Casey Blair – “I had to train my mind to get out of journeyman mode, I knew my kids would be watching”

If winning is a habit, then so is losing, and Casey Blair [4(0)-18(3)] admits he spent three weeks working on his mindset to make sure he didn’t lose in front of his children last Saturday.

The road warrior went to the home dressing room for the first time in 18 fights and was determined to ensure his losing streak didn’t tick up to 19 on home soil.

All Blair’s previous three victories had come at home and he was set up for a fourth as he fought the brilliantly named, if not brilliantly talented, Alireza Alimohammadi in the Shorts Sports and Social Centre in Belfast last weekend.

However, the 37 year old well-travelled tough man revealed after his six-round shutout points win that he had to spend three weeks mentally preparing himself for the fight. ‘The Kid’ was determined to win in front of his home crowd and his watching kids and knew, regardless of the level of opponent, that that would entail getting out of journey man mode.

Having spent 18 fights and over a year with survival as a priority, the Bangor light middleweight had to train his mind to be prepared to go out and be adventurous enough to earn a win.

“There was a mental process I had to go through for three weeks before this fight, honestly. I had to train my mind to get out of journeyman mode, I knew my kids would be watching and that motivated me to snap out of that. Thankfully I did and I got the win,” he told Irish-Boxing.com before expanding on the life of a journeyman.

“You do get into a rhythm of journeyman mode. Most of the time you’re up against a kid with talent at short notice and they have had a full training camp. You’re doing your best to survive and it becomes a habit. There are moments in fights where, if I stepped it up a bit, I could have found a window to have a proper go, but the journeyman mode has you thinking ‘I am not risking anything, I am not letting the hands too far away from the chin.’ You know these kids are fitter and younger – well I’m 37 so they are all younger – so it becomes a question of covering up and not getting hurt. You do come out of some fights thinking you might have made an easier night of it by applying more pressure, but journeyman mode takes over.”

“I haven’t had too many chances to win a fight away from home, but the few that have been there I haven’t taken them because of journeyman mode.”

He may not have won on the road, but he is unbeaten in Belfast after last weekend’s win and, you would be forgiven for thinking after 17 straight defeats that Blair would be full of personal delight post fight. However, the Ulsterman seemed more pleased for those who got to see his hand raised – indeed, he was delighted the next generation got to witness what good small hall boxing can be all about.

“It’s been a while. I was due one by the law of averages alone!” he joked when asked about the victory

“It’s nice to get out and get a win especially here in front of my home crowd. To get back to get out in front of them and to feed of their support was fantastic. It was lovely to win in front of all those young cubs too. To see kids down at the show is great and if that doesn’t get them interested in boxing I don’t know what will. For them to be at a nice family show like that, where everyone had a good view of the ring, all the fights were close and there was no one there to lie down it’s great. They are the next generation and it was a good show for the sport. I am delighted to have been involved and to have got a win for the people that turned up,” He added before reflecting on the fight and suggesting he would enjoy the win before he returns to more familiar fights.

“He was big and I thought maybe he isn’t too durable, but he took some big hooks and he knew when to fire the jab out just too ruin my rhythm. I think he deserves a lot of credit. I am going to enjoy this now. I am not chasing any titles and the wins haven’t come around too often so I will enjoy it and then I am sure we will be back on the road.”

And, like day follows night, Blair is back in the ring tonight facing prospect MH Legg in Southampton. It’s a tough and often thankless job, but there can be occasional heartwarming nights such as last Saturday

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie