Mickey McDonagh hopes to put the frustrations of the past year behind him, writes John Dennen
IT’S been a frustrating period for Mickey McDonagh. The Welsh lightweight is a slick, stylish boxer but opportunities to box have dried up over the last year. This is of course due to the coronavirus pandemic, that has shut down competitive amateur boxing in the UK.
McDonagh though is finally getting the chance to compete later this month, when he’s due to represent Wales at a tournament in Serbia.
Even though elite, international boxers have been allowed to train it’s been hard to get contests even overseas, with additional concern abroad about the UK variant of the coronavirus proving an obstruction. “I was meant to go to a tournament last month, but that got cancelled, the Box Am out in Spain. But it is what it is, you’ve just got to get on with it haven’t you. There isn’t much we can do,” McDonagh said.
He intends to mark his return to competitive boxing with a medal in Serbia. “Obviously I go to a tournament, I want to win a gold medal,” McDonagh said. “I’m back fitter than ever now. Sparring well, feeling stronger, I feel very strong, very fit, sharp, speed’s still there. So I’ve just got to put it all together now.”
He had to admit that the first lockdown last year was something of a novelty. But that soon wore off. “Last year I was enjoying a bit of time off because I never had time off since I was child, after that then you get a bit sick of it,” said McDonagh, who has been boxing since the age of eight. “I’m a Traveller, Travellers are always in the gym at a young age.”
He has won a Commonwealth bronze medal, only losing on a split decision to Australia’s Harry Garside in the semi-final in Gold Coast. He was only 19 then and is still just 22 years old. He picked up a medal too at the European under 22 championships but did so with a damaged hand. It meant he went to the World championships in 2019 underprepared.
“I had an operation on my finger, I tore the ligaments in my finger. I had about three weeks to train for that tournament, I wasn’t ready for it but they asked me do you want to go and I’m not going to say no. I had to take about a stone off in weight,” he said. “It was an experience I needed, an opportunity I wouldn’t get back so I just went out there.”
“I think I had three sparring sessions, which isn’t ideal,” he continued. “I got beat against a Canadian on a split decision. The coaches thought I won the fight but I didn’t feel the best myself.”
He has since been kept out of the ring. Over the course of 2020 opportunities for him to box dried up. “I’ve had a frustrating few years to be honest,” he sighed. “The last 18 months, two years, I fell out of love with the game. I wasn’t enjoying it. I’ve got the hunger back now. I’m back feeling sharp, I’m back training hard.”
With limitations on sparring partners and chances to compete, there is an undeniable temptation to turn professional. “Mix it up a little bit, change the training,” he reflected. “I believe I can go all the way, with the right coach and the right people around.”
He certainly feels he hasn’t been able to show himself at his best in recent years. In that sense he has a point to prove. “That’s very true. But it is what it is, you’ve just got to get on with it. My time will come,” he said. “I hope anyway.”