THREE down, one to go – and James McGivern has a bit of sibling rivalry to thank for his run to the final in his first crack at the Irish Elite Championships.
The St George’s counter-puncher beat Senan Kelly then defending light-welter champion Wayne Kelly on the opening weekend, and followed that up with victory over Kenneth Doyle after a cagey encounter last Saturday night.
McGivern dazzled in a pair of fluorescent yellow boots borrowed from younger brother Jack and admits that, footwear assistance aside, his 17-year-old sibling has been a big help in preparing for these championships.
“I’m actually doing a lot of sparring with Jack,” said McGivern of his younger brother, who has also been touted for a big future in the fight game.
“He’s 60 kilo and our Jack, if he puts the head down, he’ll be one of the best boxers this country’s ever seen. If he put his head down and did it, he would probably be better than me.
“[When we’re sparring] it’s great for about two rounds then it ends up being a WCW match in the last round. My da will tell you, there’s a couple of times he had to jump in and say ‘will you two remember you’re boxing, not scrapping’.”
Former Irish lightweight champion George Bates will be in the opposite corner on Saturday night when the TG4 cameras roll into the National Stadium, and McGivern is determined to put on a show to keep his Olympic dream on track.
“I think this will be the first time I’ve been in with George. We’re not taking him lightly at all, it’ll take a big performance to beat him, same way it’ll take a big performance if he’s going to try and beat me.
“No doubt it’ll be a big fight... and I’ll win.”
Despite his impressive form thus far, McGivern is still growing into the 63 kilo division, having moved up from 60 following a shift in the Olympic weight classes.
He admits he has had to resist the urge to try and do too much, too quickly as he bids to play the long game looking ahead to Tokyo 2020.
“I’m a lot stronger now,” added the 21-year-old, who won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal last year.
“My strength and conditioning coach, Stuart McKeating, I call him ‘the doctor’. Just last week I was doing pull ups with 100-110 kilo, so I’m strong as a bull – I’m hitting boys and hurting them now.
“You could end up being fat, and I was for a while. I would say Wayne Kelly came down from about 70-odd kilo and I was trying to get up, so I was eating like two men and a wee lad, but Stuart came on board and we’ve done it properly.
“We’ve done what we were meant to do and I’m a lot bigger now, and stronger.”
As part of his programme, McGivern decided to leave his job as a full-time personal trainer to focus on boxing, and he says it is a move that is paying off thus far.
“I’ve got a couple of sponsors on board thank God, they’re giving me a hand, helping me doing what I’m doing. Without then I’d probably be snookered.
“The last two or three months of my life have been nothing but eat, sleep, train…. and play Call of Duty. That’s all I’ve been doing.
“This is my job now. It might be called amateur boxing, there’s nothing amateur about it. I came out minus a toenail one day, I came out with a black eye last week.
“I’ve been sparring big Aidan Walsh too, he gave me the black eye… I haven’t sparred as much because I had the busted ear drum that time from Germany [back in December], but I got the Ulsters out of the way so the ring rust was off.
“I felt sick down here the first weekend bit I got through, now I just need one more - one more big party.”
McGivern will not be the only Ulster fighter going for glory on Saturday night, with Commonwealth Games silver medallists Carly McNaul (v Niamh Early at 51kg) and Michaela Walsh (v Dervla Duffy at 57kg) both making their first appearance at the 2019 Irish Elites on finals night.
Errigal’s Dominic Bradley takes on Ballymun’s David Oliver Joyce in the 60kg decider, while Chloe Fleck and Donna Barr face off in a repeat of their Ulster light-fly final meeting last month.
Canal’s Fleck got the nod in that one and, after seeing off Dublin’s Courtney Daly on Saturday, predicted another tight encounter against the Donegal woman.
“It’ll be a good, tough fight. I watched that fight back once, but I don’t really like watching fights back – I hate it because you see all the things you’re meant to do and didn’t do.
“I’ll let my coaches watch it back again and they can tell me what to do.”
IT was with deep regret that Holy Trinity learned of the recent passing of former boxer and good friend Francy Duggan, writes Thomas Hawkins.
Big Francy's success in the ring can be traced back to the great coaching he received in his formative years from Paddy Quinn and the team of lads down at the Mourne All Blacks gym in his beloved home county of Down.
Francy, intelligent as well as talented, first walked in through the doors of the Holy Trinity Club in Turf Lodge as a young man, a granite man of the Mourne County who came to study at university in Belfast.
His manner and friendly character made him popular with his new club-mates and he will always be remembered with great affection and pride by the officers and members of the west Belfast gym.
Coach Michael Hawkins paid tribute to Francy's determination and skill and praised his commitment in the green and white colours of the Holy Trinity club.
“When it comes to great young lads who passed through this club, Francy Duggan is a name that we will always hold in great affection.
“Big Francy was an all-rounder, he enjoyed the challenge of boxing, the training too, he thrived on it.
“Another important part of Francy as a person was the sense of camaraderie he brought with him; that shone through.
“On behalf of us all at the Holy Trinity, I wish to offer our deepest condolences to the entire Duggan family.
“They don't make guys like Francy too often - he will always stand out in our memory.”