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‘He showed supreme class’: Phil Sutcliffe Sr. on Conor McGregor’s boxing exhibition

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Dave Fogarty

Conor McGregor wowed the gathered crowd in his old stomping ground, Crumlin Boxing Club, when he returned to the venue for the club’s annual “Good Friday Boxing Show” last weekend.

A former competitor for the south inner city gym, “The Notorious” was a surprise addition to the card and took to the ring against Micheal McGrane in the main event. The pair contested an exhibition, which was deemed a draw in the interest of ceremony after the final bell had rung.

Irish boxing legend and two-time Olympian Phil Sutcliffe Sr., a former coach of McGregor’s from his boxing days from the ages of 11 to 17 in Crumlin, explained how McGregor’s inclusion at the 27th annual fund-raising event came about from an impromptu training session days before the action took place.

“It was a last-minute thing,” Sutcliffe Sr. explained on the latest episode of Eurobash.

“Conor came in for a bit of sparring and we were delighted. I told him he never needed an invitation to come back to his home gym and we were delighted that he came. He did some pads with our own Patrick Brady, and also two of our other coaches, Brian Geraghty and Tommy Martin.”

After the training session, McGregor expressed interest in competing on the celebrated Good Friday card, which Sutcliffe believes the Dubliner first competed on 15 years ago.

“He knows how famous [the Good Friday events] are, they’re famous all over the world. We’ve had people from all over the world box on our Good Friday shows, some of the biggest names in Irish boxing have boxed on these shows,” he explained.

“Conor said he’d love to box on the Good Friday show. He boxed on the Good Friday show in 2004 and he said he’d like to go again. I said, ‘No problem, but we have to get a proper match for you,’ you know, someone that’s around his own weight and someone around his own class.”

Sutcliffe eventually decided that the man McGregor had sparred during his training session at the club—former All Ireland juvenile champion Micheal McGrane—would be his opponent on the night.

“[Phil] told me after the spar on Wednesday,” McGrane recalled. “He said, ‘Hopefully Conor gets back to us about Friday—you and him could be the main event.”

Although he has fought an uncountable amount of rounds during his amateur career, McGrane acknowledged that he was quite apprehensive before their meeting took place on Friday.

“My nerves were gone,” McGrane admitted. “I had my Ma there, I had my granddad there and I had every single one of my mates there. I suppose you could say there was a small bit of pressure there, but it was a lifetime experience. It was just perfect, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. I’m about to go professional myself. I have a fight coming up in Denmark next month and I was thinking that after that fight I might go professional. I think this made it all fall into place a bit.”

Dave Fogarty

McGrane praised the UFC fighter’s showmanship and his power based on their exchange:

“He’s a 10-out-of-10 showman. As a striker, his power is 10-out-of-10 as well. He landed [punches] with accuracy and precision. You can see that in his UFC fights, he always stops people with his [punches]. But they didn’t stop me. I’m not American, I’m Irish, so I think he knew he was in for a fight after I sparred him on the Wednesday!”

Sutcliffe Sr. described McGregor’s performance as supreme and noted a third-round knockdown “The Notorious” scored with a body shot.

“He showed supreme class in sparring Micheal McGrane, who was an Irish champion. It was a great spar, the two of them went hell for leather at each other. Conor decked him with a body shot in the third round, which was fantastic. Micheal got back up and he went at Conor straight away. He’s a warrior, he went back at Conor and he caught him with some beautiful shots. Conor danced away from him, but it was a very good exhibition of boxing,” said Sutcliffe.

“He caught me with a body shot and he took every last gasp of wind out of me,” McGrane remembered. “I didn’t think I was going to comeback from it to be honest, but when you’re looking at the crowd and you’re looking at the corner…you have to get your breath back. I got my wind back before the 10 count, so I knew I was ready to rock again.”

Mirroring McGrane’s comments, Sutcliffe highlighted McGregor’s showmanship during the bout.

“There was a bit of showboating. I can’t go without saying it, but Conor is a showboater, “ he quipped. “There was a bit of showboating and there was some spectacular head movement from Conor. It was a great attempt by Micheal, he wasn’t holding back for one instant. It was cracking bout, the two of them went hell for leather as I said, but Conor was just that little bit more skillfull than Micheal with the body shot.”

With the MMA world constantly speculating as to when McGregor could make his return to the Octagon, McGrane remarked that his fellow Irishman was definitely in “fighting condition”.

“He looks fit and ready to go, but you still don’t know what he’s thinking or what his plans are for fighting again, you really don’t know. It’s hard to know what he’s thinking. He’s a multi-millionaire, he could have anything going through his head, you wouldn’t know. He’s in fighting condition anyway, that’s a definite,” he said.

Coach Paddy Brady, who cornered McGregor alongside Sutcliffe on the night, had poked fun at McGregor in the lead up to the Mayweather bout in an interview in which he claimed the former two-weight champion still owed him €70. In McGregor’s teenage years, Brady loaned him the money so he could buy tools for his plumbing apprenticeship.

McGregor, who was presented with a certificate for competing at the Good Friday show, made sure he settled his debt and posed for a picture with his former coach on the night.

Dave Fogarty

“That’s the money owes me from 15 years ago,” Brady explained. “I got him his tools when he was going off to do his plumbing and he never paid me back. Every time I see him I say, ‘Don’t forget you owe me that few bob!’”

“It was a joke between a few of us, it was going around the whole club,” said Sutcliffe. “We had a picture in the gym of Paddy saying [Conor owed him money] on Sky television before the Mayweather fight. Conor was slagging him and he wrote him a check for 70 quid. Now, the check isn’t going to be cashed, it’s going to be photographed with a picture of the two of them and it’s going up on the wall.”

Sutcliffe also highlighted that the UFC star is going to help with the refurbishment of the Crumlin facility in the future.

“Conor is going to help us with refurbishing the gym. The gym was already refurbished, but we still have things to do with the club. We’re always in the growing process, we always want to be better for the kids and to continue to produce champions.”

Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Phil Sutcliffe Sr. and Micheal McGrane interview begins at 1:32:00.

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