“Kill or be killed” with Shumenov and Usyk opportunity – Tommy McCarthy’s sparring stories

There was no chance of Tommy McCarthy [11(6)-1(0)] becoming a ‘spar-bot’ over the past year.

The Belfast cruiserweight has not fought since last November but has kept extremely busy.

McCarthy has been sparring the likes of Tony Bellew and Hughie Fury – as well as any and all fighters around his weight in Ireland.

However, one camp in particular has helped keep the rust well and truly off.

During the summer McCarthy spent two weeks in Kazakhstan as one of the chief sparring partners for Beibut Shumenov.

The former WBA light heavyweight champ was preparing for his cruiserweight clash with Turk Hizni Altunkaya – which he won via ninth round stoppage in what was his first fight in two years.

‘The Mac Attack’ was brought in for the final stages of camp but there was no treading lightly for Shumenov as he closed in on his fight date.

Speaking to Irish-Boxing.com, McCarthy recalled how “I was lucky enough with that last camp in Kazakhstan.”

“When I got there, the guy who picked me up, he said ‘I must warn you, he will not show mercy, this is very tough spar’.”

“I started laughing at him and he went ‘No, this is not joke, I serious, this is very, very strong sparring.”

“When I got in the ring the other sparring partner came up to me and said ‘this no spar, this fight’.”

McCarthy wasn’t being lied to either, and it was exactly the sort of work wanted by the Lenadoon man.”

The 27-year-old described how “it was kill or be killed with Shumenov.”

“That was good, though, it was good, competitive sparring.”

“There was no pussyfooting – I’m not saying there ever is any pussyfooting – but sparring is usually for learning. With Shumenov, it actually was a fight.”

McCarthy last month announced that he has left management outfit Mack The Knife Global and will begin being a self-managed fighter.

The contacts he has made through his sparring was one of the factors which gave him the confidence to make the move – and there may be more elite sparring in the pipline.

McCarthy revealed that, last month, the team of undisputed cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk were in contact regarding the Irishman travelling to Ukraine for sparring with the champ ahead of his pay-per-view clash with Tony Bellew in Manchester in March.

The arrival of Aniya McCarthy, however, meant that ‘Big Tommy’ was forced to postpone but the West Belfast boxer is hopeful that he will still get a chance to work with the pound-for-pound four-belt star at some stage this month.

“I was asked to spar with Usyk but my missus was due with the baby. Hopefully they’ll stll want me,” he added.


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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