Ciaran McVarnock Discusses His Career, Future, More

Despite compiling an impressive record, circumstances deprived Ciaran McVarnock from realising his dreams in the amateur sphere.

However, good things are being mooted for the feisty Ulster featherweight who makes his glittering pro debut at The Echo Arena in Liverpool this weekend, live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546).

Remaining tickets are available from the Liverpool Echo Arena Box Office on 0844 8000 400 or online at

Boxing writer Glynn Evans hooked up with Ciaran to find out a bit more about his background.

Name: Ciaran McVarnock

Weight: Featherweight

Born: Belfast

Age:  21

Family background: I’m second oldest of seven children. I’ve a twin brother. He never boxed but my 14 year old and nine year old brothers are amateurs. Since February, I’ve lived in Manchester with my girlfriend. She has Irish roots but lived most of her life in Southampton. 

Trade: I used to work as a roofer back home, but gave it up to concentrate full-time on the boxing when I moved to Manchester.

Nickname: ‘Bunty’. My great uncle was Eddie ‘Bunty’ Doran, an ex pro who beat world (flyweight)  champion Jackie Paterson and European champion (Theo Medina) back to back (in 1946) but never got a British title shot himself.

What age did you become interested in boxing and why? My dad and granddad were both very keen for me to get into the boxing when I was just nine or ten.

What do you recall of your amateur career? I boxed for the Sacred Heart club in Old Park, north Belfast and was trained by Darren Corbett, the ex Irish and Commonwealth cruiserweight champion. Darren had also boxed for the Sacred Heart when he was an amateur.

He was a very funny guy, very straight forward and obviously he’d been to the top himself. He did so much for me and still phones me regular and looks out for me.

I had 50 amateur bouts and lost only nine. I won three County Antrim novice titles but I never won any national titles or boxed internationally. I had a pretty hard childhood and was in and out of boxing, plus I was working from a very young age. I’d be doing okay in competitions then have to pull out before the finals.

The highlight might have been beating Sean Constantine from the Dockers club who later went on to win the All-Irelands.

Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? Darren always implied that my style was better suited to the pros.

I went over to Manchester to spar (British and Commonwealth super-flyweight champion) Paul Butler at ‘Arnie’s’ gym in Manchester. It went great and ‘Arnie’ invited me back. I thought it was a great idea to start a new life here because there were far too many distractions back home in Belfast.

Tell us about your back up team: I’m managed by Francis Warren, promoter by his father Frank and trained by ‘Arnie’ (ex WBU middleweight champion Anthony Farnell).

‘Arnie’ has really helped sort stuff out for me away from boxing, as well as with the coaching.   He also sorts out my diet plan.

What’s your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? I train six days a week. I’m always first to arrive at the gym at 10.30. I do my session then study guys like Paul Butler, Matty Hall and Mark Thompson. I’ll go home for a meal then, later in the day, I’ll have a five or six mile run.

At the gym, I’ll start with two rounds of shadow boxing to warm up. After that, ‘Arnie’ will take me on the pads for about six rounds, I’ll do about four rounds on the bar-bag, then it’ll be back to ‘Arnie’ for some specific technique work. He slows everything right down and shows you footwork and defence. I’ll then practise that new stuff for a while.  I’ll do some stomach work then cool down.

On sparring days, I’ll usually do six to eight rounds with Paul Butler then we’ll do a big ‘killer circuit’.

I enjoy everything about the gym and get a bit depressed when I have to go home. Best part is sparring Butler, he talks me through and helps me learn. Worst bit is circuits, especially when ‘Arnie’ starts smashing your stomach with his medicine ball.

Describe your style? What are your best qualities?  As an amateur I was really aggressive but ‘Arnie’ has changed me completely. Now I’m far more technical and box more from the outside. Style wise, I’ve become quite similar to Paul Butler. I didn’t stop many in the amateurs but my favourite shot is the left hook to the head.

What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Mental fitness; developing the mind set needed to go 12 rounds. First, I need to have some (pro) fights to establish what my weaknesses are.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? In the amateurs, they ‘tip-tap’ and back away. For the pros you need far more grit. Also, the pace is far slower and you don’t need to rush in.

Who is the best opponent that you’ve shared a ring with? It would have to be Paul Butler in sparring. When I first came to Manchester, he dropped me with a body shot.

He’s got everything; head movement, footwork, defence and a great attitude. I really look up to him. We spar really hard and I like to think I can bring out the best in him.

All time favourite fighter:  Floyd Mayweather. His record tells it all. He’s got everything. No matter what style he comes up against, he’s all the tools to adapt. He makes every fight look so easy.

All time favourite fight: Gatti-Ward. Round nine of their first fight was probably the greatest round of all time.

Which current match would you most like to see made? I’d love to see Froch-Groves again. I really wanted Froch to win but George’s performance was a big shock. In a rematch, I think the result would be the same.

What is your routine on fight day? Obviously this Saturday is my professional debut.

In the amateurs, we weighed in on the same day. As soon as I woke up, I’d check my weight to see what I might be able to eat or drink.

After weighing-in, I’d have a steak to get my energy levels and strength back up. I like to lounge around and have everything done for me! 

I might watch some boxing DVDs to kill some time but I’m not one to watch tapes of my opponent. I trust ‘Arnie’ to tell me the right tactics to use and tend to suss opponents out myself once I get inside the ring.

Once I get to the dressing room, I like to relax and listen to music. It’s then that my focus will multiply loads and I’ll get my ‘game head’ on. I get pretty fired up, keen to get it over and done with.

Entrance music:  I’ve not decided yet but as I’ve loads of fans coming over from back home it’ll probably be something Irish.

What are your ambitions as a boxer? I’m going to take each fight as it comes. First thing, I’d love to win a British or an Irish title. The British, particularly, would mean a lot to me. Ultimately, I really want to be a world champion.

How do you relax? Hanging out, having a drink with friends. I like to watch local sport; boxing shows or park football. I watch a lot of boxing tapes especially Ricky Hatton and Floyd Mayweather. I used to play a lot of soccer. I was a nippy winger!

Football team:  I’m a big, big Celtic fan and one of my sponsors has promised to take me to a match if I win my debut by knockout.  In the Irish League I follow Cliftonville who beat our big rivals Linfield 3-0 today. In the Premiership I like Arsenal.

Read: I only really look at the boxing forums on Twitter and Facebook.

Music:  I like to listen to Irish songs on my way to the gym. I also like trance music plus R ‘n’ B.

Films/TV: I like action films, Armageddon, Die Hard.....stuff with Bruce Willis. TV? Definitely no soaps! I just watch Sky Sports News.

Aspiration in life: To have no regrets and to earn loads of money.

Motto:  Hard work at the gym makes for an easy fight.

Watch the whole Echo Arena – also featuring Liam Smith’s British title defence against Mark Thompson, the WBO European Lightweight clash between Stephen Ormond and Derry Mathews, plus Paul Butler’s WBO/WBA Intercontinental Super-Flyweight showdown against Ruben Montoya, and Enzo Maccarinelli defending his Commonwealth light-heavyweight title against Courtney Fry, live and exclusive on BoxNation, The Channel of Champions from 7pm on Saturday evening (Sky Ch.437/Virgin Ch.546).  Join at

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