Monday 18 December 2017

'He came in wearing football boots and just started hitting the bags' - Conor McGregor's first foray into boxing

Jack O'Toole & Ian Begley

Crumlin boxing coach Stephen Kavanagh recalled the first time that Conor McGregor ever set foot into Crumlin Boxing Club, McGregor's first boxing gym.

Before scaling the lofty heights of the UFC, McGregor had previously competed as an amateur boxer at the famed Crumlin Boxing Club in Dublin, before leaving the sport to pursue MMA in 2006.

Crumlin coach Stephen Kavanagh had just polished the floors of the club the first time a 10-year-old McGregor set foot inside their gym on Windmill Road, wearing football boots no less.

"Yes without a doubt," Kavanagh said when asked if he could remember the first time McGregor set foot in the gym.

"It was a Monday night here and we were all training and the club was buzzing. About 9-9:15pm, this young fella came in only minutes after we finished polishing the floors.

"He came in with muck all over his boots and I said 'where are you going?' And he said 'I want to have a look at the club blah, blah, blah' and he just started hitting the bags.

"He said: 'How do you join this club?' And I said 'go over and see Philip [Sutcliffe Sr. - Head Coach]'.

"He went over to see Philip and Philip gave him a form. That was on a Monday and he came back on the Friday and he went outside the door that night and said 'Jese dad, that's great in there. I'm going to pack in the football and I'm going to join the boxing'.

"He was here with us for a while but he just had great energy. He was a great buzz around the place."

McGregor was boxing in amateur competitions whilst at Crumlin Boxing Club, and by the age of 16 he had won the Dublin Novice Championships at the National Stadium.

According to Sutcliffe, he was a talented and diligent kid, but his interest in MMA ultimately curtailed what could have been a promising boxing career.

"Even early on he showed that he was very diligent towards his workload," said Sutcliffe Sr.

"He always put 100% into what he was doing. He stayed in the club and sparred with my own son Phil Sutcliffe Jr., he sparred with Jamie Kavanagh, and both of those guys are professional boxers now. He sparred with older guys. He was always keen to spar and he was always keen to learn.

“Back then he could’ve entered the National Senior Championships, entered the Juniors first and then the Intermediates, but when he was 16 he started going to the wrestling and the MMA.

“They must have saw good potential in him because a lot of fighters do drift into MMA because they’re so good with their hands, but he’s [McGregor] older now.

"He’s more powerful now. He’s a man now, he was a boy when he was here, but all of the skills he would’ve learned here he’s carried into MMA."

With regards to his chances against Mayweather, who has aptly been described as one of the greatest defensive boxers ever, Sutcliffe says that his former pupil has a fighting chance against the undefeated American but that he just can't see the Dubliner catching him.

"Conor is a superb fighter and has done so well, but I would have to be in Mayweather's favour," added Sutcliffe.

"He's the best boxer in the world so Conor has to have a good game plan, but on the other hand it's boxing and anything can happen. Conor will certainly be super fit for this fight. His footwork and flexibility are excellent, which we have seen in the octagon.

"He has every chance of beating Mayweather if he catches him... I don't think he'll outfox him. Although he's a younger and fresher man, boxing is a different sport altogether."

UFC President Dana White, who will act as a promoter for the fight, confirmed on Wednesday that the bout would be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on August 26th.

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