Martin McDonagh: Time to introduce myself properly.

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”