29 March 2011 – Steve Wellings
The last time I interviewed Mark Morris, the aspiring amateur was posing in the Gleann BC ring with a cheque from the ASDA supermarket. That windfall provided the west Belfast club with much needed funds and Morris is now looking to boost his own cash flow by moving onto the professional circuit. Mark is one of Graham Earls golden group and the 22-year-old was hoping to turn pro on April 2 in Belfasts Kings Hall complex. Unfortunately a hand injury has ruled him out of that one but he is hoping to get in the ring sooner rather than later.
Marks come forward style means that he leaves little to chance in sparring and training and the hand just gave way on this occasion. Morris believes that his come-forward style will ultimately serve him well in the professional game.
I’m an aggressive fighter, always going forward and I love a good fight with strong hard punches. I decided to go pro because the amateur style didn’t suit me. I was an aggressive boxer, throwing lots of shots and only getting one point for all my work. When I met Graham Earl he was impressed with me and loved the way I fought. He asked me to sign and because Ive always wanted to box professional then I saw this as my big chance to do just that.
An impressive roster of honours accompanied Morris as he handed in his head guard and vest for a stab at professional glory. Five Antrim titles, five Ulster, three boys club and one Antrim intermediate triumph complete the haul. Mark also starred in international bouts, including a particularly fruitful trip to Canada for a multi-nations style tournament. Three fights, three wins and the boxer of the week award plus a fight of the night award, he proudly remembers. I fought in the UKs too, but was beaten in the semi-final on that occasion.
Mark will continue to train under amateur guru Gerard McManus, with Paul McIlroy handling strength and conditioning duties. He enjoys the same set-up as one of our previously featured fighters Mark Ginley who trains alongside Morris at Gleann boxing club on the Glen Road. Morris, nicknamed The Reaper, has been busy sparring Ginley as well as his brother Raymond, plus Gleann starlet Paddy Gallagher. Eddie Nesbitt and Terry Holmes have also helped keep him razor sharp in preparation for fight night.
We have a lot of experience in the team. Gerard is one of the best coaches around and Desi Hill [Gleanns main man] has been like a father to me; hes looked after me for a long time and got me to training when I didnt want to go. Were a family up at Gleann with everyone looking out for each other.
Contrary to the usual tales of a youngster sitting down watching old video tapes of favourite fighters or tapping the bags with a hero in mind, Morris isnt a huge boxing fan. He wasnt raised on the fistic art and actually fell into the sport by chance.
I found out that a boxing club had opened just up the street from me and a few of my mates were already there, he recalls. So I was supposed to meet them outside the club but they didnt show up; I was freaking out about whether to go in after them or just go home, but after a good 10 minutes outside I decided to go in and it was the best thing Ive ever done in my life. I dont have any favourite fighters because I dont watch boxing. I just love training hard and fighting hard.
Outside of the ring Mark subsidises his income by working as a labourer and is a keen participant in a variety of sports. I especially enjoy playing football in the local leisure centre every weekend and I do a bit of swimming during the week. I also go out a lot with my fiance, for food and to the cinema.
But when he enters the squared circle, Morris is all business and looking to make a name for himself with immediate effect.
I want to win everything I possibly can, he concludes, by starting at the bottom and working my way quickly up the ladder.