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Monday 19 March 2018

John Joe boxing clever over whether to turn professional

Mark Hilliard

SEVEN years ago, Ireland's boxing prodigy John Joe Nevin, pictured left, vowed never to step foot in the ring again.

It was the final of the 2006 Ringside World Club Championships in Kansas City, USA, and Canadian Paul Butler took a controversial victory.

Fight programmes covered the ring canvas, flung from the seats of an irate audience.

"It was very vocal; the judges knew the fans were not impressed," said John Joe's club trainer Brian McKeown.

"At that stage, he walked away and said 'I'm never going to box again.'"

Now, after advancing to the last 16 in his second Olympics, the 23-year-old from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, can look back and laugh at what was, ultimately, a minor blip.

Within 12 months of that defeat he had beaten Butler in the first round of two fights.

"The lad was a champion when he came in to me at 13," said Mr McKeown, who founded the Cavan Town Boxing Club in 1982. "The first time I saw him in the ring I knew he was special."

John Joe's cousin David Nevin decided to join the Cavan set up about 11 years ago and close behind came a tide of cousins, all from an extended Traveller family.

"John Joe was very quiet and introverted. Of them all he was one of the quietest, but among them he was a bit of a leader," said Mr McKeown.

"John Joe is a boxer who has never attempted to lose his Traveller identity. But when he gets in the ring it doesn't matter if he is a Traveller, a Fianna Failer or a Hindu. He is a boy that can perform on the big stage."

In Beijing, Nevin won his first bout but ultimately lost to the Mongolian Enkhbatyn Badar-Uugan, the eventual gold medallist.

Depending on his performance at the games, Nevin could be faced with the same temptation to turn professional as many boxers do once they prove their ability in the amateur circuit.

At the moment he is a fully funded elite athlete and has a contract with the Paris United team in France which, although paid, is not technically professional. That may change.

"He has had a number of offers to go pro not only here but in America and England and Germany," said McKeown.

"All the major promoters have been dangling a carrot in front of his nose but if you look at him now he is a fully funded amateur boxer and he has everything he needs."

Except, perhaps, an Olympic gold.

Irish Independent

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