Conrad Cummings determined to put on a show in north-south battle with Luke Keeler
CONRAD Cummings has shown glimpses of class throughout his 15-bout career, but fight fans have yet to see the best of the 26-year-old Tyrone middleweight.
‘Dynamite' (13-1-1) meets Dubliner Luke Keeler (13-2-1) on the undercard of Carl Frampton versus Nonito Donaire on Saturday night and, with the WBO European Middleweight title on the line, the former Clonoe and Holy Trinity ABC star intends to “put on a show” at the SSE Arena.
Fighting under the Cyclone Promotions banner early in his career, Cummings had to shoulder the weight of unfair expectation from the crowd as well as the pressure he put on himself and received from his handlers. He hooked up with new coach Jamie Moore last year and says Moore's Manchester gym is much more suited to his style.
“I'm happy,” he said.
“I'm in a great place – I feel five years' younger, whereas in London I felt 10 years' older.
“The craic that people see on Twitter is very much the way it is, it's real. It doesn't even feel like a job even though the training is still hard. The amount of laughs you have makes up for the hard work.
“I can be very serious as a person. I know I don't always come across that way, but I can be, I can be very deep.
“I clashed with my old crew and it was too much for me. I got alopecia! My hair was falling out! I needed a team that suited me and my personality and where I am now is really bringing the best out of me. I know I'm going to go out on Saturday night and put on show.”
Moore worked Cummings, Frampton and Stephen Ward hard during a recent training camp in Tenerife. The camp included gruelling runs up Mount Tiede, but if you hadn't known better you might have thought the fighters were there on a lads' holiday in the sun.
The truth was that, behind the smiles on social media, there was a lot of very hard work going on.
“The training was absolutely brutal hard,” said Cummings.
“So why not have fun, why not be smiling? Boxing is a very lonely and unforgiving sport and you want to have as many laughs and as many light-hearted moments as possible and that's what we had.
“It's really showing in my performances, even my last couple of performances with Jamie I've been nice and relaxed and everything is flowing. That was the way I performed as an amateur and the best is yet to come as a pro and I know that.”
Keeler is his first Irish opponent since he shared a ring with Belfast's Alfredo Meli back in November 2015. Cummings had the Immaculata fighter down early their 10-rounder at the Waterfront Hall, but Meli fought back to force a draw in the Irish title rumble.
“There was a lot of pressure,” said Cummings, looking back.
“Did I put it on myself or was it getting put on me? I don't know. It doesn't matter now.
“I underperformed that night. I choked a bit, but sometimes the hardest lessons are the best ones. If I had made the mistakes I made that night in a fight for a European belt or a world title I could have been badly hurt.
“I made stupid mistakes, I was walking straight forward… But I've learned how to deal with pressure and cope with things better and I'm back on the big stage fighting for a WBO European title and looking forward to it.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, Cummings knows that 30-year-old Keeler will see the fight as a route to forcing his way into the middleweight title scene.
“I know how hard I've trained and I know how hard he'll have trained,” said Cummings.
“He has a chance to change his career, his life now. That makes it an exciting fight and I'm very confident I'll go out and do the job.
“He can be bit reckless – I have been too in the past.
“I don't believe I am any more and I'll be taking that into this fight and letting him make the mistakes. I'll be sticking to my boxing and showing the level I was at as an amateur because sometimes I haven't shown it as a pro. I'll set my attacks up, move my head and get the job done.”
Cummings added: “I'm excited.
“May the best man win, I know that'll be me, but I wish Luke all the best.
“I haven't always shown the true level I'm at but I do believe the level I'm going to.
“This time I know I'll produce it in the ring, I know what I have to do and I'm going to go and do it and I'll enjoy doing it. Bring it on.”
Saturday night's SSE Arena running order:
Interim WBO World Featherweight title: Carl Frampton (24-1) v Nonito Donaire (38-4)
World Boxing Organisation World Bantamweight title: Zolani Tete (26-3) v Omar Andres Narvaez (48-2-2)
Welterweight: Lewis Crocker (4-0) v Scott James (live floater)
Lightweight: David Oliver Joyce (6-0) v Jordan Ellison
Super-lightweight: Tyrone McKenna (15-0-1) v Anthony Upton (17-1)
WBO European Middleweight title: Conrad Cummings (13-1-1) v Luke Keeler (13-2-1)
Light heavyweight: Steven Ward (6-0) v Michal Ciach (1-4)
Super lightweight: Sam Maxwell (6-0) v TBC
Super-featherweight: Marco McCullough (18-4) v TBC
Featherweight: Tyrone McCullagh (9-0) Elvis Guillen (9-36-4)
Middleweight: Troy Williamson (5-0) v TBC
Heavyweight: Alex Dickinson (4-0) v Lee Carter
Super middleweight: Ryan Hatton (2-0) v Attila Tibor Nagy (11-30-1)
WORLD-ranked super-featherweight Jono Carroll has pulled out of his clash with Marco McCullough on Saturday night after sustaining a cut during training.
The unbeaten 26-year-old (15-0-KO2) had been due to defend his IBF title on the undercard of Carl Frampton v Nonito Donaire at the SSE Arena.
McCullough (18-4) said: "It's obviously disappointing to have prepared for this long and then be unable to fight on the night but I'll be back.
"Hopefully Jono can heal quickly and we can move the fight rather than cancel it altogether. I still want to face him so hopefully it can happen at the first available opportunity."
Carroll was last seen in November 2017 when he produced an eye-catching early stoppage of Humberto de Santiago - also in Belfast.
McCullough fought on the same card at The SSE Arena that night; halting Josh Baillie in the third round.
AARON McKenna moved to 3-0 with a second stoppage win of his career against Keasen Freeman last weekend.
The Monaghan youngster out-classed Freeman and blasted him out inside the first round at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
“It was a great fight and I felt very strong,” he said.
“I landed some good solid shots and after he went down the first time I knew he couldn't handle my power.
“I knew I had to start fast but be patient and it all came together.”
There was more good for McKenna after his management company Sheer Sports confirmed that younger brother Stephen has also been signed by Oscar De La Hoya's Goldenboy.