James McGivern will look to box his way to Irish Elite Senior title glory this Saturday night and the stylish Belfast light welter has been living like some sort of modern monk to ensure this will be the case.
The St George’s slickster is now a full-time boxer and put out a statement of intent when he eliminated reigning champ Wayne Kelly in the quarters.
Now McGivern is one way away from a maiden Elite title at the first attempt and he face reigning lightweight champion George Bates on Saturday night at the National Stadium.
A classy counter-puncher, McGivern, like Bates, hs stepped up to 63kg following the removal of the lightweight class from the Olympic roster.
The shift, though, hasn’t been too keenly felt by the Commonwealth Games bronze medllist who hs stepped up his preparations for what is a crucial time in his career.
“I’ve quit my job,” he explained. “I got a couple of sponsors on board thank God, they’re giving me a hand, helping me actual do what I’m doing. Without then I’d probably be snookered.”
“Literally, the last two or three months of my life have been eat, sleep, train…. and play Call of Duty. That’s all I’ve been doing.”
“This is my job now. A fella said to me the other day ‘is it hard not working?’ I said ‘I am working’, this isn’t easy.”
“It might be called amateur boxing, there’s nothing amateur about it. It’s a full-time job and it’s harder than most jobs. I came out minus a toenail one day, I had a black eye last week.”
Moving up three kilo, McGivern doesn’t look out of place in the higher class and he notes how “I’m a lot stronger now.”
“My strength and conditioning coach, Stuart McKeating, I call him ‘the doctor’. Just last week he had me doing pull-ups with 110kg, so I’m strong as a bull.
““You could end up being fat – and I was for a while. I would say Wayne Kelly came down from about 70-odd kilo and I was trying to get up, so I was eating like a mad thing, two men and a wee lad, but then Stuart came on board and we’ve done it properly, with science, we didn’t wing it, we did what we were meant to do.”
“I’m a lot bigger now, and stronger. I’m hitting boys and hurting them now.”
“It just takes me that little bit to realise that I’ve hurt them, that’s three that I’ve hit and hurt in this competition, I just need to hurt someone next week.”
To get through to the final with Bates, McGivern had to score a third win of the championships and duly did after a cagey fight with Monkstown’s Kenneth Doyle – a former U22 and Intermediate champ who was coming down from the old light welter limit of 64kg.
Analysing the 4-1 split win, McGivern described how “he was pretty negative, he was trying to counter-punch a counter-puncher – which does make sense, trying to draw me out.”
“I just had to be patient. I knew what he wanted me to do, fall in with the punch, so I was feinting as he threw the body shot, catching it, and then countering him.”
“It was probably a boring fight to watch but sometimes it’s just what you need to do.”
“I got the Ulsters out of the way and so the ring rust was off from that competition there.
“My first fights down here [v Senan Kelly and Wayne Kelly] the ring rust was off, – I felt sick down here the first weekend bit I got through, now I just need one more – one more big party.”
The ‘big party’ comes on Saturday against Bates, an opponent McGivern admits he isn’t too familiar with.
The 21-year-old is confident nonetheless and outlined how “I think this will be the first time I’ve been in with George.”
“We’re not taking him lightly at all, it’ll take a big performance to beat him, same way it’ll take a big performance for him to beat me.”
“No doubt it’ll be a big fight… and I’ll win.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)