Boxing

Seconds Out: 'I needed to stay ready'. Sean McComb keeping sharp in lockdown

Sean McComb - "It was a matter of me thinking: ‘I need to stay ready no matter what'." Pic: Hugh Russell
Andy Watters

SEAN McComb returned to Glasgow yesterday to resume full-time training with coach Danny Vaughan in preparation for a return to action, and a step-up in class, against experienced Welsh fighter Craig Evans in July.

McComb (10-0) used the Covid-19 lockdown to work on his strength and conditioning and to sharpen his already slick set of skills and hopes to defeat Evans (who was stopped by James Tennyson late last year) and then kick on to European and ultimately world titles by the end of 2021. The 27-year-old from west Belfast admitted it was “tough in lockdown” but as a focussed and dedicated fighter, he was determined to do all he could to stay in shape.

“It became routine and you get used to it,” he said.

“I had no other choice really, I had to train, I’m a professional athlete and it’s important that I kept myself busy and active.

“I had to adapt and train in the garden and just get on with it. At the start, my da had some containers that I was filling up with water and using as weights and I was able to squat with them and do upright rows.

“Then SB Sports sent me a boxing bag from RDX so I was able to put it up and get stuck into that and then my strength and conditioning coach, Mark Downey, gave me some equipment and then gave me the keys to his gym so I could go in on my own and work on improving my squat strength and my bench-press strength. I was able to go in and video what I was doing and send it on to him and he was able to correct my technique and work with me that way. So I was able to push on and get stronger throughout the lockdown.”

The thought of his light-welterweight rivals getting ahead of him drove him on during those garden sessions and he has returned to his training base in Scotland in excellent shape.

“In my mind I was thinking that other fighters were doing the same,” said the former Holy Trinity ABC star.

“We’re professional boxers and I just didn’t want to give any of them a head-start, I didn’t want any of them to be ahead of me when everything gets back to normal.

“I wanted to be almost ready to go into camp and work with my coach. It was a matter of me thinking ‘I need to stay ready no matter what’.”

McComb resumed training with coach Vaughan this morning. A year ago Tyrone McKenna, Tyrone McCullagh and Paddy Barnes were also in the gym and the four Irish fighters shared a house nearby.

Both Tyrones are now training with Peter Taylor in Dublin and Barnes has retired so nowadays it’s just McComb, Vaughan and Sam Maxwell in the gym.

“I’ve already had one camp without all the other boys in the gym or in the house,” says McComb.

“At the start it was hard not having anybody in the house and it took a while to get used to it but I was able to adapt and get used to it and I’m able to crack on with my work and I get more time with Danny, one-on-one in the gym, which is a positive.”

Two months shy of the second anniversary of his professional debut, McComb is 10-0 now and the next year will be a crucial time for him as the calibre of his opponents steadily improves. He was due to fight Evans in April but the MTK show was cancelled due to the Covid-19 lockdown. ‘The Public Nuisance’ is aware that the Welshman, who beat Dubliner Steven Ormond a year ago to win the WBO European Lightweight title, will be the toughest test of his career so far.

“He is a great fighter and a very experienced fighter and I’m sure he’s confident as well and we’ll give the UK fans and the Irish fans a great fight,” said McComb.

“It’s a 50-50 fight. He’s been there and he’s done it, he has beaten top fighters before. He beat Thomas Stalker, he won the WBO European title… He is no mug and he had a really good contest with James Tennyson. It’ll be the hardest test of my career so far and it’s one I’m fully focussed on and aware of.

“This will be my first big domestic fight whereas Craig Evans has been there and done that on many occasions – Stalker three times, Tennyson… he has fought a lot of top domestic fighters and he has beaten some big names like Steven Ormond.

“It’s a fight that I’m really looking forward to and it’ll be a great test for me. If I can overcome Evans it will show the level I’m at and I will be looking to catapult from there onto the world stage hopefully.

“I’m hoping to climb up the rankings as quick as I can. I’ve missed out on the Evans fight in April so I could have already been a step ahead of where I am and looking for a European title and a decent ranking in the world, I wanted to start next year in the top 15 in the world and then push on.

“That goal still stands. I don’t see any reason why I can’t go from the Evans fight and then in December pick up a European title of some sort and then crack on towards a world ranking and by the end of 2021 or the start of 2022, push for a world title or an inter-continental title.

“I’m still young, I’m only 27, so there’s no rush but if the opportunity comes then MTK will jump on that.”

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THIRTY-five years ago yesterday, Barry McGuigan captured the WBA and lineal featherweight titles when his hand was raised after 15 rounds against Eusebio Pedroza at a jubilant Loftus Road in London.

McGuigan was a unifying force during The Troubles in the 1980s as he was popular with British and Irish audiences, partly explaining why 19 million watched his career high on television.

The 'Clones Cyclone' was on a 27-fight winning streak since losing early on in his professional career heading into what what would prove to be the defining showdown of his fighting life.

Pedroza had reigned on the world stage for seven years and made 19 successful defences before taking on McGuigan in front of a crowd of more than 26,000.

 

Barry McGuigan celebrates after beating champion Eusebio Pedroza during the World Featherweight Championship, at Loftus Road Stadium in London on June 8, 1985.

It was the Irish fighter who had the upper hand, flooring his Panamanian opponent in the seventh round en route to a wide unanimous decision victory.

McGuigan was named the 1985 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, becoming the first person not born in the United Kingdom to win the award. He made two successful defences of the WBA title before losing the crown to Steve Cruz in June 1986.

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WAYNE McCullough is to take over the training of Australia-based, Kildare-born middleweight Denis Hogan.

Former WBC bantamweight champion McCullough runs a gym in Las Vegas and Hogan is expected to link up with the ‘Pocket Rocket’ to begin the next phase of his career.

‘Hurricane’ Hogan fought Jermall Charlo for the WBC middleweight title in December. He was stopped in that fight in New York but was unlucky to lose on majority decision when he took on Jaime Munguia in Monterrey WBO light-middleweight belt in April. According to McCullough, Hogan will travel to Vegas to train with McCullough before his next fight which will be back at light-middleweight.

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MICHAEL Conlan will be back in training with coach Adam Booth this week ahead of a return to action later this summer. A fight date for Conlon is expected to be confirmed before the weekend.

Meanwhile, Carl Frampton resumed training with Jamie Moore last week and will return to the ring next month or in August – but not against WBO super-featherweight world champion Jamel Herring, who is scheduled to return against Puerto Rican fighter Jonathan Oquendo in Las Vegas on 2 July.

"I haven't had a concrete date yet, or an opponent, but I've been told to get ready for a fight so that is what I am doing," Frampton said, however he still craves the opportunity to take on American Herring and become a three-weight world champion.

"It's still the fight that I want," said Frampton.

"If we both win our next fights then I'm pretty sure it will go ahead. Where it will be or when it will be I'm not so sure.

"He still seems keen. He keeps mentioning my name and talks about wanting to fight me, and I want the chance to become a three-weight world champion.

"It's a case of one fight at a time in this game and at this stage of my career, but I feel like the fight with Jamel will happen at some point."

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JAMES McGivern and Feargal Quinn are expected to make their professional debuts England over the summer.

The talented duo both signed with MTK earlier this year and were scheduled to appear in Belfast in April. However, the Covid-19 lockdown has forced them to postpone their first taste of professional action until July at the earliest.

Belfast fighters Lewis Crocker and Padraig McCrory will also appear on behind-closed-doors MTK bills in England this summer.

HUGHIE Fury’s world title hopes have been shelved because of the Covid-19 lockdown but he would be open to a behind-closed-doors domestic heavyweight rumble with Matchroom stablemate Dave Allen.

Fury (24-3) stopped the Czech Republic's Pavel Sour in three rounds to rekindle his World title ambitions last time out in March, but with international travel disrupted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Mancunian has set his targets closer to home.

"Dave Allen keeps mentioning my name saying he wants to fight me and all this," said Fury.

"I'm a fighting man so let’s get it on as soon as possible. It doesn't bother me. It's only going to be fights against English opponents at the moment. It will be a good fight between the pair of us, there’s no point in waiting. I have no hard feelings against him but he’s mentioning my name so let’s get it on!"

The three losses on Fury’s 27-fight record have come at world level: a majority 12-round decision in a close and controversial WBO title challenge to New Zealand’s Joseph Parker in 2017, a gallant and gory 12-round points loss to Kubrat Pulev in a IBF Final Eliminator in Sofia and a points loss to Alexander Povetkin last summer.

At 25, Fury believes that his best years are ahead of him and the cousin of WBC Heavyweight World Champion Tyson is confident that there's still plenty of time left for career-defining fights once the sporting world gets back to normal.

"I'm 25 and still filling out,” he said.

“One thing I love to do is fight and no one will ever take that away from me, I love these challenges. We have changed a lot although you never got to see too much in the Pavel Sour fight. When I get back in these bigger fights that is when you will see the difference and the changes we’ve made."

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LIVE boxing returns in the USA tonight when former Michael Conlan amateur rival Shakur Stevenson (13-0) takes on Felix Caraballo (13-1-2) in the MGM Grand ballroom over 10 rounds at super-featherweight (live on ESPN).

Stevenson, a silver medallist at the Rio Olympics, is testing the waters at super-featherweight following his featherweight title-winning effort over Joet Gonzalez last October.

He went 4-0 in 2019, flashing the skills and athleticism that have many experts pegging him as a future pound-for-pound superstar. Caraballo has won five fights in a row and will be fighting for the first time away from Puerto Rico.

“I can’t wait to get back in the ring and return live boxing to ESPN,” Stevenson said.

“I was really disappointed when my fight got canceled in March, and I said then that I wanted to be one of the first fights back. I stayed in shape so when that call came, I was ready.

“The atmosphere might be different on June 9, but I’ve fought in unique situations all over the world before so it won’t affect me. Regardless of who’s in the building, you’ll see another great performance, and I’ll remind everyone why I’m the best young fighter in boxing.”

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