The fighter. Conrad Cummings battles through personal crisis to make ring return on October 11
LOSING a fight was just the tip of the iceberg; the bit we could all see. But below the surface, outside the ring, Conrad Cummings felt like his life was falling apart.
In the space of a few turbulent months he broke up with his partner, lost his house, lost his title... Truth be told, he came close to losing his mind.
A second loss to Dubliner Luke Keeler, at the Ulster Hall back in March, was the catalyst for Tyrone middleweight Cummings to nosedive into a depression which, thankfully, he has been able to work his way out of and pull himself back “out of the gutter”.
‘Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone', as they say.
Cummings explains: “I walked into the Ulster Hall to fight Keeler as the WBO European champion and people were stopping me for autographs and taking photos with me.
“I lost the fight and I walked back to the Europa on my own. I had nine stitches over my eye and I was peeing blood.”
The night was the low point of a career that began with such promise back in 2014. Cummings had followed hot on the heels of Carl Frampton by signing for Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions. McGuigan tipped ‘Dynamite' to be a future world champion and Cummings had captured the WBO European Middleweight belt before acrimoniously splitting with the McGuigans and joining Frampton in Manchester.
They both linked up with trainer Jamie Moore but Cummings looked a pale shadow of himself when he lost his first meeting with Keeler in April last year. He bounced back with two decent wins and then beat Ferenc Berki to win the WBO European title after Keeler had vacated it. However, the Dubliner won the belt back that night in March and Cummings lost his way after the defeat.
“My wedding was cancelled,” he explained.
“I broke up with my partner of 10 years. I do understand that it was lonely for her because I was away a lot but it was because I was working to try and give myself and my future family a good life.
“Then I had to put my house up for sale, I was back living with my parents, sponsors were dropping away and I was wondering when my next fight was and if I even wanted to box again.
“My trainer (Moore) wasn't working out and it hadn't been working for a while, so it was a rough time.”
Cummings' family rallied around him. He went to visit his brother in the US and the change of scene and some time to relax did him good.
“My brother flew me out to America in April and it was amazing,” he said.
“We talked about things and cleared the air and when I got back I met Gerard McManus (Belfast boxing trainer). We talked about life and about boxing and he said to come down to the gym for a bit of training to clear my head more than anything.
“And now here we are! I'm fighting again next week and I have pulled myself out of the gutter. My whole life was being questioned but I've answered the questions and I'm excited about the future.
“What doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I've got the buzz back in my belly now.”
The good news is that Cummings returns to the ring on October 11 against Adam Grabiec. The fight marks a new chapter in his 16-3-1 career. At 28, he still has several good years left and a couple of wins should propel him back up the middleweight ladder again. He says he'll go out on October 11 with “absolutely no pressure” on his shoulders.
“When I first turned pro there was loads of pressure on me coming behind Carl Frampton and signing with Barry McGuigan but now there's none,” he said.
“I'm only a young man, I turned 28 a couple of months ago and I'm happy, I'm enjoying life and that's the main thing. Everything else can come after that.”
He added: “This fight is for everyone that stood by me. I'm dedicating it to them because I was in a really bad place and thank God I'm not anymore.
“I'll take it one fight at a time but I think Gerard is getting the best out of me, I'm getting a lot of one-to-one which I wasn't getting for one reason or another. He can be very harsh with me which is good in a sense because he tells me how it is.
“If and when I win this fight I have no doubt that big fights are going to come shortly after. One thing about being with Barry and Cyclone Promotions and then being with Jamie Moore is that my profile has been built up.
“They'll offer me to some young guns: ‘Ah you'll beat Cummings, he's over the hill…' That'll happen soon and I'll use that to my advantage.”
THE quarter-final draw for MTK Global's featherweight Golden Contract tournament takes place this afternoon and Derry's Tyrone McCullagh is one of eight contenders for the lucrative first prize.
WBO European champion ‘White Chocolate' (13-0) is part of a star-studded field that includes British champion Ryan Walsh (24-2-2), WBA super-bantamweight contender James ‘Jazza' Dickens (27-3) and former Ireland Olympian David Oliver Joyce (11-0). Also in the mix are Leigh Wood (22-1), Hairon Socarras (22-0-3), Carlos Ramos (11-1) and Carlos Araujo (15-1).
The tournament is made up of three rounds of 10 or 12-round fights beginning with the quarter-finals on Saturday night. The semi-finals are in March and the final is in the summer. The winner will secure a two-year, five-fight 'Golden Contract' with one of the world's leading promoters which would also guarantee lucrative purses for every fight.
“The standard is very high,” said McCullagh, who is stepping up from super-bantam for the tournament.
“There's no one boxer you would think: ‘I'd love to get him' or ‘I'd definitely beat him'. Ryan Walsh is the bookies' favourite but I don't mind who I get to be honest, you're going to have to beat them all to win it anyway.
“It's an unbelievable opportunity and you have to grab them with both hands. I'm just concentrating on the quarter-finals at the minute and I'll start thinking about the deal and the money when I get to the final.”
BRETT McGinty has signed as a professional with US-based management company Sheer Sports. The Donegal native, twice an Irish Elite finalist, has a naturally aggressive style that looks well suited to the pro game and he is looking forward to getting started with the management team that brought through fellow Donegal fighter Jason Quigley and are currently handling Monaghan brothers Aaron and Stephen McKenna.
“I'm delighted to be beginning my professional journey under Sheer Sports management,” he said.
“They are a great team full of great people and I'm very lucky to have them guiding my career.
“From the chubby 10-year-old walking into Oakleaf boxing club I am very grateful for the fighter they have made me into today.
“I'm looking forward to the next step and getting started.”