Learning to cope with pressure keeps Conrad Cummings cool
A shortage of intensity has never been an issue for Conrad Cummings, it was only that the voltage was too often overloading and effecting his output on fight night.
Cummings, a popular effervescent character, landed the WBO European middleweight title with an explosive stoppage victory of Gogi Knezevic in March and tomorrow night at the SSE Arena seeks to back that up with a successful first defence against Poland's Robert Swierzbinski.
The 26-year-old, managed by Barry McGuigan, insists that he has turned the corner in his career, able now to keep a lid on his drive in order to progress up the middleweight order. The change had to come after his controversial but still disappointing loss to Germany's Ronny Mittag last year.
Now Cummings finds himself in the top 15 in the WBO and he believes on the path to a shot at WBO World champion Billy Joe Saunders.
"I admit that I felt pressure being in the same camp as a superstar like Carl Frampton, former world heavyweight champion David Haye and then a great fighter like Josh Taylor coming through who was Commonwealth champion after just seven fights. I had to face that and realise that I had to focus on myself and I needed to relax a lot more," said Cummings.
"I did that in the camp leading up to my last fight, I was very relaxed going to the ring - Carl was there before the fight having a laugh with me and Barry told me to go out and enjoy it and that's what I did and you saw the result. Whereas before I was tense, this time I was singing going to the ring and it'll be the same on Saturday night.
"Everything just clicked into place and now I have that momentum I don't want to let it go. I know that there were positive talks between my team and the Billy Joe Saunders camp and there was a possibility it could have happened this summer so it's a chance that can come if I keep winning."
Returning home was as enjoyable as the moment of victory as Cummings felt a weight lifted off his broad shoulders and embraced the adulation as he paraded his WBO European belt.
"It felt like a world title to me, everything after it was just great," added Cummings.
"I remember how I felt after losing the Mittag fight and how I felt coming home with the belt earlier this year and I want more moments like that. The memories of how I felt after Mittag is motivation enough for me to stay focused and train like a beast.
"This is a very important fight for me because a win could push me up into the WBO's top 10.
"Beat this guy and then Billy Joe Saunders is really on my radar. He's got Willie Monroe jnr in his next defence and then we'll see what he's looking at next."
As for returning home to fight for the first time in two years, Cummings is adamant that it will not bring back the same pressure that stifled previous performances.
"I made my home debut in the Odyssey and to be going back to that arena as the WBO European champion is a dream come true," added Cummings.
"I've had great support from the people back home when I've gone through some tough times so it's great to be going back as a champion."