Boxing as a sport, in its purest form, is simple. Yet somehow, it is a sport littered with an array of flaws that you don’t fully appreciate the absurdity of until you find yourself explaining them to someone who hasn’t become dulled to the ludicrous nature of the sport. If you happen to still have the ear of a friend after explaining the differences between an Interim, Silver, Regular, Diamond, Mayan and Franchise Champion then you’ve done very well – But, how exactly do we explain boxers avoiding one other in an attempt to preserve their unbeaten record? Of course, if like me you have become blasé due to the regularity of talking about such matters then you’ll no doubt find yourself explaining it away with ease, inevitably citing “a bigger fight down the road”. But to those less-versed in combat sports, the concept can be most baffling that fighters can effectively avoid certain fights in an attempt to preserve their unbeaten record. But what happens when you have a fighter who doesn’t fear losing? Just how far can they go?
Martin McDonagh | British Boxing News
Martin McDonagh (8-1) is one such fighter with no such fear and takes no shame in his professional record having a strike in the loss column. It goes without saying that McDonagh wants nothing more than to win every time he steps into the ring, but he wasn’t prepared to hinder his development by protecting his zero.
McDonagh, who boxes out of Rumbles Boxing Academy in Kent, made his professional debut in 2018 following a magnificent amateur career that saw him winning both regional and national titles and narrowly missing out on Team GB selection. McDonagh credits his amateur experience as the foundation on which his professional success will be built, considering the amateur game as his apprenticeship.
“My amateur experience helps me a lot. As an amateur you’re fighting all different styles every week, I was fighting top-level opposition and mixing with the best and it’s learning steps so you’re ready then for the pros.”
True to his nature of mixing it with some of the best, McDonagh advocates the importance of sharpening his tools in sparring with boxers who are further along in their career and at the heights, McDonagh longs to reach himself.
“I’ve had some very good sparring and it gives you confidence. I sparred [Mickey] Conlan a few months back, I was sparring Luke Campbell a couple of weeks ago. I’ve sparred with world title challenger Liam Walsh and Alex Dilmaghani who fought for a world title and is fighting for a European title in September, and I’ve sparred with Ohara Davies this week. They’re all top fighters and it’s all learning. Sparring Luke Campbell, that was class. Sometimes he did little things and you’re ‘Phwoar! How’s he just done that?’”
Under the professional spotlights, McDonagh stands with a record of seven wins from his eight fights with his solitary defeat coming at the hands Danny Egbunike in a clash for the vacant Southern Area title in June 2019. I put the assertion to McDonagh to refute that while fighting journeymen is helpful to his growth as a fighter, he may well have learned more from his one loss than his seven wins combined – “100%. Yeah, 100%. I learned a lot from that fight and I got a lot of respect from people... To tell you the truth, Danny was bigger than me muscle-wise and we thought he was going to die out but his fitness was very good. He just had a little more man strength than me but It was a very good fight and a good atmosphere that night. There was nothing to be ashamed of that night.”
McDonagh loses out to Egbunike | MTK Global
On the earlier point of fighters tactically plotting their career path to protect their unbeaten record, I couldn’t resist questioning McDonagh on why he chose to take a risky 50/50 fight so early in his career when many may have shied away in favour of lower-risk opposition.
“We were told that we had to sell over 100 tickets at York Hall on a Friday, and I live in Kent, so I told the truth that I won’t be able to do that and that it would be a bit of a struggle and I was told I wouldn’t be boxing. But my coach got a phone call and asked ‘Do you want that fight?’ and if I never took that fight I wouldn’t be boxing for a couple of months. But at the end of the day, you have to take them fights. I’m a fighter, I’m not scared. There’s no point building your record to 15-0 and people think ‘oh, he’s got a good record’ then jumping in with someone and getting beat.”
It’s another of the absurdities talked about rarely in the upper echelons of boxing but remains a constant pressure for fighters making their way – Tickets. Of course, it is a relatively self-explanatory concept that the small hall show entrants are paying the wages of the night’s fighters and without them, the shows can’t go ahead. To those unaware though, seeing a 25-year-old boxing professionally under the MTK banner may conjure images that for McDonagh, and others like him, it is all glamour and plain sailing.
“Yeah, they think it is but when you sit down and tell people what the outgoings are they realise it’s a lot. People think it’s easy, but it isn’t. It’s hard! You’ve got to go round selling the tickets and then people will say ‘Can I get four tickets off you?’, you’ve got your eyes set on them to get them four tickets and they text you saying ‘Don’t worry about those tickets, change of plans’ – It’s the worst thing in the world”
Following his loss to Egbunike, McDonagh was of the attitude that the best medicine was to dust himself down and get back in the ring. McDonagh has boxed three times since that night winning all three and dropping just one round of the 16. Perfect preparation for his next outing against Harlem Eubank, cousin of interim WBA World Middleweight champion Chris Eubank Jr. and nephew of British boxing legend Chris Eubank Sr. While boxing fans will be familiar with the Eubank family name, McDonagh is more than familiar with the man himself with the pair having met twice in the amateurs and McDonagh having his hand raised on both occasions.
“I haven’t noticed any extra attention, but I’ve beaten him twice before so I think everyone is interested. It’s going to be a good fight, I’m looking forward to it and I’m ready to make a statement and put my name up there and show people that I’m here properly.”
Eubank and McDonagh meet in the pro ranks | MTK Global
Before closing our conversation I tried to tease some details out of McDonagh about his game plan for his upcoming bout but to no avail. Undoubtedly, McDonagh’s up and coming coach Billy Rumbol, will have formulated what he believes to be a road map for success for the night but McDonagh is keeping his cards close to his chest.
“I’ll leave that until the night… To me, my mindset is that I’m in there to do a job and I’m in there to perform. You’re going to see a top-class performance and you’re going to see Martin McDonagh make a statement and introduce himself to the scene properly.”
Martin McDonagh faces off against Harlem Eubank on a packed undercard of Brown Vs Bowes on Wednesday 2nd September. For the most up to date information make sure you are following @ESBRBoxing, @MTKGlobal and @mmcdonagh95
Headline: Brown Vs Bowes Date: September 2nd 2020 Time: First bell approx. 19:30 Venue: Wakefield, UK Channel: IFL TV (YouTube) / ESPN+ (USA)