Out of the ring for seven months, the Belfast super featherweight is to leave Manchester – where he has spent his entire career as a pro – and return to Ireland.
A tough decision, it is one McVarnock feels is the best for his career which has been stop-start to say the least
In a heartfelt interview with Irish-Boxing.com, the Belfast boxer explains his reasons for coming home, his difficulty in leaving Manchester and coach Arnie Farnell, and his hopes and plans for the future.
Homesickness and opportunity have conspired for McVarnock who outlined his desire to get closer to family and finally be there to see my younger brothers and sister, nieces and nephew grow up and be around it all. One thing that doesn’t get easier is being away from family. ”
“My social life, family, close childhood friends, scenery, the home feeling – I don’t have any of that around me in Manchester and having that back in my life will make me a real happy fighter.”
“The struggle of life in Manchester on my own in what most people don’t see. It’s not all fame glory money and a smile. Far from it,” he adds before pointing out the vibrant fight scene in the Titanic City.
“The boxing in Belfast is booming and I will be living the life of a professional when I move back home.”
“I will be joined up alongside GymCo at Cityside thanks to Jim Conlon who cant thank enough, I owe him.”
Of course, moving back to Belfast full-time means that McVarnock must part company with long-time coach and close friend Arnie Farnell.
‘Bunty’ has been with the former light middle and middleweight brawler ever since he moved to Manchester five years ago and theirs will be a difficult goodbye.
“It’s going to kill my saying my final goodbye to him, I can feel it already,” McVarnock admits.
“Me and Arnie still have a strong connection, we still buzz off one another, there is no bad blood.”
“I sat down with Arnie and I told him my decision and he understood. After a round on pads he said to me ‘God, I think I’ll cry when you go’.”
“To be honest, that played in my head for a few days because I know it’s hurting him as much as it hurts me
I have been renting one of Arnie houses of him . He has taken me to 10 fights unbeaten . We have had some great nights in Liverpool, Dublin, Belfast. Even though we got a draw in Marbella, that fight was the fight I have learnt the most from. Outside of the boxing we have had some crazy times.”
Indeed the close bond with Farnell is what has delayed McVarnock making his final decision to move home.
The 26-year-old explained how “2018 has been real hard. It’s been playing in my head for months about moving and I just couldn’t do it because of my loyalty towards Arnie.”
“It was affecting everything around. It was affecting my boxing training, my life outside the gym, I was dead miserable.”
“But I knew I had to change, I had to make the decision to make myself happier again and I broke and made the decision.”
“Arnie will be at my next fight. I owe Arnie a lot and will always have my respect
Upon his return, McVarnock will be trained by the father and son partnership of Gerry Storey Senior and Junior at the famous Holy Family GG club in North Belfast.
For New Lodge boy McVarnock, it was one of the few easy decisions in the whole process.
‘Bunty’ recalled how “when making my mind up to move back home and continue my career, it wasn’t a hard choice on what trainer to choose. It was probably the easiest decision.”
“I went home and I spoke to them both and I loved everything they told me and everything I saw that was going on in the gym.”
“I’m absolutely buzzing about it and looking forward to learning new things.”
While his location and training situation has changed, McVarnock’s management remains the same.
The Irishman left MTK Global last year after just one fight and linked up with Frank Warren matchmaker Jason McClory and Longshots Sports.
McVarnock is the sort of person that wears his heart on his sleeve and loyalty is a major thing for him.
“I was never in doubt in leaving him,” he said of McClory.
“My loyalty belongs to Jason and that’s where it’s going to stay. I’ve had the chance to go other routes but that won’t happen, I’ll stay with Jason.”
“He has stood by me through the hard times of boxing, we have a great relationship.”
“He has done a lot for me in and out of the ring. He is there to help me become champion and I want to make him and his own family proud by doing it.”
McClory wants to kickstart McVarnock’s career upon his return and the entertaining brawler outlined how “he’s going to get me into the mix as soon as I get back home, get me fighting ASAP – and get me a nice shiny belt very, very soon!”
“I’m just so, so happy to get onto Belfast shores and be happy and onto bigger things and changes.”
McVarnock wants titles but admits that he hasn’t been playing close attention to the scene in recent months.
That said, there is plenty of potential for wars in and around featherweight and super featherweight with Mathew Fitzsimons, Stevie Quinn, and Sean Higginson in Belfast and the likes of Stephen McAfee, Niall O’Connor, and Allan Phelan down south.
McVarnock said that “I havent really been paying attention apart from the bigger televised fights if I’m being honest. I’ve been too busy focusing on making moves on moving bk home to Belfast.”
“That’s the first chapter of my career done. It’s time to turn the page and onto bigger and better things.”
“I’m buzzing to get back home to friends and family, working alongside GymCo, and lacing up the gloves learning new things and running the roads of Belfast .”
“A happy fighter is a better fighter and that’s exactly what you will see.”
Before finishing, McVarnock took time to pay tribute to all those that have enabled him to box.
“I really want to thank my sponsors,” he said.
“CS suppliers, who have stood by me from day one, Composite Wood Company that made my last fight happen because without him it would never have happened, MXN Boxing Gear for all the top quality boxing equipment, Capricorn security for some great opportunities and helping me out massively at times, and KMO Dental Lab.”
“The man I would love to thank so much is Phil ‘Lethal’ Lomax from Moda Furnishings who helped me out massively financially the last load of months, been a great sponsor. He motivates me to be successful myself. He’s just one of the lads, I look up to him on how he has become so successful and it pushes me on to do the same.”