An Interview With Sean McComb
By Oliver McManus
Few professional boxers can look back on their first year with such an unadulterated pride and joy as Sean McComb; not many have been given the richness of opportunities to succeed, either.
Belfast’s McComb has settled into the paid ranks expertly and he began our conversation by expressing his surprise at the level of opportunities he’s been given.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ve had a much better start to my career than I could ever imagine because I thought when I signed with MTK I’d be kept busy on small shows and then when Carl Frampton fought in Belfast I’d be able to get on the undercard of that. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be on six Belfast shows within 12 months, let alone a Matchroom show in Birmingham or a DAZN card with Katie Taylor and James Tennyson. It’s beyond my wildest dreams and so hard to imagine it’s actually happened. It feels as though I’ve got opportunities a lot of pros don’t get in the first three years of their career.”
The road to becoming professional has been littered with amateur success but it was a contest with John Joe Nevin, for a bronze medal at the 2012 Irish National Championships, that first spurned ambitions of glory in the paid ranks.
“That fight (at the Irish National Championships) was actually the first time I thought I could make something of myself in boxing. I was only 18 at the time and he had already qualified for the Olympics but I ran him close and only lost by a point. At the time I wasn’t a full time athlete like John Joe Nevin was – training full time and getting series funding – I was only training once a day and I nearly gave him a scare so from there I’ve tried to make a career of it. I got a letter, after the fight, asking me to come down with the Ireland team and I’ve not looked back.”
Look back he certainly didn’t, building up an impressive resumé as an international amateur; multiple times a National Champion, European Games bronze medallist and reaching the third round of the AIBA World Championships. McComb based himself at Holy Trinity A.B.C where he was coached by Michael and Harry Hawkins but, upon turning professional, he has set up camp with Danny Vaughan – a move he says made common sense.
“The atmosphere around the gym is unbelievable because we’re all very good friends, as well. Danny Vaughan has been around the pro game for a long, long time so it’s great to have that experience in your corner. We’ve got a great mixture of his knowledge, all the fighters sort of bouncing off each other and developing together and the craic is great, too. It’s a great camp to be involved in and it’s almost like a high performance centre in itself – it’s like the set up in Dublin – so it’s very consistent to what I’ve been used to.”
The latest opportunity for McComb comes at a unique event for boxing with a card being held at Falls Park – a venue that Boyzone recently played their last ever concert. The success of the show, if measured on ticket sales, has been resounding and it’s an opportunity that literally exceeded the dreams and imagination of the 26 year old.
“If you can’t get up for a Mick Conlan undercard then you shouldn’t be boxing. Falls Park is about 150m from my house and I’ve made lots of memories there – good and bad – so I’m buzzing for it. Everyone from my area will be there and it’s a dream come true. It’s not even a dream come true because I genuinely never thought about it before the show was announced. There will be a couple hundred people meeting up at The Green Hut, we call it, in Turf Lodge where I live and that’ll get the atmosphere started for sure.”
The super lightweight, already 7-0, takes yet another step up in the calibre of his opponent in the form of Renald Garrido. His French opponent’s 24-24-3 record far undermines his level of ability and, despite giving Lewis Benson a scare in June, McComb considers it to be a statement of just how seriously he is taking his development.
“It’s a good step up for me at this stage of my career and I watched his fight against Lewis Benson (and) scored it a good three or four rounds in his favour. If you were very, very generous you would have given it a draw so we know he’s a tough operator and he’ll come to give me solid rounds. That’s exactly the sort of challenge I want, to be honest, I want to go those eight rounds and see what I’ve got as they go on. If I’m heading towards title for early next year then getting these rounds under my belt at a high pace will put me in the right place.”
Garrido is a man who rarely gets the rub of the green despite hearty showings and Danny Vaughan’s charge is keen to leave no room for doubt by putting on a complete, consummate boxing display.
“We know there a lot of weakness in him – he’s a very come forward fighter but he has a poor technique and throws a lot of punches that misses. That doesn’t matter, though, because he’s going to stand there all day and all night taking everything that comes his way so I can’t get distracted from the plan. We can’t let him get any cheap shots or silly moments of success because he is capable of that when given the chance. He’s fought a lot of serious names in boxing and taken all of them the distance, he’s never been stopped, but he’s never been in with me and that’s what matters. I believe we’ll see a variety of everything and that’s something I’m looking forward to.”
There is a genuine desire to get rounds under his belt against such a sturdy operator as much so McComb can roll through the motions and fight with variety as it is to soak up some pointers. Garrido has never been stopped in his career and has, certainly, given many a prospect food for thought so that bodes well for his latest opponent. This is the second scheduled eight rounder of McComb’s career – the previous one lasted little over a minute.
“I was a bit upset about that and I know I should probably take a first round stoppage but it was my first show on ESPN and I didn’t get to showcase much of what I can do. I’ll take it and move on but even he was meant to give me rounds; I don’t want to drag a fight out longer than necessary so if I can stop someone I always will but hopefully I can actually settle into the fight this time round.”
A win would see the Belfast boxer record his eighth professional win in just 350 days – his desire to remain active whilst continually seeking greater challenges is admirable. As to is his refusal to sit back and admire his development; instead he’s already eyes on what his world will look like this time next year and it’s safe to say he’s a man with lofty ambitions.
“I’m seeing posters around Belfast of Mick Conlan at the moment, I think he’s got four murals, and that’s motivating me to get one of my own. This time next year I want to be headlining shows in Belfast and I want to be the poster boy so having such success in Irish boxing helps me envision the future – not just for me but for my community. Politics is all put aside for boxing and obviously there’s just one Irish team in amateur boxing and that’s it. There’s no divide and the sport welcomes both sides of the community and it’s brilliant to see that happen; I’m a Catholic and as an amateur I boxed in some very, very Protestant areas but there was never any fear or tension.
“I’m never thinking about when I’m in the ring because I’ve got so used it being normal but, like now, talking about it to you it does feel quite special to see the impact boxing can have. Paddy Barnes and Carl Frampton are best mates, almost, and they’re from polar opposites of the community and, in my experience, that is unique to boxing.”