The former MMA star has been looking to move into professional boxing for some time now and eventually linked up with Boxing Ireland Promotions. Under this banner he will make his debut on the ‘Celtic Clash 6’ card at the Good Counsel GAA Club in Drimnagh on July 14th.
It’s been a long time coming for the big-punching Antrim light heavyweight who is in high spirits ahead of his pro boxing bow.
“So here we are, It’s finally happening. I’m days away from making my professional boxing debut and couldn’t be happier,” he told Irish-Boxing.com
“I haven’t been this excited about something in a long time. I’ve had a very up and down past 12 months.”
“My debut was also meant to happen about a year ago and setback after setback kept happening.”
“This is a milestone for me and I can’t wait to tick it off and start my journey in the boxing world once more.”
Once more indeed. This is a return rather than a new venture.
A former top amateur, circumstances conspired to send Cooke away from the ring where he first became champion kickboxer before embarking on a 13-fight MMA career which saw him fight and win on some massive cards.
The 31-year-old described how “as a kid I entered the doors of my first boxing club around 12 years old, my father boxed back in his day so that kind of influenced me to start.”
“I didn’t take it to serious until I was about 14 – then I started winning championships. At 16 I stepped it up a level then won the all-Ireland’s and Four Nations.”
“But then my boxing club closed down and that was the end of my amateur days and the reason I got into kickboxing and then turned pro in MMA.”
Back in the boxing groove, Cooke comes into the fight this weekend in top shape having had an extended camp.
‘Da Crook’ detailed how “camp’s been amazing, training twice a day, five to six days a week, travelling a lot and getting outside when possible.”
“I was training in Randalstown with Sean O’Sullivan and also teamed up with Dee Walsh again in Belfast and I’m loving every second of my training. It’s the most disciplined I’ve been in a long time and I feel the benefits all ready. My nutrition was spot on and I’ve been on weight a week now.”
“To be honest, though, I’m not getting as much sparring as I should. But I’m making the most of the rounds I do get.”
“I had Tommy McCarthy in given me a few rounds and a another boxer and a mate of mine called Lee Balmer in helping when he can. Two big strong lads. But after this fight sparring will be my number one focus.”
Cooke is vowing to impress on the Drimnagh fight card, hoping to stand out on a growing scene which also includes stablemate Christian Scuvie
“You can expect my best, 100%,” he promised.
“I’ve dedicated my life the past while to this fight, sacrificed a lot and put this as my first priority.”
“Losing is not an option for me. I’m planning on going in there, getting that win but looking good doing it.”
“I would say my style would be more of a counter puncher. I look up to Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones a lot and that’s kind of the style I aim to go for. I’m not quite just there yet but I believe my style works well for me for now.”
“I’m still learning and growing as a fighter and I’m sure my style will develop with time. I like being at range but if I have to get inside and fight I feel very comfortable in doing so.”
While Saturday will be a big moment for Cooke, he doesn’t intend for it to be a ‘bucket list’ sort of experience. The Ulsterman is not back for one night and has big targets.
He outlined how “this time next year I would like to see myself fighting for an Irish title.”
“I set that goal way back when I decided to box again – that from my first pro fight I’d like to fight for the Irish title within 12 months. If I keep working hard there’s no reason why this can’t happen.”
“My aim is to go as far as I possibly can. I know time is against me so I’m hoping to be as active and as successful as possible within the next five to seven years.”
“I would love to provide for my family and live a comfortable life through boxing. Anything is possible with a vision and hard work.”
Interview by Kane Clarke