The cheeky grin flashed across his face during another four-round win, he cracked jokes in the corner good enough to make taskmaster Eddie Hyland smile and he beamed as his hand was raised as if to say ‘I am grateful and happy to be playing my part in the Irish boxing story’.
However, behind the jovial front was real hurt.
Limerick’s only active pro boxer lost both his father-in-law and his best friend in the week leading up to the Celtic Clash 6 fight night.
In fact, hours before he weighed in Dublin the southpaw, who has become a welcome addition to the Irish pro scene, attended the funeral of his wife’s father in Limerick.
It was grounds enough for the entertaining early days light middleweight to pull out and fight another day, but the 30-year-old told Irish-Boxing.com that was never going to happen.
McCormack has faced and overcome adversity in his life and it seems as if he never wants to let the demons get the better of him again.
So, despite mourning during fight week, the Garryowen man was keen to stick two fingers up to his old out of the ring foes by beating an in the ring foe in game Bulgarian Radoslav Mitev at Good Counsel GAA Club on Saturday.
After his third straight win and just as the smiles and jokes were tapering dow,n the Eddie Hyland-trained boxer dedicated the victory to the two men he, his family, and his friends lost during the week.
“I really want to dedicate my fight to one of my best friends and my father-in-law who both passed this week Pa O’Connor and Pat Healy. It was a real tough week for everyone and I want to dedicate that win to them. It was a really tough week for us and I want to dedicate that win to them,” a more emotional McCormack said before stressing with passion why he knocked back suggestions he should pull out of the contest.
“A lot of people told me to pull out but here is how I look at it – life is really really tough and if I was to pull out of this fight then any time life got tough I’d pull out.”
“That is not me I am a fighter. I came into this game to fight and in life I won’t give up on anything.”
“Life is about believing in yourself and pushing through. It’s easy to be happy and positive when everything is going right, but it’s when things are hard and tough that you have to stay positive and fight.”
“Things went wrong this week and while it was hard for me and a lot of people. I tried to stay positive and win this for them. I knew I was going to get the win and I did.”
McCormack took a step up in terms of journeymen and fought a fighter that has upset previous in Mitev, who earlier in the night loaned his shorts to forgetful debutant Conor Cooke.
Yet the Corpus Christi graduate enjoyed his easiest night to date partly due to a fear of upsetting former Irish champion Eddie Hyland.
Hyland, who along with his brothers Paulie and Pajo have followed in their father Paddy’s footsteps by taking up coaching after hanging up their gloves, has been drilling the importance of boxing over brawling to McCormack.
Hyland along with Tommy McCormack want the entertaining southpaw to use trade on skill and his very long reach rather than will and it seems to be working.
“Look, I boxed. I told everyone I was going to box and I wouldn’t get involved in a brawl,” noted McCormack before admitting that “at times I wanted to I won’t lie, but I knew Eddie was in the corner saying ‘don’t fucking brawl or I’ll burst ya’. I am more afraid of him than I am any fighter.”
“I think I showed I can box and move around. I am not just an inside fighter.”
“I just love to fight. I love getting caught and responding with more but I can box and I want to show as I move up the ladder I can fight and box. I am not a one trick pony, now, I am not saying I am Floyd Mayweather or anything like it, but it was an improved performance, I am happy with it and I boxed.”
“I had an excellent gameplan thanks to Eddie and Tommy. We worked on that throughout the camp and it paid off tonight. Eddie is turning me into a boxer.”
One thing Saturday night and the Celtic Clash 6 showed was an abundance of below 10-0 fighters are benefiting from time in the ring but possibly more from time spent in the gym.
The majority on show all showed obvious signs of improvement and it was particularly visible in McCormack.
The Stephen Sharpe-managed puncher admits as much, but believes more fights and more camps will lead to more improvements.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg ever camp I get better and every time I am in the ring you will see those improvements.”
“Look he was strong, tough and durable. I knew that, I seen him fight and I knew he would try and throw big shots. I caught with a couple of shots, but nothing too silly and nothing that fazed me.”
“You can’t go swimming without getting wet, but unless he has two sledge hammers on the end of each hand he ain’t going to be stopping me. I really enjoyed it. I know he is a journey man, but he is a good one and I enjoyed out boxing him.””
Consider the week that was it wasn’t too fair to ask McCormack to look beyond spending some time with his family and friends, but he did inadvertently and rather quickly answer the ‘what’s next’ question.
“It looks like six next. I’d like to step up to six rounders now.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)