World is McComb’s oyster following Kelly win

Sean McComb consoles Wayne Kelly after Friday’s final Sean McComb consoles Wayne Kelly after Friday’s final
By David Mohan

SEAN McComb is set to do some globetrotting this year having claimed his third Irish Elite title and first at light-welterweight with a unanimous decision victory over Wayne Kelly on Friday night, but for now a holiday in Cuba with club coach, Michael Hawkins is off the agenda.

The Turf Lodge man laughed when he recalled a promise made to him by Hawkins back in his early days at Holy Trinity, but a busy year now lies ahead for the new 64kg champion with a potential World Series of Boxing debut next month before he makes his assault on the European and hopefully, World Championships later in the year.

“Micky promised me when I was 10 years of age that if I ever won an Irish Senior title he would bring me anywhere in the world I wanted on holiday. I chose Cuba three or four years ago, but he still hasn’t brought me so that’s three holidays he owes me,” he grinned.

“He says I can’t fit it into the schedule with a full year ahead of Europeans and Worlds with training camps, so I will just have to hold him to it in later years.”

Certainly, McComb deserves all the credit in the world for putting on an expert performance to become a two-weight national champion on Friday as he played to his advantages throughout to out-box the Ballynacargy man from the opening bell.

It was a cagey opening with McComb looking to employ his reach advantage to score and as the opening round passed he was finding his range more and more, popping out his left jab against his fellow southpaw to land.

Kelly was finding it hard to solve the distance problem as he seemed reluctant to commit early and when he did step in, was being picked off with left and right counters as the West Belfast man clearly took the opening round.

In the second, Kelly knew he needed to try and force the issue and did have some success as he began to move forward and throw bombs, but McComb was happy to fight fire with fire when needed and his movement and distance control allowed him to set traps for Kelly to fall into.

A head clash opened a cut above McComb’s left eye, but it was not an issue as he continued to pick Kelly off who was forced to take shots in an effort to get his own off as McComb returned to his corner at the bell with his arm raised.

The third round was all about not falling into a trap and McComb boxed perfectly, evading anything coming his way while popping out the jab to score and countering to coast home as champion.

“It was the sort of fight I expected – cagey, in-and-out,” he said after.

“Wayne has a very good boxing brain and he is training at the High Performance for the last two years, so he knows what he is about and he is a very tricky operator.

“I said my reach would come into play. The first and second rounds were very tight, but I felt I was landing the cleaner punches. In the third round, my plan was just not to get hit because if you don’t get hit you can’t lose and that’s what I did. You could see him getting more frustrated and coming into my range a bit more, but (I threw) single jabs and single left hands.”

The Turf Lodge man says he had worked on changing his approach going into this final in order to play to his own strengths and this was a major factor in his victory on the night.

“I’m getting into a habit of going in tight,” he explained.

“I love fighting and would fight seven days a week, but it’s just not for me. I’m too big for it so this week I worked on that. If I fight with anybody, it will be 50-50, but if I stay on the back foot it will be 80-20 in my favour so it worked very well.”

Having been denied twice in Elite finals against David Oliver Joyce who then went onto the Rio Olympics, it was a sweet victory for the West Belfast man who can now look forward to a potentially huge year given the major tournaments that lie ahead.

“It’s great to get back into a good routine with a winning mentality in the big ring at the Stadium. I love it, it’s the best buzz of the year,” he added.

“You don’t get that at the World Championships, so it’s great to get the win and go back to the High Performance Unit as number one. I have European and World Championships to look forward to this year and the WSB. It’s a massive year ahead and it all started tonight with that win.”

There was the temptation given his disappointments on finals’ night to switch to the paid ranks, but his Irish and club coaches had other ideas and convinced McComb to stay amateur.

This decision paid off with his win and he will move forward in 2017 that he can lead the way for the Irish team on the international stage.

“I spoke to Zaur (Antia), Micky (Hawkins) who both said for me to stay (amateur) for at least this year and play it by year,” he revealed.

“With the Europeans and Worlds, why not? I feel I can beat anybody in the world on my day.

“I have the experience now having been to two Worlds and two Europeans. I just feel I have matured massively into the weight. At 64 I can’t see anybody beating me, but I’m just going to take it one fight at a time from now until the end of the year and hopefully I will be successful.”

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