Boxing

Seconds Out: Fundraising efforts to help battling boxers

Newington BC heavyweight Stephen McMullan fell ill the day after his Ulster Elite Championship final on December 9, 2021
Neil Loughran

FUNDRAISING efforts have been stepped up for two Ulster boxers currently battling back from serious illness.

Newington heavyweight Stephen McMullan fell ill the day after his Ulster Elite Championship final on December 9, and was admitted to intensive care at Belfast’s Royal Hospital.

Following a traumatic five weeks for family and friends, there was a glimmer of light at the weekend when Stephen’s sister Claire posted an update on his condition.

“Today was a good day. This amazing person, my brother Stephen McMullan, left ICU and is now on the stroke ward.

“This doesn’t mean he's still not sick, it means he's on to the next step of recovery and has even given us a few smiles and laughs. He really is a fighter, he will be in hospital for months but the prayers have gotten him so far, and will get him further in his recovery.

“We do appreciate everything. Life is precious.”

While boxing clubs are exploring fundraising possibilities, donations can be made to www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stephensjourneyofhope - with the aim to raise £5,000.

On that Just Giving page Stephen’s cousin, Mary Toman, outlined the support the 25-year-old would require going forward.

“Stephen has fought so hard to be here with us today and continues to fight strong - he remains very sick and has been left with life-changing injuries.

“All we want as a family is to give Stephen the best shot at life and for him to have the best quality of life to the best of his ability. For Stephen to be able to do this he is going to require intensive support, therapy and equipment, which is a massive burden financially on the family as Stephen was the breadwinner.

“We just want to give back to him as much as he gave us in life, we want to give him as much independence as possible and cannot do this alone. Stephen will require intensive rehabilitation, an Eyegaze computer system to enable him to communicate with others, amongst other ongoing support.

“We want to help bring back that smile that lit up every room he entered. Any funds not used towards Stephen’s recovery will be donated to ICU and the stroke ward in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.”

Meanwhile, young Tullylish ABC boxer Jamie Doyle – who suffered a seizure while in Lanzarote with his parents and best friend before Christmas – now has a major American promoter fighting his corner.

The 18-year-old has regained consciousness after being in an induced coma and, when Tom Brown of California-based TGB Boxing Promotions heard Jamie’s story, he was anxious to help out in any way he could.

Having been involved with some of the biggest names in the sport over the past 30 years, Brown has donated two gloves signed by four of the top fighters in the world.

The first glove is signed by WBC lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder after their exciting trilogy, the second by Mexican superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and last opponent Caleb Plant.

Tullylish ABC hopes to raffle the gloves, with all proceeds going to support Jamie and his family. Tickets are £10 and the draw will take place at the club’s show on Sunday, January 30.

There will be two winners, with the first name drawn out having first pick of the gloves. Tickets can be purchased from any club members or coach, or online via PayPal (friends and family) at sueellenhill@hotmail.com

A www.gofundme.com appeal has raised almost £75,000 to date, while Gilford ABC organised a New Year’s Day sea swim in Warrenpoint which raised £2,000.

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Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh, pictured with golden girl Kellie Harrington, intends to remain amateur for the next Olympics in Paris. Picture by PA

WALSH DETERMINED TO CHANGE MEDAL COLOUR AT PARIS 2024

THE desire to change the colour of his medal at the next Olympic Games convinced Aidan Walsh to stick with the amateur vest.

Welterweight Walsh claimed bronze at last year’s Tokyo Games and, with Paris 2024 only two-and-a-half years away, the 24-year-old isn’t tempted to turn professional just yet.

An ankle injury suffered during the celebrations after the fight that secured bronze ruled Walsh out of the rest of last summer’s Olympics, and he still has that ‘what if’ about how far he might have gone in other circumstances.

“Of course, everyone wants to go pro, you see the shows that have taken place in Belfast… it’s always in your mind that you’re going to go pro, it’s just when,” said the Monkstown BC switch-hitter.

“But after what happened at the Olympics, I knew I wanted to go again, to try and do better, go for the gold. With the ankle, not getting to fight again, there was probably a bit of a feeling of unfinished business.

“But you never know what’s around the corner either. For now the aim is the next Olympics, but you can rule nothing out because, in boxing, everything’s always changing.”

One thing that has changed since this time last year is his profile.

Although he brought home silver from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, reaching Tokyo 2020 alongside sister Michaela – and then going on to medal – has catapulted Walsh into the public eye.

It wasn’t something he had ever planned for, and the west Belfast man insists any degree of fame will never change who he is and what he is about.

He said: “Within boxing people would’ve known Michaela and myself, but now you’re getting some people saying ‘oh aye, you’re the boxer from the Olympics’ – it’s great, I suppose people want to know what the Olympic experience was like, especially with Covid.

“There’s certain things, like people trying to come onboard with different things… I always want to stay true to myself. That was probably the biggest and best bit of advice I got.

“When I was growing up, I was looking at people at the Olympics, and having good role models was always a really positive thing. No matter who you are as a kid you’re always looking up to someone, so if younger kids can see that I don’t drink, I don’t go out, that basically you do what you are comfortable with.

“There’s loads of stories of boxers who fought, went out on the drink, and that became their life, but it’s always good to have the other side of it.

“Some people think drinking and partying is the only outlet you have, but it’s not. I was never into that side of things, because Michaela never was, and I just wanted to be like her.

“That’s just how I’ve always been and I want it to stay that way.”

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BARNES IN FRAME FRAME OLYMPIC COMMISSION POST

THREE-TIME Olympian Paddy Barnes is one of 13 candidates, across 10 sports, nominated for selection to the Olympic Federation of Ireland Athletes’ Commission.

The recruitment process opened for the 2022-2024 term before Christmas, and Olympians from any of the last four Olympic cycles – winter or summer – were invited to apply for a position on the commission, which acts as a voice for Irish Olympic athletes. Voting closed on Sunday.

Joining 2008 and 2012 bronze medallist Barnes – the only boxing representative in the mix - are Brendan Boyce (athletics), Hannah Craig (canoeing), David Harte (hockey), Natalya Coyle (modern pentathlon), Claire Lambe (rowing), Sanita Puspure (rowing), Billy Dardis (rugby), Ian Fitzpatrick (rugby), Annalise Murphy (sailing), Shane O’Connor (snowsports), Grainne Murphy (swimming) and Nicholas Quinn swimming).

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