Boxing

'You See The Police And You Think You're OK' - Jamie Kavanagh Reflects On Regency Shooting

'You See The Police And You Think You're OK' - Jamie Kavanagh Reflects On Regency Shooting

He grew up alongside Conor McGregor in Crumlin, trained under Freddie Roach and sparred with Manny Pacquiao in LA, and he speaks fluent Spanish. Relative to age, lightweight boxing prospect Jamie Kavanagh might state a claim to having the most fascinating career in Irish sport. 'The Nuisance' has experienced more ups and downs in his 25 years than most of us will in a lifetime, on a journey that has taken him from Ireland to Spain to the USA and back again. 

On February 5th of this year, Jamie Kavanagh (20-1-1, 10 KOs) arrived at the Regency Hotel on the Swords Road to weigh in for his headline bout on the MGM-promoted Clash of the Clans card, which was scheduled to take place at Dublin's National Stadium the following night.

The events which instead transpired on that Friday afternoon shocked both a nation and the boxing world - not least Kavanagh who, frankly, could have used a break from mindless bloodshed. And I don't mean his chosen profession.

'You had people there' he says, pausing for thought.

Everybody was running for their life, you know?

And nobody knew what to do, nobody knew which way to react.

They were supposed to be police... These people were dressed in police uniforms. And from that point of view, you see the police and you think you're okay, that you're safe. But obviously a few seconds later it was very different.

It was shocking and crazy at the same time. Obviously, you're going to a boxing weigh-in - you're never going to expect something like that could happen. But it happened.

I still have people today asking me: 'Hey, how's it going? Are you ok?' And all I can say is, 'yeah, I'm ok - I've kind of put that behind me'. And that's all I'm trying to do, is put it behind me and move forward with my boxing career.

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His is a boxing career born of Crumlin, and one which he cultivated under long-time trainer Sedano Ruiz in sunny Spain.

As a youth, Kavanagh commuted from his family's new home in Malaga back to Dublin to pick up seven national titles. He had left his friends in Crumlin and moved to Spain on one simple condition; that his father find him a boxing gym. However, in Spain you can't box competitively until the age of 15. Under different rules, Jamie Kavanagh might have been a seven-time Spanish champion.

'The Nuisance' once revealed that he 'thinks in Spanish' whilst in the ring. His fluency in the language stood the former World youth silver medallist in good stead when he was signed to Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions back in 2009. In LA, he trained under seven-time Trainer Of The Year Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym, earning his stripes in a bullpen that contained the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Jorge Linares.

You're living on the other side of the world.

I went to Los Angeles when I was 18. I was living in Hollywood. And it's the same as you think it would be. You'd be walking down the street and people would come over and tell you to stop walking. And you'd be there, 'Why?' And it'd be because you're walking in the middle of a movie set. It's surreal.

At the end of the day, you've got to remember what you're there for. You're there for yourself, you're there for your career. You put your career before anything else.

[Donegal middleweight] Jason Quigley - he's making some noise over there at the moment. What I'd say to him would be to surround yourself with good people. You're in Los Angeles at the end of the day: everyone is going to sell you 'The Dream'. You're just a number to these people. You're expendable to them. And boxing is kind of a masked industry. So what I would say is, make them work for you. You don't work for them.

Last August, Kavanagh decided to put his American Dream on hold. He signed with MGM Marbella - Matthew Macklin's promotional stable - on a four-fight deal, and relocated to London.

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'My girlfriend was pregnant' he says, explaining his decision to pack in the City of Angels for the smokier skies of England's capital city.

I have a baby now, so I'm back here more for personal reasons than anything to do with the sport. I just didn't want to be so far away from my family, especially with what I was going through in my life.

But what the Crumlin man was 'going through' wasn't simply the birth of his own little angel, Florence. In September 2014, Jamie's father Gerard 'Hatchet' Kavanagh, himself a keen boxing man, was shot dead in an Irish bar in Marbella.

Due to this tragic loss and subsequent fall-out, the former amateur stand-out was naturally inclined to take some time away from the ring. He returned in March of last year, picking up a unanimous decision victory over tough Honduran Reynaldo Mora in London. Days later, his uncle Paul Kavanagh - just two years Jamie's senior - was murdered in Drumcondra.

Kavanagh maintains that he must channel the pain caused by the loss of two close family members into his craft, and carry with him their memories as his career progresses.

That's the only thing you can take away from any of it: motivation, says Kavanagh.

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Sometimes you just remember, 'if I can come through this, I can come through anything.' In both my boxing career and in my personal life.

Boxing isn't a sport. It's a lifestyle. And it's a shame that what's happened to me, in my life, has affected my boxing career. But I'm going to use that and push forward with it, motivationally. So I'm really looking forward to getting back in the ring this April and kick-starting the year.

After an unimaginably tumultuous 18 months, Kavanagh hopes to finally do battle for the same WBO European belt he ultimately missed out on due to the horrific events at the Regency Hotel. If the fight takes place in the UK as he imagines, it will be just the fourth time in his travelled career that 'The Nuisance' has fought in Britain or Ireland.

You're supposed to make your debut in your hometown. I made my debut in Madison Square Garden, in the theatre in New York, under one of the biggest promotions in the world. It don't get any bigger than that.

I've done it kind of backwards! Over the past five years I've been to America - east coast and west coast, I've been to Central America, I've been to South America, back to England again, and then I finally fought back home in Dublin last year. Fighting in your hometown - that's what people do at the start of their career. I've made my homecoming with 20-odd fights under my belt.

It was great to fight in Dublin, in the Stadium, in that ring. I have some great memories of that place. And it was a chance for the Irish public to see me in the flesh. You know, family will travel to the States, or I fought once in Manchester as well, but fighting in Ireland gives other friends and family a chance to see me perform.

I've never had an atmosphere like that anywhere in the world. Your home is your home.

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And though Kavanagh doesn't rule out resuming his own American Dream in the coming years, the buzzing lightweight division in Ireland and the UK might well keep him on this side of the Atlantic for the foreseeable future. But as he maps out his career path in front of him, does he see the potential Dublin derby with Stephen Ormond down the line?

A lot of people ask me about Stephen Ormond, and I know Stephen - he's a friend of mine in the boxing world. But he hasn't necessarily got anything that I want at this moment in time, in order to fight him, you know? Hopefully we can get this [European] belt, and push on with the WBO. Terry Flanagan has their world title, he fights Derry Matthews next weekend. You have Luke Campbell, Anthony Crolla, it is buzzing.

There's no one there really standing in my way to get to where I want to get. Crolla is world champion, so he's at the end. Flanagan the same. And, yeah, I do want to fight them. And I will fight them at one stage. They're big, massive fights that we can build towards. But obviously my career has been stalled with what happened on the 6th of February, so I'm just looking forward to getting back on the bike at this stage. And if those names come up, we'll take them! They're definitely the kind of people I want to be getting in the ring with.

But, for a man who waited five years and 21 fights to throw down in his hometown, patience isn't a problem. Kavanagh has a plan, and rather refreshingly, it's far more pragmatic than one tends to hear from other fighters at similar positions in their careers.

I just want to get myself a Top 10 ranking firstly, and put myself in a position to go after world titles next year.

If I can pick up one belt, or maybe two, like an international or intercontinental belt, then I'll push forward and chase that world title.

Fitting, then, that a man of the world such as Jamie Kavanagh will likely begin his global assault from another new home this April. It's going to be a fascinating year in the career of 'The Nuisance.'

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY: Jamie Kavanagh Explains What Conor McGregor Was Like As A Boxer Back In Crumlin

Gavan Casey
Article written by
Former handwriting champion. Was violently bitten by a pelican at Fota Wildlife Park in 2001.

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