Boxing

Sean McComb heads stellar cast as Ulster Elite Championships kick-off

Sean McComb insists he won't underestimate Matthew McCole in tonight's 64kg Ulster semi-final at the Dockers Club in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

SEAN McComb heads a stellar list of top talent at this year’s Ulster Elite Championships, with the Holy Trinity man in semi-final action tonight as he eyes a spot at next year’s Commonwealth Games.

The three-time Irish elite champion faces Dungloe’s Matthew McCole at the Dockworkers Club, with club-mate and 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sean Duffy among a host of other fighters in action.

If he’s being honest though, it is a stage – and a venue - McComb never expected to grace again.

Overlooked for the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealths, losing a box-off to Glasgow silver medallist Joe Fitzpatrick last time around, he vowed never to compete in Ulster again.

However, following the recent upheaval in the Ulster Boxing Council, with Kevin Duffy and Charlie Toland elected as president and secretary respectively, McComb decided to go for third time lucky.

“There’s been a lot of changes in Ulster boxing recently, that’s the reason I’m back in the Dockers and back at the Ulster Elite Championships,” said the 2015 European Games bronze medallist.

“What happened last time put me off boxing in Ulster until now - I believe they threw away a gold medal for a silver. It sickened me.

“There were a lot of people in my ear telling me I should go for them this time around but I didn’t really want to, to be honest – I couldn’t motivate myself. I still didn’t know whether to go professional now or go to the Commonwealths. My head was melted with it.

“It wasn’t a decision I was really in the mood to even make, I just wanted to train in peace. Train and enjoy it and not have anybody bullshitting in my ear about what I should do.

“They aren’t the ones who were hurt before - I’m the one who suffered from not going to the two previous Commonwealth Games.

“But with the changes that have been made, and the fact that finals night is back in the Ulster Hall as well, you can feel Ulster boxing is moving in the right direction.”

It would be no surprise if some of his old friends make an appearance at the Dockers tonight to lend their support, with Carl Frampton, Jamie Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Tommy McCarthy all preparing for Saturday night’s huge show at the SSE Arena.

McComb wishes he was also appearing on the bill, and believes it is only a matter of time until he joins the rest of his pals in the paid ranks.

“That’s a dream bill to be on; probably the biggest professional boxing bill in Belfast ever,” admits the 25-year-old.

“You would love to be part of it, part of the whole build-up. Carl Frampton has Windsor Park booked for next summer I believe, and you’d imagine that’ll be massive.

“Hopefully if I win gold at the Commonwealths and get a decent offer, I could be on that bill. You never know.”

Such talk of an imminent move to the pro game would appear to draw a line under the prospect of McComb waiting around for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

McComb hasn’t been down to the High Performance unit at Abbotstown since the start of August, before the World Championships in Germany, and says he has no intention of returning any time soon.

“I don’t think I want to wait around until Tokyo - I just can’t see me going to Dublin any longer. I just got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying Dublin any more.

“If that’s what it takes for me to get to Tokyo, to go to Dublin every week, then I’ll probably give it a miss. The way I was feeling towards the end there, I would rather get a job and train at home than be on funding and stay in Dublin.”

The winner of McComb and McCole will face either Vinny Esler, Caoimhin Ferguson or Bernaldo Marime in the November 24 light-welter final, and McComb admits he knows nothing about tonight’s opponent.

“I’ve heard he’s tall and awkward, but I’ll not be underestimating him,” he added.

“I’m fully focused, I’m very experienced now and I know that there’s very little between elite boxers.

“For example, when I beat the world champion [at the last European Championships], I wasn’t even ranked. He was number one in the world, he probably underestimated me and look what happened.”

Steven Donnelly awaits in the semi-final of the Ulster Elite Championships, where he will face either Michael Bustard or Caoimhin Hynes, who meet in the last eight tonight

Elsewhere tonight, Conor Quinn and Jason McKay go toe-to-toe for the right to face Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine in the flyweight final, while Dylan Duffy and Callum Trengrove meet to decide who will face Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist James McGivern in Friday’s 60kg semi-final.

At middleweight, Caoimhin Hynes continues his comeback against Monkstown’s Michael Bustard, with the winner facing another Rio Olympian, Steven Donnelly, who has moved up to 75kg.

Ulster Elite Championships

Tonight (Dockers Club, 8pm)

Quarter-finals

60kg: S Duffy (Holy Trinity) v G Matthews (St Paul’s); C Trengrove (Spartans) v D Duffy (Pegasus)

64kg: V Esler (All Saints) v C Ferguson (Gleann)

69kg: R Boyle (Mourne GG) v A Walsh (Monkstown); E McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda) v G French (Clonard)

75kg: M Bustard (Monkstown) v C Hynes (Holy Trinity); N Donnelly (Dockers) v C Doherty (Emerald)

91+kg: S McMonagle (Holy Trinity) v D Scullion (Loughshore)

Semi-finals

Female 51kg: D Barr (Illies GG) v C Smith (Cavan)

52kg: C Quinn (Clonard) v J McKay (Canal)

64kg: S McComb (Holy Trinity) v M McCole (Dungloe)

81kg: K Dlugosz (Scorpion) v M McAllister (Dockers)

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