Like most boxers, Sean McComb has had a tough time over the past 12 months, but he believes that when his big moment arrives, he will be ready for it. On Friday, McComb faces Gavin Gwynne for the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title on the MTK Global show in Bolton. Apprenticeship over, this is his first step to what he hopes will be the big time.
The 28-year-old, from the south-west of Belfast has spent his 2½-year career building to this moment. As an amateur, he was good enough to box at three World Championships, three European Championships and a Commonwealth Games, facing better opposition than he would have as he moved to 11-0 as a professional. But McComb wasn’t just thinking one step at a time, he kept his eyes on the bigger picture.
“I wasn’t training for the journeymen, I was training for a career,” McComb said. “I was looking to get better for when I get to world level. I wasn’t training for those fights, I was training to better myself and for when the fights matter, like now. I was training at a high level, not to beat those guys up, but to prepare for now.”
McComb has been busier than many, having boxed twice in 2020, beating Argentinian Mauro Maximiliano Godoy in Belfast in February then Siar Ozgul, the London-based Turkish boxer, behind closed doors in August. But having turned professional in the week of his 26th birthday, there has been no time to waste.
While most will have put on pounds during the lockdown, McComb has taken them off, as he steps down from super-lightweight for the first time as a professional. He believes a win over Gwynne will put him in the mix for a shot at the European title, which is currently vacant.
“I was lucky to box twice last year and it is exciting to box so early this year,” he said. “Everyone has been on the same page in terms of inactivity, but MTK getting the ball rolling and getting out behind closed doors is a massive help to my career and something I have to be very thankful for.
“I can only move as quickly as my management moves me and, although there have been no titles, I have had a serious step up every fight, I think they have done a fantastic job right up to now.
“A title could catapult my career onto bigger and better things and, who knows, maybe onto world title fight next year. I would hope to push on for a European title. When you have that, opportunities come and doors open.”
Gwynne, though, is not a man to take lightly. The Welshman went the distance for this title against Joe Cordina in 2019 but was stopped by McComb’s fellow Ulster boxer James Tennyson for the British title last summer.
“He has been there and done it, he has the experience and it will be a great fight.” McComb said. “He has fought for a title before, he has done the rounds, he’s a very durable fighter and I am looking forward to sharing a ring with him.
“But I am expecting to put on a good, professional solid performance. I am expecting a tough fight, but I’m very switched on. He’s a good come-forward fighter. I will be waiting for my openings and when they come, I will take them.”
McComb’s nickname is Public Menace, a legacy of the Commonwealth Games in Australia, when a post-competition drink with friends end up in a fight with a nightclub doorman, an arrest and a ticket for “being a public nuisance”.
But he doesn’t have to go far from home to know what he is fighting for. In 2019, he boxed on Michael Conlan’s undercard outdoors at Falls Park, which just happens to be in McComb’s neighbourhood. The place he would really like to fight, though, is Casement Park, Northern Ireland’s leading Gaelic sports stadium, which is just yards from his home and about to undergo a massive redevelopment after years of neglect.
“It was quite rundown and they are turning it into a 22,000-seater stadium,” McComb said. “It is quite achievable for me to have a super-fight there if my career goes the way I want it to. That would be the dream.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.