Monday 16 September 2019

'It's not as big a jump as people might think' - Meet the Leinster S&C coach making his pro boxing debut

2 May 2016; Leinster's Sean O'Brien takes part in some boxing training with Cillian Reardon, strength & conditioning coach, during squad training at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
2 May 2016; Leinster's Sean O'Brien takes part in some boxing training with Cillian Reardon, strength & conditioning coach, during squad training at the RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Ian Gaughran

FOR our viewing pleasure, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to top-class sporting action.

Wherever we look we are bombarded with wall-to-wall coverage of Premier League soccer, the Six Nations, hurling and football leagues (men and women), Pro14, the Dublin Racing Festival, the Sigerson Cup.

Hell, we even had the Super Bowl thrown in for good measure last Sunday night.

Come March 3, just a week or so before the Cheltenham Festival gets underway, big time boxing returns to terrestrial TV as TG4 screen the inaugural ‘Last Man Standing’ tournament, in association with the Herald, live from the National Stadium in Dublin.

It promises to be a historic evening’s entertainment with well over €50,000 up for grabs, as well as an Irish title contest on the undercard.

Take a glimpse back up at that list, however, and you’ll find a heightened interest for one man in particular.

Meet Cillian Reardon, Leinster Rugby’s senior athletic performance coach and soon-to-be professional boxer.

Reardon, the man responsible for the strength and conditioning of our heroes in a blue - and green - jersey, steps through the ropes for the first time as a pro on March 3.

He wouldn’t be the first rugby convert to step into the ring, as his gym-mate Steve Collins Jr forges his own career having played for Lansdowne and, further afield, New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams has picked up titles as a boxer.

You would imagine, 22 days out, that Reardon has his eyes on one thing and one thing only.

"Yeah, Edinburgh away tonight," says Reardon.

"Just because we have plenty of lads playing for Ireland tomorrow against Italy in the Six Nations, the Pro14 continues so I’ve been working with the rest of the squad helping them to prepare for this game."

Leinster look like they are back in the big time at present with fans and pundits tipping them for European and Pro14 success, so it isn’t too difficult to fathom that Reardon thrives off the group that he prepares for massive games week-in week-out while eyeing up his own personal challenge.

"It’s a different undertaking, very much so," Reardon adds.

"But maybe something people don’t know is that I’ve 12 years as an amateur behind me.

"Now, it was a bit up and down and I had breaks in and out but it might not be as big a jump from the day job as people might think.

"What’s always been said to me, a common theme really, is that my style has always been much more suited to the pro game, but in terms of the time and energy you need to give to make it as a professional in boxing is so big that I was never able to match things up in my life to give it a real push.

"I’m the kind of person who, if I want to do something I’m going to do it properly and I was just waiting for the opportunity where I could put this together.

"But I wouldn’t be able to pursue this dream of being a pro boxer without the support of Leinster and so a lot of thanks must go to them."

As expected, Reardon is in exceptional condition, and he would need to be combining his role with Leinster while dreaming of pro titles, and he makes the most of the position he’s in, working with elite athletes daily as his ‘9 to 5’.

"It started to become really helpful, being in an environment, a winning environment, one that develops habits and doing good things. I’m surrounded by guys who do that the whole time.

"In a sense, I’m there to coach the Leinster lads in my area of expertise, but I get a lot out of spending time with them day-to-day.

"There’s a lot of energy around Leinster at the moment and I’m very lucky to be in that environment, to help me carry that into my training as I build towards March 3."

While Leinster, and Reardon, go in search for glory as a group, he is on his own journey, but isn’t looking beyond his debut, having suffered a setback when his original first bout was scrapped late on.

That was in November, and as the days tick down he is building up now to showcasing his ability at ‘Last Man Standing’.

"I really am looking at it one fight at a time for now," he says.

"Obviously I have targets and I’m here for the long haul but for now I’m just hoping to impress on my debut.

"I’ve been getting some excellent sparring in with the likes of Craig McCarthy, who is headlining a show in Waterford next weekend, and Gary Cully, who fights tomorrow night in Belfast.

"I’m very lucky in my gym in St Michael’s that I’m surrounded by the likes of Craig, Victor Rabei, Roy Sheahan and Tony Browne and, as far as I'm concerned Stephen O’Rourke is the best coach for professionals in Dublin, and in the country."

After all the hard work, from the training ground to the gym, is done, what can fight fans expect from Reardon on March 3?

"I do all my best work coming forward and when I start to put all my combinations together well that’s when I start to perform.

"That’s what I’ll be hoping to do."

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