Belfast boxer Caoimhin Hynes battles to get back in ring after being stabbed in face
A west Belfast boxer almost killed when he was slashed across the face has described the physical and mental challenges of stepping back into the ring - and his joy at being crowned an Irish senior champion.
Caoimhin Hynes (21) had been on a night out with his girlfriend when was he brutally stabbed in Belfast city centre last May.
The amateur boxer was told he was lucky to be alive and that he was only an inch away from bleeding to death.
After undergoing surgery and receiving 14 stitches, the talented boxer was back in the ring five months later.
And incredibly, on Saturday he lifted the light-heavyweight title at the Irish Elite championships in Dublin.
Despite being left with a six-inch scar, Caoimhin has vowed it will not get in the way of his dreams of becoming a professional boxer.
Speaking about the moment he was attacked outside McDonald's on Donegall Place, the boxer said: "A group of lads threw a cup and it hit the back of me and my girlfriend.
"We got into an argument, but I walked away.
"They kept going and one of them pushed me and then it went from there.
"I was hit from the side and I remember getting up and chasing one of them.
"My girlfriend pulled me off one of them and then she saw my face.
"I don't remember being stabbed - I thought I had been punched or hit to the eye - but I didn't know what had happened as I didn't feel anything.
"She hugged me and I saw the blood all over her. I thought it was hers but I realised it was coming from me.
"I looked down and saw my top drenched in blood.
"The police stopped me and I was taken to hospital."
Caoimhin was rushed to Ulster Hospital where he spent four days undergoing treatment and surgery.
Doctors told the rising star they believed the injury was caused by a clean blade.
He continued: "It was only when I was taken into accident and emergency that I realised how bad it was." The Belfast man was rapidly losing blood and received stitches to help stop the bleeding.
Hours later, however, his face started to swell and required urgent microsurgery.
He added: "I remember sitting after surgery sitting in bed asking the doctor how bad things were and I asked when I could get back to training.
"But they said to focus on recovery.
"I was angry - a lot of things were going through my head."
Medics told the young boxer it could take up to three months before he would be allowed back into the gym. However, some eight weeks later a frustrated Caoimhin was back training.
Then, just five months after the attack, he returned to the ring.
"It was tough mentally, boxing is my life," he said.
"I've been doing it 14 years, it's the only thing I know and something I want to make a career out of.
"I have never taken time off, even after fights I am straight back in the gym.
"This is something I do everyday, so being out for that length of time was very hard.
"All I could think about during recovery was when I was going back to the gym and how it would affect me and would it be sore when I was hit."
Surgeons told Caoimhin that the wound is not healing as well as it should, and to help speed up the process he has to get steroid injections.
"My face is sore, but I have to do what needs to be done."
Speaking about Saturday night's win, he said: "I was the underdog going into the competition because that's not normally a weight that I box at.
"But I knew what I could do and I went in and did it."