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Barry McGuigan: Conrad Cummings has same desire I had to reach the top

McGuigan sees glimpses of himself in ambitious Cummings

By David Kelly

Published 10/11/2015

Shaping up nicely: Conrad Cummings has a shot at the vacant Celtic middleweight title against fellow Ulsterman Fredo Meli
Shaping up nicely: Conrad Cummings has a shot at the vacant Celtic middleweight title against fellow Ulsterman Fredo Meli

Former World champion Barry McGuigan has expertly guided the career of Carl Frampton and has now handed Conrad Cummings his first opportunity to show the public that he can blossom into a fighter made for the highest level.

Middleweight Cummings has comfortably chalked up seven straight wins in 18 months since signing with McGuigan, whose son Shane coaches the Coalisland man alongside Frampton and exciting unbeaten Belfast super-featherweight Anthony Cacace.

On November 20 at the Waterfront Hall, Cummings steps up to face fellow unbeaten Ulsterman Fredo Meli for the vacant Celtic middleweight title and McGuigan wants him to make a major statement.

The 24-year-old's best work as a professional has been behind closed doors, sparring some of the best in Europe and the world, including WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee and challenger Billy Joe Saunders, who will clash next month.

It is such work that has given McGuigan great encouragement as he seeks to plot a course towards domestic and international honours for Cummings. The clash with Meli is greatly anticipated by local boxing fans - an eye-catching performance would have a wider reaching impact as McGuigan is well aware.

"I know what Conrad can do, I have seen him in with world class fighters, including the World champion, but now he has to transfer that kind of work from the gym to the ring on fight night," said McGuigan.

"Boxing has had many fighters who have always looked good in the gym but then when it came to the fight they couldn't reproduce the same form and also you have some guys who don't work that great in the gym but are a different fighter in the ring. I am confident that Conrad will rise to the occasion and show his true worth.

"He has been given the chance to stand alone and be the headline act and with that can come some pressure, which some fighters find hard to handle, but I am certain that Conrad will love it. He doesn't want to play second fiddle, he wants to be the main man, to be a big time fighter.

"When I look at him in the gym and how he goes about his work, he reminds me of myself in that he has that intensity, he has that desire that I had to make it to the very top. He gives that little bit extra in the gym every day and that means an awful lot.

"You must have that desire and work ethic to get to the top and when Conrad gets into the ring he is relentless… if there was a gold medal for desire and ambition Conrad would get it."

An aggressive fighter, coach Shane McGuigan has been polishing up Cummings' boxing ability without diminishing his natural desire to fight on the front foot.

Meli will bring similar passion for a toe-to-toe dust-up, which is why Barry feels it could be "one of the small hall fights of the year".

For the winner, a shot at the British middleweight title would automatically come into focus by virtue of lifting the Celtic belt and the victor in next month's clash between Chris Eubank jnr and Gary Spike Sullivan, who went the distance with Saunders, would also become a target.

"Meli is going to test Conrad, he feels confident and he's a high volume puncher but, for me, I just think Conrad will be too strong in the end - but it's going to be a great fight and I want to see Conrad at his best," added McGuigan, whose show also features Marc McCullough.

"He has a very bright future and a really good win over Meli and he will show everyone that he is going to be in the mix with people like Eubank jnr in 2016.

"It's going to be a big night for Conrad, he couldn't be in better shape and I believe he will deliver."

10. Harry Greb
Ring career: 1913-26 Record: 105-8-3 (48 KOs) and 183 no-decisions
By comparison to some in his era, Greb had a relatively brief career but packed so much into it, winning the world middleweight title in 1923 and defending it six times over the next three years. In 1922, he became the only boxer to defeat future heavyweight champion Gene Tunney – the man who dethroned the great Jack Dempsey
10. Harry Greb Ring career: 1913-26 Record: 105-8-3 (48 KOs) and 183 no-decisions By comparison to some in his era, Greb had a relatively brief career but packed so much into it, winning the world middleweight title in 1923 and defending it six times over the next three years. In 1922, he became the only boxer to defeat future heavyweight champion Gene Tunney – the man who dethroned the great Jack Dempsey
9. Benny Leonard (Right holding back Harry Houdini centre) Ring career: 1911-32 Record: 85-5-1 (69 KOs) and 121 no-decisions Leonard won the world lightweight title in 1917 and retired as champion in 1925, making him the longest-reigning lightweight champion in history. After more than seven years he returned to the ring, winning 18 of his 19 bouts. Indeed, at one stage he had gone 154 fights without defeat. Of five losses, three were in his formative ring years, one was on a foul when challenging for the welterweight championship and one was the final contest of his caree to fellow legend Jimmy McLarnin. He later became a referee and collapsed and died in the ring while refereeing a bout. (Everett/REX Shutterstock 908752a)
8. Manny Pacquaio Ring career: 1995-present. Record: 57-6-2 (38KOs) Named Fighter of the Decade for the 2000s by the Boxing Writers of America, Pacquaio is the first boxer to win world titles in eight divisions – starting with the WBC flyweight title. A huge hero in the Philippines, his homeland comes to a standstill to watch their hero in action. A phenomenal athlete, he holds wins over legends such as Marco Antonio Barrera, Oscar De La Hoya, Erik Morales and Shane Mosley on the way from flyweight to welterweight glory. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
7. Floyd Mayweather Jr Ring career: 1996-present. Record: 49-0 (24 KOs) Mayweather's place in an all-time top 10 may well be disputed by many who find it hard to appreciate his style which is founded on a slick defence. But the Noble Art is about hitting and not being hit and Mayweather fits that mould perfectly. From super-featherweight through to light-middleweight he has thwarted numerous great fighters, including Manny Pacquiao, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
6. Roberto Duran Ring career: 1968-2001 Record: 103-16 (70 KOs) Won the lightweight World title from Ken Buchanan in 1972 and then proceeded to dominate the division for seven years with his ferocious intensity and smart boxing skills. Duran would then lift the welterweight title when he outpointed Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980. Five months later he lost to Leonard but would go on to win the light-middleweight title three years later and in 1989 produced an amazing performance to outpoint Iran Barkley and land the WBC World super-middleweight crown
5. Sugar Ray Leonard Ring career: 1977-97 Record: 36-3-1 (25 KOs) Leonard managed to stand out in an era of legends, winning great fights against Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marverlous Marvin Hagler. The 'Four Kings' as they would come to be known, captured the sporting world in the early 1980s. Leonard won the WBC World welterweight title before unifying the division with a stoppage of Hitman Hearns. He would go on to win world titles at light-middle, middle, super-middle and light-heavyweight. Famously, having lost to Duran in an epic brawl, he forced the Panamanian to quit in their re-match, forever known as the 'No Mas' fight. (Mike Powell/Allsport)
4. Muhammad Ali Ring career: 1960-81 Record: 56-5 (37 KOs) Ali transcended the sport unlike any other boxer and was for many the greatest sportsman of the 20th Century. His speed and grace in the ring for a heavyweight were a sight to behold and even when the footwork was slowing down he had the fortitude to stand up to awesome punchers like George Foreman, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton in the 1970s. The first man to win the World heavyweight title three times, his first reign came when as a 7-1 outsider Ali stopped Sonny Liston in 1964. He regained the title 10 years later with his epic victory over Foreman in 'The Rumble in the Jungle'. Lost and then defeated Leon Spinks in 1978 to win the title for a third time. (Trevor Humphries/Getty Images)
3. Willie Pep (R) Ring career: 1940-66 Record: 230-11-1 (65 KOs) The two-time world featherweight champion was renowned for his defensive skills, enjoying amazing success despite suffering near-fatal injuries in a plane crash in 1947. Known as Will o' the Wisp, Pep won his first 63 fights before losing to Sammy Angott, and then went 72-0-1 before losing again to Sandy Saddler with whom he had four epic encounters.
2. Henry Armstrong (L) Ring career: 1932-45 Record: 151-21-9 (101 KOs) Armstrong is the only boxer to hold world titles at three different weights simultaneously. In an age when there was only one world champion and just eight weight divisions, he won the featherweight title crown in October 1937 before winning the welterweight title in May 1938 and became lightweight champion three months later. Dubbed Homicide Hank, he also fought for the world middleweight title in 1940, holding Ceferino Garcia to a draw. In all, he faced 17 world champions and defeated 15 of them. (ANL/REX Shutterstock 1381703a)
1. Sugar Ray Robinson Ring career: 1940-65 Record: 175-19-6-2 (109 KOs) Born Walker Smith, he would go on to become the supreme ring combatant, Sugar Ray Robinson, winning World titles at welterweight and middleweight. The welterweight title came in December 1946 and he defended it four times before stepping up to middleweight on the back of a solitary loss in 124 bouts. He would become a five-time world middleweight champion, defeating such legends as Carmen Basilio, Jake LaMotta and Gene Fullmer. His only stoppage defeat came when losing to Joey Maxim for the world light-heavyweight title – a bout fought in such extreme heat that the referee had to be replaced in the 10th round. (Allsport Hulton/Archive)

Tickets for the Cyclone Promotions show, 'ALL ON THE LINE' are available from the Waterfront Box Office: 02890334455 or at www.cyclonepromotions.com.

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