August 3rd.