Welterweight Peter McDonagh, boxing’s latest Cinderella Man, will appear on July 9 at the Manchester Arena – as the part of the blockbuster Tyson Fury vs. Wladimir Klitschko show – and is hopeful of securing a shot at the European title in the coming months.
McDonagh, now 38, has been a professional since 2002 and has fought a who’s who of the lightweight, super-lightweight and welterweight divisions. He has had his ups and his downs and is a three-time Irish champion. He currently rides a nine-fight win-streak and admits he’s feeling better than ever.
“When I turned pro at 24, people said, ‘How long do you think you can do it?’” he begins. “I said, ‘Look, I could be finished after one fight, or I could have 80. You never know.’ You just listen to your body and see how you feel.
“Three years ago, in 2013, I lost my sister to breast cancer and came really close to retiring from boxing. But I went over to the MGM gym in Marbella and told my manager, Daniel Kinahan, I was going to retire. He said, “Don’t retire, give it one more shot and see how you go.” I was on a losing streak and everything. But, as soon as I hooked up with the MGM and my manager, it all changed. I went from strength to strength. I’m unbeaten in nine now. I’ve won three titles since I’ve been with them and I’ve still got the desire to go on and win bigger titles.”
McDonagh continues: “I’m in the top fifteen of the European rankings, so there’s a good chance I’ll get a shot at the European title. That’s the plan. That’s what we’re hoping for. Now I’m on the right side of the card it makes a massive difference. I’m no longer taking fights at short-notice against kids much bigger than me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beating good kids with that sort of notice, or, if I lose, I’m losing very close fights, but it’s a different story if you give me a full camp.
“I’m a promoted and managed fighter now. How far can I go? Let’s see. I’ve beaten champions. I beat the kid who beat Luke Campbell (Yvan Mendy) but didn’t get the decision. I beat Michele Di Rocco and never got the decision. I beat Lee Purdy. I beat Michael Gomez. I beat Dean Byrne. I know what level I’m at – I just need the opportunity. Physically, I feel the best I’ve ever felt; age is just a number.”
Fitness and ambition aside, few fighters in Britain are able to boast McDonagh’s wealth of experience. Indeed, his appearance on July 9 won’t even mark the first time he has featured on a world heavyweight title bill.
“I was on the David Haye versus John Ruiz bill at the Manchester Arena,” he says. “I was on just before the main event. But obviously it’s a lot different this time around. This is the heavyweight championship of the world, not just one of the belts. This is much, much bigger. And it’s Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko. That also makes it special. Klitschko is a legend of the sport and one of the real icons. I don’t think a promoter has brought someone of that stature to England for many years. It’s exciting.”
As for the result of the night’s main event, McDonagh can see only one winner.
“I see it being a totally different fight to the first one,” he says. “I think Wladimir will come and bring it to Tyson and then he’ll walk on to a big shot in about seven or eight rounds. All Tyson has to do is keep his composure, take his time and he’ll knock him out.”
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Undefeated heavyweight Nathan Gorman, great-nephew of Bartley Gorman, the ‘King of the Gypsies’, is seasoned beyond his nineteen years and, on July 9 at the Manchester Arena, will use all his fighting DNA to impress his biggest audience yet.
Born and raised to fight, Gorman now stands at six-foot-four, weighs eighteen stone, is unbeaten in four professional bouts, and intends to make it five from five on the undercard of the world heavyweight championship blockbuster between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for me, a great platform,” he says. “I’ll be boxing in front of loads of people and everybody at home will be watching this event. It’s mad to think I’m now part of it. It’s a great chance to make a statement and get noticed by a lot of people; I plan on taking it with both hands.
“I’ve imagined what it will feel like every day. I have no idea what it will actually feel like, though. I just have to believe that a ring’s a ring and a crowd’s a crowd and, once I’m in there, I’ll be able to blank out my surroundings and get down to business. I’ve got a job to do. Even if I was fighting in my back garden, I’d still to look to put on a show.”
Everywhere Gorman looks, he tends to find inspiration. Tyson Fury, a distant relative, is his favourite fighter, and a man he considers the blueprint, while Ricky Hatton, his coach, was once one of Britain’s finest world champions and a man well-accustomed to dazzling sold-out crowds at the Manchester Arena.
“Ricky, in terms of big fight night experience, is second to none,” says Gorman. “He’s the best. You couldn’t ask for a better guy to have in your corner when fighting at the Manchester Arena. It was basically his second home.
“Not only that, every day I’m in the gym with Ricky I’m learning something new. He gives me so much confidence. I’m just happy he believes in me. We both believe I can go all the way.”
Gorman first went to the boxing gym at the age of eight, though admits the sole intention was to “mess about”, before trying again at fifteen, this time with a greater degree of seriousness. It wasn’t long – just eleven bouts, in fact – before he was winning the Junior ABAs and making his mark at the World Youth Championships.
“I achieved a lot in those eleven amateur fights but always knew I was going to gain more experience as a pro,” he says. “I’ve had four fights since December. I’ve been busy. It’s also more suited to me, style-wise, to be a pro and learn as a pro. That’s why I made the switch from the amateurs to the pros at a young age.”
On July 9 at a packed-out Manchester Arena he’ll embark on the next phase in his development. He’ll be asked to hold it together in front of thousands of fans eager to see him live up to the Gorman surname.
“Travellers are excelling in the pro game right now and I’m looking to continue that success,” says Gorman. “We’ve got two world champions (Tyson Fury and Billy Joe Saunders) in two of boxing’s best weight divisions (heavyweight and middleweight), and Hughie Fury is also on the verge of a world title shot in the next twelve months. We’ve got other traveller lads coming through as well. It’s all looking good.
“Fighting is part of us all. We’re brought up with it. My uncle was Bartley Gorman. I come from fighting stock.”
As for the July 9 main event, Gorman, of course, sees only one winner.
“I reckon Tyson will stop Klitschko late on, probably in round ten or eleven,” he predicts. “I think there will be more action this time because Tyson now knows Wladimir’s style and he’ll take confidence from beating him in November. I think he’ll set out to hurt him in the rematch.
“I like watching Tyson at present. He’s a character, you don’t know which version of him will be in the ring – southpaw or orthodox. Tyson has brought the division back to life and it’s an exciting time to heavyweight.”