WHEN you see him now – whether it’s out and about or on social media - Conrad Cummings always seems to have a smile on his face.
It hasn’t always been that way for the naturally affable Tyrone middleweight, but since his move to Jamie Moore’s gym in Manchester he seems to have rediscovered his lust for life.
“I’m working very hard but I feel a bit less pressure on me and I’m thriving,” says Cummings who meets Barcelona-based Nicaraguan journeyman Michael Mora at the Devenish Complex on Saturday night in the first chapter of what could be a ground-breaking year for him.
“I’m having a good time, I’m enjoying myself. One of the first things Jamie (Moore, his coach) said to me is ‘A happy fighter is a dangerous fighter’ and I’m really feeling that at the minute.”
The first 14 fights of Cummings’ professional career were under the banner of Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions. After his debut in 2014 Cummings moved to 12-1-1 in March last year when he stopped Gogi Knezevic to win the WBO European middleweight title.
There were disappointments for the Coalisland native too, most notably in a Celtic title fight against Alfredo Meli only 18 months into his career which was scored a draw and then a loss to Ronnie Mittag late in 2016.
Somewhere along the way, he had lost his sparkle but his split with the McGuigans and the subsequent hook-up with Moore has breathed life back into a career which was in danger of running out of steam.
“I hadn’t been happy for a while,” he admits.
“It’s only looking back that I realise I thought I was happy, but obviously I wasn’t. There were a lot of things going on, but I don’t feel any pressure now and I feel I’m really going to perform.
“I’ve a big smile on my face and I want to go to Manchester, I want to go over every week to have the craic and obviously work hard. The gym work is hard, we’re all grafting but the atmosphere is good.
“You take enough punches in the face and you get enough stick in the ring so any time you’re out of it you want to be getting as much craic as you can.
“You need to be able to unwind and the gym is full of great characters – Carl, Steven Ward, Rocky Fielding, Tommy Coyle… They’re a really good bunch of lads – the training is hard and the fun is hard also.
“You go into the changingrooms and God knows what you’ll see, they’re lunatics but good lads as well.
“Tommy Coyle is the king messer. Rocky Fielding was in the shower washing his hair last week and Tommy went in and roared at him, he scared Rocky and the shower curtain fell down… It was a good laugh, very light-hearted and good fun and you need that.
“I look forward to going in there and doing the work but it’s a tough business and you need as many laughs as you can get.”
The serious business begins in earnest on Saturday night when Cummings tops the 10-fight Ginley Promotions card at the Devenish Complex in west Belfast. His journeyman opponent Mora has lost 20 on-the-trot and shouldn’t cause him any problems but he’ll be keeping a close eye on Luke Keeler’s undercard fight. Dubliner Keeler will be his opponent on April 21 when they face-off on the Carl Frampton v Nonito Donaire bill.
“These are the fights I felt I should have had in my career,” said Cummings.
“There were always big, long gaps of maybe six months when I should have been busy and getting my confidence built up.
“I should have had fights like this before some of the bigger fights I had so I’m looking forward to this fight on Saturday night, it’s a fight I have to win and I’m looking forward to doing the job – I’m not looking past him but I’m confident that I’ll beat him and I’ll beat him well and then crack on.”
Cummings versus Keeler is one of three north v south fights on the Frampton/Donaire bill. Also matched together are Tyrone McKenna and Phil Sutcliffe jnr and Marco McCullagh and Jono Carroll.
“It’s a real mouthwatering fight for the public to get their teeth into,” said Cummings.
“I believe I’ll show the level I’m at in it. His only losses have been against Tom Doran – the first one was close and the second one he had Doran gone but he got a bit reckless and got beat.
“He has a bit of power there and it’s an interesting fight. I’m excited and that is bad news for Luke Keeler because I haven’t felt this way since I was an amateur to be honest, I’m feeling nerves and I think that’s fantastic, it’ll bring the best out of me because I know I have to be on point and I know I will be.
“I have to show the level I’m at and the level I’m going to. Luke is a good fighter and I’m expecting a good fight but I know, 110 per cent, that I’ll be the winner.”
Experience over the last 12 months has taught him not to look too far ahead, but like everyone else, he knows Frampton has a big fight in the mix for the summer and he wants to be a part of it.
“When I get these wins I could be setting myself up for a huge fight in the summer,” said Cummings.
“Carl is talking about Windsor Park and it could be a nice co-headline.”
Donegal native Jason Quigley – now based in Sheffield – and WBO middleweight king Billy Joe Saunders are two of the names Cummings has been linked with.
“Bring them on,” he said.
“I’ve served my apprenticeship and I’m ready for them all.”
Middleweight: Conrad Cummings (12-1-1) v Michael Mora (11-21)
Super-lightweight: Anthony Upton (16-1) v Eligio Palacios (7-26-5)
Featherweight: Sean Magee (1-0) Elvis Guillen (9-34-4)
Middleweight: Padraig McCrory (2-0) v Manny Bique (0-2)
Middleweight: Gerard Healy (6-4-1) v Iain Jackson (5-36-2)
Super-featherweight: Declan Geraghty (15-2) v Edwin Tellez (12-35-5)
Lightweight: Gary Cully (3-0) v TBC
Middleweight: Luke Keeler (13-2) v TBC
Lightweight: Sean Creagh (7-1) v TBC
Lightweight: David Oliver Joyce (5-0) v TBC