Braveheart Conor Quinn hell bent on making up for lost time after 'nightmare' two years

After a nightmare two years, Conor Quinn returns to action at the Europa Hotel next month
Andy Watters

CONOR Quinn feared he might never box again and his career hung in the balance over the last two years but now the Belfast flyweight has been given the go-ahead to chase his dream of becoming a world champion.

The former Clonard ABC star began his professional career in Australia and was 2-0 when he returned to Belfast continue his career on home soil. But a brain scan, part the medical process required to gain a British Boxing Board of Control licence, uncovered an unexpected issue which doctors identified as evidence of a previous stroke. The news came as a massive shock to Quinn.

“At that point it was panic-stations for me,” he says.

“I had never known about it and they said it was something that had happened when I was a child, when I was very young, and they had to get to the bottom of it before they could let me proceed with any sort of boxing career. They found that it had been caused by a hole in my heart which is actually very common among young athletes.

“It was a mad time but I went and got the hole fixed and got everything sorted and after that it was a waiting game. There were times when I thought I was never going to box again, I didn’t really know what would happen.”

Quinn had surgery to close the hole in his heart in May last year and since then, with support from his manager Mark Dunlop, coaches Dee Walsh and Sean Crowe, Martin Duffy from the BBBofC, loyal sponsor Bobby Wherman and family and friends, he has made a complete recovery.

Last week his two-year “nightmare” came to an end when he was issued with a professional boxing licence and will resume his career at the Europa Hotel on September 24, live on TG4.

“When I first heard about the issue with the scan I was worrying: ‘Is there going to be more serious consequences here?’” explains the former Irish international.

“But the stroke consultants at the Royal put my mind at ease completely. They told me they had found this issue but it was nothing that had ever had an effect on me and it wouldn’t affect me in the future. They had to get the hole closed so I was at no risk of it happening again.”

He hasn’t boxed since February 2020 but, at 24, he has all the time he needs to build his career and he is determined to make a statement when he returns to action against Nicaraguan Angel Gabriel Chavez (3-3-1).

“It was a nightmare at the time but, when I look back on it, I had two years of being able to train and better myself every single day with my coaches,” he says.

“I had no worries about a fight coming up or a specific opponent, I had time to work on myself and get better every day and now I’m like a new man. My coaches Dee and Sean (his strength and conditioning coach) saw me in the gym every day and they knew I wouldn’t have been able to perform at the levels I was if I had anything life-threatening. Thankfully they stuck by me because without them and my girlfriend and my family I would never had been able to get through it. All the doubts would have crept in and I’d have been eating away at myself.”

A few months ago he didn’t know if he’d ever throw another punch as a professional. Despite that he used his enforced lay-off wisely and is confident that the last two years have been put to good use. Quinn says he has “come on leaps and bounds” as a fighter.

“I want to make up for the lost time now,” he says.

“I haven’t boxed for two years but I have been improving and the work that Dee and Sean have been doing with me hasn’t gone to waste. It’s a great show that Mark has put on, it’s on TV and it’s a perfect platform for me to come back and explode onto the scene.

“I think I will be able to kick-on a wee bit quicker and go up the rankings quick enough. My ambition has always been the same, and I want it even more now – I want to be world champion. Anything less than that and I’ll be disappointed.

“From I was six years old this has been my dream and for the last two years, with everything that I’ve had to go through, I’m not doing this now just for the fun of it. All the hard times and the uncertainty of whether I would box again has just spurred me on even more and I want to go the traditional route – British, European and World champion.”

BELFAST referee David Irving has been summoned to Saudi Arabia by the WBC to officiate at Saturday night’s Oleksandr Usyk-Anthony Joshua rematch in Jeddah (start time 11pm in Ireland).

Irving, a former professional fighter himself who appeared on the iconic McGuigan-Pedroza bill in London back in 1985, has refereed in the Middle East previously. He took charge of Tyrone McKenna versus Regis Prograis in Dubai in March and judged the novelty match-up between former World’s Strongest Man champions Eddie Hall and Hafþór Björnsson AKA ‘Thor’.

The behemoths weighed just shy of 47 stone for that fight, that’s around 15 stone heavier than Joshua and Usyk will weigh on Saturday night. Usyk won the rematch by unanimous decision in London last September and Joshua, who was comprehensively out-boxed on the night, will need to produce much better to regain his titles. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but Irving could be one of the judges at ringside.

“I’m not too sure what capacity I’m in – whether I’m refereeing or judging,” explained Irving who first took charge of a fight in 1989 when he refereed Seamus Casey v Ray Close at The Ulster Hall.

“It could be working on the undercard but there’s a good chance I could be judging the main event.”

Irving, who refereed the EU bantamweight title clash between Michelle Klich and Delphine Mancini in Germany last month, flies out to the Middle East tomorrow.