Sean McComb had to endure a major disappointment at the recent European Championships, however the Belfast light welter has come out the other side feeling more confident than ever.
The Holy Trinity southpaw stormed to the quarter finals in Kharkiv, defeating reigning world champion and #1 seed Vitaly Dunaystev in the process. Then, in his bronze medal bout, McComb was hugely unfortunate to be ruled the loser against England’s Luke McCormack.
A clash of styles, McComb was edged out on a 3-2 split, however had more cumulative points across the five scorecards.
A result which initially left the Turf Lodge man disillusioned, McComb has since moved on to focus on the upcoming World Championships in Hamburg, which he qualified for thanks to his Top Eight finish in Ukraine.
Looking back on the Championships, McComb notes how there are “lots of positives to take from it.”
“The main thing was my performance, I performed very well. All the boxes were ticked during my performances in the ring, against each opponent – not just the fight that I lost, but the two fights previous to that.”
“I was getting better and better as I went on through the tournament.”
The controversial loss doesn’t play too heavily on his mind, and the Belfast boxer is looking forward with a confident attitude.
McComb reflected that “before I went, I thought I was going to do a lot better than I did. It was just unfortunate the way things turned out.”
“You have to move on. There’s no point in dwelling on it. It’s not the first time it’s happened to me, it won’t be the last time. It would have been even more disappointing if it had happened earlier in the competition and I didn’t qualify for the Worlds – that would have been my year over. Where do you go from there?”
“I have to be thankful for getting to the World Championships, and it gives me another opportunity to go and prove everyone wrong, prove wrong everybody else who obviously didn’t favour me in the fight – the judges and stuff – and show the talent that I have.”
The Last 16 win over Dunaytsev, McComb’s second victory over the Russian this year, he believes is a real indicator of his quality.
‘Sugar’ Sean described how “it’s given me a big confidence boost after beating the world champion and stuff like that, heading towards the World Championships.”
“It just shows you how competitive it is: the Russian guy I beat is reigning world champion, reigning European champion, and current Olympic bronze medallist – and he didn’t even qualify for the Worlds. I’m not even ranked at 64, and I beat him. So he’s not going to be there now, at the Worlds.”
“So I’m going towards the Worlds with a positive mindset, and I’ve put the Europeans behind me. It’s all well behind me now, and I’m focusing on stuff I can work on, thriving on the loss, and I’ll try to make up for it at the World Championships by winning a World medal.”
” Everybody has sort of seen it now after beating the world champion at the Europeans. I’ve beaten the world champion twice now, it’s not just a one-off thing. Everybody knows the talent I have – the coaches, Bernard [Dunne], the backroom staff. They all have faith in my ability to go on and win a World medal.”
“That’s why they’re putting all the work into me, all the effort into me. I’m very thankful for that as well. I believe in myself, too, so it’s not just a one-way thing. I believe in myself all the way, and you’ll see that coming up in the Worlds.”
McComb is now one of the senior members of a relatively new-look Irish squad, and the Ulsterman is hopeful for the teams prospects in the coming years, noting both the talent on the panel and the influence of new High Performance Director Bernard Dunne.
Noting the cyclical nature of amateur boxing, the 24 year old outlined how “after Rio, everybody sort of thought that Irish boxing was down in the dumps. There was no medals, and you had so many of the big names leaving to go to the pro game: Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan who dominated international boxing for Ireland for the last decade, or near enough. They’re gone and everybody’s panicking: ‘If we didn’t win medals with them in Rio, how are we going to win medals in the next international tournaments without them?'”
“But there’s a great cycle in Irish boxing, and there are great youths coming through. There are two here now, in Kurt Walker and Brendan Irvine – two European bronze medallists! Brendan is 21, Kurt is 22. And they were living in the shadows of Michael and Paddy. But now they’re breaking through, and they’re going to become the big names in Irish boxing.”
In terms of Dunne’s appointment, McComb is hugely positive and explained that “Bernard’s making sure it’s all well run. From when Bernard’s come in, it’s been obviously a fresh start, but I think it’s been a fresh start that everyone needed. He’s working hard to make this the best High Performance Unit in the world.”
“He makes sure everything runs smoothly, and makes sure we can get the benefit of everything that we have surrounding us here, be it the track or this great boxing gym, or the great support staff. Bernard’s after bringing more people in and they’re brilliant – including a new physio, who’s a great lad.”
“It’s great that he’s done that. And there’s more. He has big plans in order too, I believe. We had a small chat about stuff that he has in mind, and I think it’s a great idea, some of the stuff that he has planned for Irish boxing.”
“No hints, as of yet, because none of it is 100% over the line yet, but I believe what he’s working on is going to be massive for Irish boxing in the near future.”
Photo Credit: Laszlo Geczo Photography