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‘Dark days’ are over – Ciaran McVarnock returns to boxing as his partner returns to good health

Ciaran McVarnock [10(3)-0-1] is all too aware that boxing leads you down the most selfish of paths, so for the good of his partner it’s a path he knew had to temporarily step off.

The Belfast fighter hasn’t traded leather since the summer of 2019 because he traded fights.

McVarnock’s turned down bouts with glove-wearing opponents to help fight a much more dangerous foe in cystic fibrosis.

‘Bunty’s’ girlfriend, Nicole Adams suffers from the disease and in late 2019, early 2020 got to a point where she was “fighting for her last breath”.

Indeed the 10 count was fast approaching with Ms. Adams, whose fighting spirit is now well known within the boxing world and beyond, in need of special intervention.

McVarnock’s better half’s lung function had been reduced to around 13% and she needed life-saving cystic fibrosis medication.

The professional boxer knew he couldn’t fight for Nicole to get that medication, support her in her struggle and fight in the ring.

Knowing how selfish he would become if handed a fight date and after some wise words from Gerry Storey he knew boxing had to be shelved.

So not long after teaming up with a new manager in Kevin Maree, he was stepping away from the sport until a genuine out of the ring battle was won.

“Kevin gave me a date for November [2019] and then my partner ended up seriously ill in hospital with cystic fibrosis fighting for her life,” McVarnock told Irish-boxing.com.

“I wasn’t right mentally. I still attended the gym the first week Nicole went into the hospital. I was sparring and training, but training really bad, and Gerry Storey told me to go and just look after my Mrs and come back when things are good again.

“Gerry said boxing will always be there for me. He told me he will always be there for me and I should go be with Nicole because at that stage she might not. I knew he was right. I did what Gerry said and I respect Gerry so much for that advice. I owe a lot to both Gerry Sr and Jr,” he continues before opening up more.

“I was going through the hardest days of my life. They were really my dark days. I couldn’t take that fight in November for that reason. Kevin then offered me February to fight. I said no to that fight because Nicole was just out of the hospital and she was in her early stages of recovering.”

McVarnock admits if he had a fight to focus on, that the selfish boxer would have taken over like some form of uncontrollable Hulk – and he wouldn’t have been the supportive partner needed.

“To be honest boxing is a selfish sport if I had have said yes to fight I wouldn’t have even acknowledged Nicole when she was struggling because I was so focused on fighting.

“I had to be there to support her and help her to recovery so that’s why I didn’t fight.”

Thankfully Nicole is now well and no longer in serious danger and has been since last spring, but Covid then prevented the 28-year-old from getting back to business.

A bout on the first Carl Frampton Jamel Herring card was pandemically panned, as were three other fights over the following few months.

Indeed, he was ready to come back in against an undefeated Frank Warren prospect when boxing did resume behind closed doors, only to be advised against that clash.

“I said yes to Kevin,” he said concerning the aforementioned clash.

“I then rang Gerry Storey and told him and he said ‘Ciaran we can’t take the fight. No one is going to come and spar you because of covid and the gym is still closed’. So I couldn’t train for it.

“Those are the reasons for my inactivity. A lot of them are really out of my control. I did the right thing and looked after my partner when she was on death’s door and helped support her to recovery. Most men would have broke and walked away probably but I stood by her side all the way,” he adds proudly.

McVarnock is now ready, willing, and able to fight again and is hoping to announce a date soon.

When discussing his return, a return that has yet to be officially confirmed, he can’t contain his excitement.

However, he has seen the value of time away from the gym.

“I love fighting. I love the buzz off it. I love a good scrap. If I’m not in the gym punching a bag I’m walking about the house shadow boxing. I really want to fight.”In saying that, the time away from the gym with and the covid situation allowed me to enjoy some really valuable time with my other half. That is time I may probably never have again. With Nicole being so ill we lost out on three weeks of Christmas holidays so since she has recovered we have made up for it. So apart from not fighting and being away from boxing, I am the happiest man in the world.”

Learning the value of time away from the gym and seeing the benefits of shelving the selfish nature needed to compete in the ring, McVarnock would have been forgiven for never coming back.

However, suggesting as much almost insults him.

“I was never retired. That question mark was never gonna be above my head. I knew deep down I was always going to fight again. I love fighting. I love everything about it. The question was just when will I fight again ?”
“I need to fight. Mentally and also for my career. I can’t wait on covid passing and gyms opening up again and then start a training camp to fight,” he adds before suggesting a Summer return.

“You’re probably talking late spring-early summer.”

Being two years shy of 30, McVarnock doesn’t believe he has the luxury of being eased back in. There is lost time to be made up for and step-ups to be made it seems.

“I’m 28 I’m hitting the peak of my career so I need to get a move on and get back into the ring. With that in mind, I’m glad Kevin Maree is my manager. One thing about Kevin is he keeps his fighters busy. He is one of the busiest managers in boxing in the UK. If his fighters aren’t fighting on the big televised shows then he has them ticking over on the small hall shows in between.”

The Belfast fighter is confident the fact he has been out of the ring for nigh on two years will enable him to get some breakthrough fights – and if big chances come he is confident he will take them.

“A lot of people are going to want to fight me now and accept fights with me simply because of my inactivity recently. For me that is good.

“This year I will break through I will up the rounds and I will make a name for myself at the featherweight scene. If I didn’t believe in myself I would have stayed in Belfast and jacked boxing in and just lived a happy life with my Mrs. But deep down I know I can do extremely well in this sport I know I can go far. I don’t want to live my life with regret.”

The eager-to-fight puncher has moved back to Manchester and has teamed up with Steve Maylett someone he feels will get the best out of him.

“I’m being trained by Steve Maylett. When I was at Arnie’s gym I went to Steve’s gym a lot of times and sparred his fighters. We have always had that connection. I love the style he has in his fighters.

“He is the trainer of Terry Flanagan former world champion. I asked Steve would he train me if I move back to Manchester and he said ‘yes only if I give it 110%, live your life like a professional athlete in and out of the gym. You will have it harder than you have ever had it before’. That was music to my ears. He is an unbelievable coach,” he continues before making it clear he didn’t leave the Storeys on bad terms.

“A lot of people in the boxing world may think my move to Manchester is all about leaving Gerry Storey. That’s not the case. I love Gerry Storey to bits both Sr and Jr. I have so much respect for them both. If I could have another man in my corner by my side it would 1 million percent be Gerry Storey! Their boxing brains and knowledge is unbelievable.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com

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