'As soon as I hit him, I knew': Kane Tucker hits comeback trail again after hand woe

Kane Tucker suffered the same break in his right hand twice in the space of a year, but intends to return to the ring in future
Kane Tucker suffered the same break in his right hand twice in the space of a year, but intends to return to the ring in future

AS soon as the punch landed, he knew. Kane Tucker, first fight back after a year from hell, aiming to announce his return to the ring with a maiden Irish elite crown, this was his moment.

Then bang. Towards the end of the opening round of a semi-final showdown against Kyle Roche in January, the Newry man threw a right hand and, as it landed, a familiar sharp pain shot up his arm.

After the ref shouted break, trainer Harry Hawkins’s heart sank as he caught the distressed glance from the corner.

It had been 11 months since Tucker suffered a broken hand on the way to victory over Jason Myers in the Irish U22 final, an injury that ultimately spelled the end of his Commonwealth Games dreams and left him out of the ring for the rest of the year.

Back at the National Stadium, Tucker knew lightning had struck twice. Fighter’s instinct kicked in as he somehow battled through the next two rounds with Roche, eventually getting the nod on a split decision, but his head was “all over the place”.

Tucker wouldn’t be competing in the following night’s final against Smithfield’s Dmytro Olinyk – the way he felt, he didn’t know if he would ever box again.

“It’s been mad,” said the 23-year-old.

“After that first round I got into the corner, I knew if I told Harry I thought it was broke he’d have pulled me out, so I said ‘I’m alright, I’m alright’. But the game-plan completely went out the window, I boxed brutal… I don’t even remember how I managed to get through it.

“When it happened last year, I didn’t know until I got to the hospital - I had an idea but I didn’t know it was definitely broke. This time, as soon as I hit him I knew.

“I was devastated. I’d sparred the whole way up, I was fine, throwing the hand no bother - everything was 100 per cent. Then that happened.

“At the time I was like ‘I’m not boxing again, that’s me done’… all that goes through your head.”

Tucker admits he has “calmed down” now and, while it may not be any time soon, fully intends to return to the ring at some stage – though whether that is as an amateur or a professional remains to be seen.

Going to last summer’s Commonwealth Games had been a shared dream with brother Jake for years, unfortunately it was only the younger sibling who went to Birmingham as Kane continued to build himself back up.

The Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and the shake-up in weight classes, leaves Tucker caught between two stools – too big for 80kg, not big enough for 92kg. So, when all is said and done, the paid ranks appears the most likely destination.

“Originally the idea was to go there [to the Commonwealths], do well, if I got a good medal that could be something to go pro with, or go to High Performance and look at the Olympics… I would have gauged a lot from it.

“I remember when I found out I wasn’t picked it was just like ‘what do I do now?’ I was devastated. But look, I probably wouldn’t have been ready for them anyway.

“I really don’t know at this stage, but I can’t see myself coming back as an amateur in Ireland. Even with the injury, you’re not fighting as much, you can take your rest, you’re maybe not fighting two or three times a week like at tournaments.

“I feel I would have a good pro style, and then I have Harry Hawkins there, he’s trained them all, so he’s a good man to have in your corner.”

For now, though, full focus is on ensuring recovery goes well and he returns bigger and better than ever.

“Last time I came back a wee bit too early because I was trying to qualify for the Commonwealths, maybe that’s why it didn’t heal right.

“But this time I’m going to give it a few months to heal, just completely relax, don’t do anything stupid and do what the doctor says.

“If you sit and feel sorry for yourself, you’ll get nowhere – I’ve moved on now. I just have to start again.”