Boxing

Seconds Out: Top amateur talent Conor Quinn heads Down Under to pursue professional dream

Clonard's highly-rated Conor Quinn flew out to Australia in the early hours of this morning where he hopes to embark on a career in the pro ranks. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

ONE of Ulster’s top young amateur talents has opted to swap Belfast for Brisbane in pursuit of his professional dream.

Clonard flyweight Conor Quinn jetted out to Australia yesterday morning - just weeks before the Irish Elite Championships, which will go some way towards deciding who represents Ireland at the European Olympic qualifier in London next March.

Alongside the likes of Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine, reigning champion Adam Hession and European Games bronze medallist Regan Buckley, Quinn was right in the mix for the 52kg spot and a potential shot at next summer’s Tokyo Games.

However, instead of making the familiar trek to Dublin to weigh-in on November 15, Quinn and girlfriend Jessica will be finding their feet Down Under.

It is a move that has been on his mind for some time, and the 21-year-old – who has boxed for Ireland at all levels - is excited about the next stage in his boxing career.

“The past couple of years I’ve been loving every second of it, going away to different competitions, constantly with the national team and making good friends,” he said.

“But after picking up that injury [broken hand] last year, I saw how much you can miss because of something so simple. I had that one injury and it put me out of every single competition, and after that I started to find myself getting very complacent – waking up every day, doing the same things. It really started to feel like a chore.

“Amateur boxing was always something I loved doing and the success that came with it made it even better, but once I started to feel like that I knew it was time for a change.

“What got me interested in boxing from a young age was professional boxing, the big fight nights. I would love that to be me some day.”

As a result, Quinn held discussions with the Fortitude Boxing Gym in Brisbane, current home of another former Irish amateur star, Conor Wallace, now a 7-0 pro.

And the instant impression they made helped influence his decision to head to the other side of the world.

“They couldn’t have been any more helpful,” said Quinn, whose last competitive amateur bout came at the European Union Championships in Spain 12 months ago.

“Anything I needed, they were going and sorting out. They’ve really gone out of their way to help me, which is something I was very surprised about. Back home I have all these people to help me - my club, my friends and family, but for someone who hardly knows me to do that, it says a lot about the people there.

“Even for Jessica, they were going out of their way to try and find her work. It’s a great gym over there, full of amateur and pro fighters, so once I got speaking to them I really felt as though I would be comfortable in their hands.

“I want to take a couple of months out there to get settled, I’ll be training in the gym day in, day out. They’ve already done so much for me up to now, so that’s where I want to be.

“There’s nothing set in stone yet but, hopefully if all goes to plan, one day I’ll be a professional boxing champion out of the Fortitude gym.”

Still, it is with a heavy heart that he leaves behind those who have given him so much at Clonard, and the west Belfast club showed that the feeling is mutual by holding a special fundraising fight night for Quinn last weekend.

“I’ve been there since I was six years old, so it’s hard.

“Paddy Graham sr is the coach I’ve been with from the very start, and during his career he fought in Australia and had the offer to stay there. He doesn’t regret not doing it, but said he loved the place and wonders what would have happened if he’d taken that opportunity.

“I would place a lot of importance on Paddy’s opinion, whatever he says I take to heart, so when he was all for it I knew it was the right thing to do. Now, I’m just excited to see what the future holds.”

LEFT HOOKS

The cream of Derry’s emerging amateur talent will be celebrated at the County Derry Boxing Board’s annual presentation night, which takes place in the Maldron Hotel on Friday night.

A host of Ulster and Irish champions will go toe-to-toe as a Derry team takes on a Tyrone/Fermanagh select. Doors open at 7.30pm, first bout at 8pm, with tickets £8 per adult, £5 per child.

“We would love to see people coming out to support some of top class boxers who have done so well this year,” said Eugene Duffy, president of the County Derry board.

“It promises to be a great night.”

It is also hoped that Derry’s own professional boxers Tyrone McCullagh, Connor Coyle and Sean McGlinchey will be in attendance to hand out awards at this prestigious event.

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TEO Alin faces an Irish senior final date with former European silver medallist Brandon McCarthy at the National Stadium on Friday night.

The Cookstown lightweight edged out Ulster rival Jack McGivern on a 4-1 split last weekend to set up a clash with Athy’s McCarthy, who beat Crumlin’s Killian Geraghty in the last four.

Emerald’s Caoimhin Ferguson is also in the hunt for an Irish title as he bids to follow up his last four victory over Esker’s Evan Fitzgerald against Cameron Bennett (Swords) in the 64kg decider.

At 56kg, Dean Clancy of the Sean McDermott’s club in Donegal takes on Rivertown’s Jamie Griffin, while Illies Golden Gloves have two fighters in finals action.

Caroline Gallagher is up against Rosie Doherty (St Francis’s) while club-mate Matthew McCole takes on Olympic’s Martin Sammon.

Holy Family’s Siobhan McKenna will have the 54kg title in her sights, meanwhile, when she steps between the ropes to face Tramore’s Zara Breslin.

The action gets under way at 6.30pm in Dublin on Friday night.

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THERE are a busy few weeks ahead for County Antrim’s boxers, starting with a major youth international round-robin at Belfast’s Balmoral Hotel on Friday and Saturday.

A County Antrim select will go toe-to-toe with the cream of the crop from Italy, Scotland, Greece, Cyprus, Belgium and the Basque country.

On Saturday, November 23 meanwhile, County Antrim will take on a County Limerick team, also at the Balmoral Hotel, with up to 17 bouts on the bill.

Meanwhile, on November 9/10, the Ulster 9 County boys and girls novice championships will be held in Omagh Boxing Club.

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THE Ulster Boxing Council will send an 18-strong Schoolboy team to Solihull on Friday, November 22 to take on a quality Birmingham Select.

The team will travel on the Friday, box on Saturday and return on Sunday, November 24.

Team: F Kilpatrick (Cookstown), A Ritchie (All Saints), D Kelly (Castleblayney), P Carville (Castleblaney), F Duffy (St Joseph’s), K Smith (Holy Trinity), M Carlin (Dunree), K Collins (Dunree), D Magill (Glengormley), J Murkian (Silverbridge), L Hill (St John Bosco, Newry), J Donaghy (Star of the Sea), L Rooney (Star), D McLaughlin (Saints), A Taggart (Ormeau Road), B Stokes (Loughshore), J Harkin (Oakleaf), A McDaid (Raphoe)

Coaches: C Quinn (St John’s), T Leonard (Corpus Christi), C Duffy (St Joseph’s), J Hill (St John Bosco, Newry)

R&Js: J Lowe (St Paul’s), G McGillion (Omagh B&G)

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