Every movie ends. The director shoots the last scene, the clapperboard snaps, they cut the thing and everybody goes home. Life goes on all the while though. Just because stories need endings doesn't mean they necessarily finish with the telling. Kenny Egan came back from the Olympics without a notion of what sort of plot-line would be waiting for him when he got here. What he knew was that his life was about to change; what he didn't know was how or by how much.
Put it this way. He knew there'd be people ready to greet him at the airport; he didn't know he'd walk out to the kind of throng that would make Bono wonder where he left his shades. He knew there'd be the odd appearance to do, some gigs to turn up at and mug for the cameras; he had no idea that two months later he'd be running around to try to fit in two and three of them a day. He knew there'd be press, of course; what he didn't bank on was finding the ins and outs of his love life splashed as front page news in the tabloids four days running.
"I didn't ask for this," he says wearily. "It still hasn't calmed down at all. I'm changing my SIM card today because there's just too many people who know my number now. I'm getting calls from friends of friends of friends at this stage, looking for me to do things for them. And sure I can't say no to anyone. It's nice to be nice but people can take advantage of that."
No, the story didn't end when he walked off the podium in the Worker's Gymnasium. It won't end for a long time yet. But just now, he's struggling to get a clear idea of where it's headed at all.
? ? ?
Let's start at the start. Rolling through arrivals in Dublin airport that day was an uppercut he hadn't seen coming. The place was rammed, a crowd scene like he couldn't believe. Out of the mosaic of faces in front of him, he managed to alight on the odd one he recognised. Friends. Family. A rake of the ankle-biters that often hang about the club out in Neilstown causing mischief. Everyone wanted a piece of him, wanted a touch of the hunk of silver dangling from his neck.
It got a little hairy for a spell. Not dangerous or anything, just too many bodies sardined into too small a space. He got a couple of security guards to play snowplough for him and clear a path out as far as the door where he and his Neilstown coach Gerry Fleming dove into the back of the first taxi they saw.
"I said, 'Just drive, just drive, just get out of here,'" he says. "I didn't care where we went. So he took us on a lap of the airport, did a 360 around the place. There was a bus there ready to take us into town so we circled around to let the crowd clear a bit and then got to the car park where the bus was waiting on us. I went to pay the taxi man then and he wouldn't take a cent off us. All he asked for was an autograph."
From there, a bus had been laid on and it was Garda-escorted to west Dublin where an open-top had his name on it. He got the full treatment – folk waving from their gardens, men spilling out of pubs to shout his name. He'd been on the net in the athlete's village every day so he knew there'd been some bit of a buzz back home during the games. "But I didn't know the whole place had gone bananas over it," he says.
He did his best. Signed autographs until his wrist threatened to sue, smiled for photos until his cheekbones creaked. And he had a ball for the most part. Best laugh was when he was about to go live on the nine o'clock news and he had to turn around to the ankle-biters and get them to hush up a minute and not be embarrassing him when he was on the telly. "They were all pushing and shoving, trying to get their face in the camera. They were shouting, 'Get f**kin' off me, will ya!' Only kids they were. The language out of them was desperate."
He hadn't the energy for a session that night and slipped off home after two pints. The first sign that things were going to be different came the next day. People started calling to the door. Kids mostly, looking for autographs, trick-or-treating for a rub of his medal. Grown men too on occasion, calling in to say sweetly how proud they were of him. Old-timers who'd lived their lives in amateur boxing came by to tell him how touched they'd been by it all.
Soon, the letters started arriving. From all points and from every corner. Some with his address on the front, a few with no more than 'Kenny Egan, Olympics, Dublin' written across them. Every day, another bagful from the Post Office. They ran the spectrum, from telling him what an inspiration he was to asking him for money. One man wrote and told him if he was ever thinking of getting a dog, he should go for a Kerry Blue because they're loyal and make great companions. He read all the way down waiting for a sales pitch that never came and concluded that it was just a dog lover being a nice guy. Another note simply said, 'Congratulations' and came paperclipped to four dollars.
He basked in it all for a while. Relaxed and soaked it all up. Took the girlfriend away to Turkey on holiday with the money he'd made from selling his car before he'd gone to China (he's since been furnished with an Astra convertible and a Toyota Corolla by eager – not to mention very welcome – sponsors).
The diary of engagements he started to keep was becoming the bane of his life though. The opening of a school hall here, a presentation of some kids' medals there. Awards ceremonies, various RTÉ shows, everybody looking to burgle his time. Everybody had his number or knew somebody who could get it and without an agent to run interference for him, he was agreeing to everything. Half the time, he wasn't getting a bean for any of it either.
"It's been great. I don't want to sound ungrateful for everything. But mentally, it's been draining. There's always someone looking for you to do something. You have to be checking in with your calendar all the time and you're driving around from place to place and gig to gig. And what happens then is your training goes to shite. I have to put a stop to it all now and be selective. I have to go back training. I can't just keep running around opening shops."
One week borrowed another. He hit the town a few nights, lowered the bucket into a well he hadn't touched in months and drew all he liked from it. All the while, it was in the back of his head that he'd soon have to make some sort of decision about where he was going and what he was doing. Trouble was, he didn't know what he wanted. Still doesn't.
A few weeks back, he took a call from Shelly Finkel. Finkel has been around the game for the best part of three decades, has run the likes of Evander Holyfield, Manny Pacquiao and Pernell Whitaker through his hands down the years. He talked nice on the phone and invited Egan over to LA to watch Sugar Shane Mosley fight Ricardo Mayorga a fortnight ago. Egan figured he had nothing to lose by going and took his old coach Fleming with him for company.
Over there, he got the full-on schmooze treatment. Picked up at the airport. Palace of a hotel. Chauffeur-driven limo tour of the city. Malibu. Santa Monica. Playboy Mansion. Ringside seat at the fight. The works.
The kicker came when Finkel gave him a contract to sign. Egan said he couldn't do that, he'd had have to take it back to Dublin to study it first. "No problem," said Finkel. "Bring it home, look through it. Tell you what – I'll be over in Europe for the Klitschko fight next month. I'll take a day out, fly over to Dublin and we can hold a press conference."
Smooth, Shelly. Real smooth. But Egan didn't bite. He went through it with a solicitor when he got home and rang Finkel back to say thanks but no thanks. For a start, the money wasn't right but it was more than that too. The whole experience made him start to give real and serious thought to whether or not he wants to go pro at all.
"I don't really want to, to be honest. It's a cut-throat game. It's a f**king harsh business. I watched that show in LA and there was nine fights on, including the main event, and before the Mosley fight there were eight knock-outs. Lads getting slaughtered for half-nothing. It's a different kettle of fish altogether.
"I don't know. I can't rule it out. There were loads of promoters coming over to me and giving me their cards. About four or five of them came up to me and told me to give them a call. Myself, Gerry and my brother are going over to New York for the Calzaghe-Jones fight at the start of November and I'm going to meet a few more people over there. I'll do the same thing as in LA. If somebody wants to give me a contract to sign, I'll put it in my bag and take it back to Dublin and go through it word for word. And if one of them appeals to me, then I'll think about it. But I have a meeting coming up with the Sports Council and if we can come together and look at the future for me in the amateur game here, I'll do that just as quickly."
Truth is, it's hard to see what the Sports Council can realistically offer him. It's a government body after all and it's going to catch the same chill from the arctic economic winds that all the other government bodies are in for over the next few years. The very best they'll likely be able to do for him is his yearly grant of €40,000 but even then, it will only last up until London 2012 and he'll need to keep winning titles for it to stay at that level.
"I'd like to be involved in boxing here if that was possible. But I have to think about more than just the next four years. I have to think about what happens after London if I get there. What happens to me then? Maybe the Sports Council then says, 'Well done Kenny, thanks for another four years of your life. Take it handy.' I don't want that. I want to be involved in something, be an ambassador for the sport, maybe be a coach for the High Performance Unit. These are the things I have to think of, not just the next four years. That's no good to me.
"I want to be involved in boxing some way or another. I'm after learning so much that I couldn't waste it going doing something else. It'd be stupid not to put it back in after me getting so much out of it. I'd be crazy to head off and do an office job, wouldn't I? I couldn't handle a nine-to-five. I wouldn't fancy sitting around for the rest of my life looking at a screen. I want to be involved in something physical, you know? That's what I'm built for."
You listen to him and it's clear that he wants to get back into doing something physical sooner rather than later. He'd like nothing more than to clear his head of all the outside influences and get back to being an anonymous figure pounding the streets in the early morning with his hood up round his ears. As it stands, he's officially still on post-Olympic hiatus but the boxer's body craves punishment. He took on Mick McCarthy's agent Liam Gaskin last week and is putting his affairs in his hands so that he can get back to doing what he does and being what he is.
"I've been doing a small bit of training. A bit of running, a bit with the pads. But I haven't got into my routine. I need to do that, to get back into my routine again. I'm in limbo at the minute. I'm running around and I don't know what to be doing with myself. I deserve the time off but I know I'm not using it as well as I could. I'm mentally drained and that's not a good way to be. I've no routine and I've nobody to answer to. The main thing is I have no structure. I'm like a loner on a mad one, that's what it's like. Without a structure, I'm freelance.
"I have no targets or goals set for myself and until I get that again, I'm just running around doing stuff. My life is just smiling and signing autographs at the minute but I have to get back to the real world soon. The Senior Championships are in February, so I have to set a course for that and commit myself to it. Bottom line is that right now, I'd like to be captain of the team in 2012. I make no bones about that. If I get a load of contracts put in front of me and none of them are anything special then it won't cost me a thought to walk away and start preparing for London."
Then again, turning pro would almost certainly mean leaving Ireland and, given that he's just spent a week with his face plastered on the front of The Star, The Sun and The Mirror, that might not necessarily be the worst thing in the world. How the vagaries of his love life came to be anyone's business but his own is beyond him but for some reason the red-tops decided it was his turn in the hot seat last week. It culminated in him sending a friend of his onto Liveline on Friday to confirm he'd split up with his girlfriend. Indeed, a reporter and photographer almost got a glimpse of his desire to get back into doing something physical when he chased them off his doorstep on Thursday morning.
"Ah look, it doesn't bother me. It's a pain in the arse and it's mad that people have nothing better to be writing about. Like, you'd swear there was nothing happening in the world. But that doesn't bother me, that kind of stuff. Nobody'll remember it in a week."
You want to believe him but there's definitely an element of bravado and brave face about him as he talks. It's seven weeks since he watched the Irish flag being raised in his honour in Beijing and he's barely had time to look around him. The worst of it is that he doesn't look as if he has enjoyed the whole experience, certainly not as much as he'd have expected to. Maybe he'll go pro, maybe he'll knuckle down and have a crack at London; nobody – least of all he himself – knows at this point.
All you can do is cross fingers and toes and hope for the best for him.