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"I'm Due A Good Break" -Sean McComb On Losing Funding, Battling Back, And Stopping Crime

"I'm Due A Good Break" -Sean McComb On Losing Funding, Battling Back, And Stopping Crime

It was said that Sugar Ray Robinson didn't work in the gym, but practising to be a hero.

Belfast's Sean McComb shares the prefix, and the handful of people whose lives entwined on a sleepy Sunday morning in Belfast two years ago would attest to McComb's claim to the title.

McComb spoke with Balls recently, and it's best to let him explain how he staked his claim.

I was in Belfast City Centre on a Sunday. Belfast City Centre doesn't open 'till 1 pm on a Sunday. It was half 10 in the morning, so it was really quiet. There was a girl standing at a bus stop, minding her own business. She had her purse in between her hands. I didn't really notice what happened, I was across the road working.

Anyway, some guy snatched her purse and her phone. He made his way down the main shopping street in Belfast, and everyone was shouting, 'that guy stole her purse, he stole her purse'. I was watching him running at the top of the street, thinking 'ah, he's too far away'. Then I looked over at the girl, and she was shaking. No-one went near her or gave her any sympathy. I said to her, 'Are you OK? I'll get you it back'. So I started running.

At that stage he was wrecked. He was about 100 metres in front of me, and he was knackered. He obviously wasn't as fit as me, and I gave chase to him. He tried to hide down an alleyway behind a doorway but I could see him.

So I went down, took the phone and purse off him, and I brought it back to their rightful owner. It was sad to see, but it was a good deed done by me.

And that's not all...

Believe it or not, about two hours later, I was walking back down the same street I had caught the guy on, and I saw some young lad running passed me, and a big fella chasing him. So I was like, 'what's going on here'. Another of my work colleagues was roaring 'grab him, he stole his phone' as he was running by me.

I knew what way he was going to run, so I went round the other way and just caught him as he was running. I took the phone off him, let him go, and gave it back to the guy whose phone it was originally.

The both of them got away, I wasn't going to phone the police on them. I'm not paid for that; that's their job. But yeah, two good deeds done by me. I'm due a good break, I think!

McComb is preparing for the World Champions in Germany next month, and he hasn't had that lucky break yet.

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Last year, having failed to qualify for the Olympics and hit other criteria, McComb lost his funding from Sport Ireland. Continuing with the high-performance unit in Abbottstown would mean paying his own way.

With that, his head was turned by an offer to turn professional, admitting he was "very close" to joining Paddy Barnes and Mick Conlan in the pro ranks. Enter Zaur Antia, widely regarded as perhaps the best technical coach in amateur boxing.

McComb returned to training while tossing the decision over in his head, and was disabused of the notion by a victory and the promise of more to come. Within a month he won the Irish Elites and was presented with Zaur Antia's blueprint for future success. "Zaur had great plans in order for me", says McComb. "He's working on me. I know Zaur has great belief in me, and I have belief in myself. I was half-hearted on going professional, and I don't want to be half-hearted on anything".

Everything is now geared to the World Championships next month. McComb narrowly missed out on a medal at the European Games in Ukraine in June, losing a split decision to England's Luke McCormack at the quarter-final stage. In spite of beating the World Champion, Russia's Vitaly Dunaystev in the round previous to secure qualification for the Worlds, McComb told The Irish News that it had been "worth fuck all" as he had missed out on a medal, and a chance to restore some funding.

The positives have become more pronounced over time:

The Europeans were not as successful as I wanted them to be. I had my mind set on a medal, but fell short. But there's a lot of positives: I beat the world champion, and had a couple of good performances. It's made me hungry to go and put things right at the World Championships, and I believe I'm going to do just that.

So hopefully I'll win a medal, and I'll get the contract and get back on the big money.

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McComb is in the incongruous scenario of being without funding while leading the team. He is one of the more experienced boxers in Abbottstown since the Flight of the Rio Olympians, and it is something he is cognisant of, saying it's important to help the other Irish boxers with some of Antia's more complicated instructions. Prior to our interview, the Irish team were put through a training session in front of the media, with McComb chosen to demonstrate Antia's demands with captain Joe Ward.

Antia's belief in McComb is well-founded, says RTE Boxing analyst Eric Donovan telling Balls that "McComb looked like the World Champion in the ring against Dunaystev" in June, likening him to Andy Lee:

His height and his build reminds me of Andy Lee. But I think he is more of a mover, and a small bit more slick. Andy is a great counter-puncher, great mover, at Southpaw stance. But Andy is not as elusive as McComb.

McComb now fights at 64kg, having made the step up from lightweight. The Worlds will be fiercely competitive: Dunyastev hasn't even qualified. He has got this far through sacrifice and financial support from friends, family, the IABA and Bernard Dunne. To pitch all of that on winning a world medal means the stakes are high in Hamburg.

A medal at the Games would go a long way to guaranteeing that McComb stays int he system until 2020, but with Sport Ireland eschewing funding criteria to keep Joe Ward in the system until Tokyo (rather than award money on a year-by-year basis) a similar agreement for McComb would be the good break he is owed.

For up to now, everything he has earned, he has fought for himself.

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See Also: Date Confirmed For Katie Taylor's American Debut

 

 

 

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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