Feargal McCrory determined to go the distance in the school of hard knocks
THE only guarantee in boxing is a smack in the gob. In the school of hard knocks dedication and sacrifices aren't always matched by rewards, but there's a fierce determination in Feargal McCrory that makes you believe he's a gonna-be, not a wanna-be.
Driven on to provide for his young family, the 24-year-old Coalisland southpaw, who headlines the bill at the Devenish Complex on April 22, lives the fighters' life a million miles away from the bright lights of Vegas or ‘the Garden'.
While the rest of us are tucked up in our beds he's out running, then he's off to work and afterwards McCrory hits the road for Belfast and John Breen's Gym for sparring and bags. The next day he does it all again and the next and the next…
“We're working down in Ballinahinch out on the roads, doing gas mains,” he explained when we spoke.
“I want to box full-time but I can't afford not to work. Once you have a family you can't take the risk of waiting on fights and maybe getting hurt, you need to have a steady income.
“For one training camp I could spend maybe £1300 on diesel alone over eight or 10 weeks so it's costly before you start to buy training gear or anything. It's tough.”
Local businesses, also convinced by his single-mindedness and potential, have given him support - PK Murphy, Pomeroy, Setbuild, Hagan's Bar, Dungannon and Fortress Fitness, Dungannon have all come on board to help ‘Fearless' build a career that started promisingly when he signed with Ricky Hatton in his late teens.
He enjoyed his time with ‘the Hitman' but although he learned plenty from the former super lightweight king who shared a ring with Mayweather, Pacquaio and the rest, he never fought under the Team Hatton banner.
“Nothing ever came of it,” he says.
“I was a bit star-struck at the start because Ricky was somebody I would have watched from I was very young and I loved his style. I was still being trained by John Breen but I was going over to England regular-enough.
“It was a great experience to be talking to him and getting advice off him and I'd like to think I'll always be as modest as him even though I haven't achieved what he did – I'd never get too far ahead of myself.
“One thing I remember he talked about was always setting goals but only working at the short-term ones – work short-term, but aim long-term.”
His short-term goal is clear enough – he has to beat James Carney (5-1) on April 22. Longer term, he wants a crack at the WBO super-featherweight title, but he needs a promoter who can open doors for him and keep the fights coming.
Liverpool tough nut Carney is a decent puncher and should test him over eight rounds. McCrory hasn't gone beyond four before now but he's confident he'll be able to go the distance – if he has to.
“I've been training so hard and I'll have done over 100 rounds of sparring by the time the fight comes,” he says.
“I'll be confident but only because I've put the work in for it and I'm really looking forward to it – it'll be a lot easier fighting someone who wants to win instead of someone who wants to survive.
“This is an eight rounder in my fifth fight but you have to try and sell yourself and maybe take risks early on to try and make it pay off.
“It's a hard sport and if you're not fighting you're not getting paid and you're not improving, you're not developing and you can be left behind very, very easy.”
In a sense he has been left behind in Breen's Gym after the veteran Belfast trainer lost the likes of Jamie Conlan, Marc McCullough and Lewis Crocker to Matt Macklin's glossy MTK stable. McCrory has no intention of following them through the door.
“John and Eamonn (Magee) are great trainers, they're unbelievable,” he says.
“He's very honest as well, he's someone you can trust and I know I'll never quit John because you need someone to protect you from yourself as well.
“If a fight's not going your way and it's looking bad you need someone like John Breen who cares about you to make the right decision for your well-being.
“Hopefully I'll never be in that position but, if I am, you need someone who has your interests at heart.”
He has a good team in his corner but lacks a promoter and obviously he'll need one if he is to get the most out of his career and continue to be based on home turf. He mentions Frank Warren and Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions as potential backers and knows he needs to impress to get them to take him on board.
“You need a promoter,” he said.
“It's very difficult to put plans in place when you haven't got things guaranteed. I've always sold massive tickets and if I get more fights and get more popular they would go up and up.
“The last three shows that I've been on have been small-hall shows and I've still sold a lot of tickets, so if I was fighting on a Carl Frampton bill they'd be very easy to sell.”
This year he'd like to get a crack WBO European super-featherweight champion Zoltan Kovacs, possibly on the same bill as his good friend Conrad Cummings who recently captured the WBO European middleweight strap.
“I made my debut on Conrad's show at the Waterfront (in 2015),” said McCrory.
“He won the WBO European middleweight title - maybe later this year Conrad could defend his and I'll fight for my own?
“We talked about it at the end of last year. My next fight is an eight-rounder and if I got another one I'd like to go for it, I've been keeping an eye on Kovacs (who stopped former stablemate McCullough in Germany back in 2015).
“He has kicked on in his career since he beat Marc, but if there's a chance I'd like to take that fight – maybe that's the risk that I need to take to get a good promoter on board.”
Devenish Complex bill (April 22)
Lightweight: Feargal McCrory (4-0) v Jay Carney (5-1-2)
Super-featherweight: Ronnie Clark (18 4-2) v Imre Nagy (15-9)
Middleweight: Gerard Healy (5-4-1) v William Warburton (23-110-9)
Super Featherweight: Mathew Fitzsimons (2-0) v Michael Barnor (14 9 2)
Lightweight: Sean Magee (debut) v Aleksandrs Birkenbergs (3-9)
Super-middleweight: Sean McGlinchey (debut) v TBA
Lightweight: Sean Higginson (debut) v Jamie Quinn (2-35-2)
Lightweight: Mark Morris (2-1) v Antonio Horvatic (10-35)
Heavyweight: Mike Perez (21-2-1) v TBA