Sean McComb: Public Lesson

Former world lightweight champion Anthony Crolla once described losing a fight as a lesson rather than a loss. 

The attitude was one of not focusing on defeat but rather ensuring that what happened was something that you learn from moving forward. The Mancunian didn’t get his hand raised on seven occasions, but he left behind a legacy of thrills, smiles and world title success.

Sean McComb didn’t utter the ‘Million Dollar’ words, ‘It’s not a loss, it’s a lesson’ when Boxing Social spoke to him last week but his mindset was similar. The attitude change began in the aftermath of his defeat to Gavin Gwynne back in February.

It was Belfast vs Merthyr Tydfil for the vacant Commonwealth lightweight title… in Bolton. What played out was a contrasting affair where McComb’s movement, combinations and accuracy were equalised with Gwynne’s effective pressure, body shots and ability to worsen the cut and bloodied nose McComb suffered in the first two rounds.

With Gwynne launching sustained attacks on McComb the fight was brought to a halt with just under a minute to go in the seventh round. Gwynne was the new Commonwealth lightweight champion, McComb had turned his back on what was being dished out. And that was that.

“After the loss, for a few days I felt I wasn’t not good enough,” McComb said reflecting on his first professional loss.

“If I’m not good enough to beat Gavin Gwynne, where do I belong in this sport? My realistic goal is to become a world champion so is that realistic or am I just kidding myself? Because if I can’t beat fucking Gavin Gwynne, how am I going to be a world champion. I was hard on myself and that’s where my head was at.

“But I came to terms with it that it’s all good. If this is what’s meant to be then it’s meant to be. I’ll go get a job, I’ll live the life and be happy. I’ve got a young family. I’ve just opened my own gym. I’ve had a lot of positive things opposite to boxing that was going on in my life at that stage. I just had a newborn baby. My head was just all family at that stage.”

Weeks later McComb would watch the fight back and he did not enjoy what he witnessed.

“I was getting flustered watching it. I was embarrassed with myself. I was like oh my god that is a shadow of me. I realised quickly that I didn’t actually get beat up in that fight. It was a very level fight, and I was only 50% of myself in there.

“I know that watching the video how slow my feet were, how much I stayed trading with him, the whole game plan was wrong and I had no coach in my corner. As I said my girlfriend just gave birth to my baby, my newborn baby, I’d opened a new gym, my fight was put off three times in the lead up and it was a 16-week camp that involved holding weight over Christmas. Anything that could have went wrong, went wrong for that fight.”

McComb suffered his first pro loss to Gwynne back in February. Image: MTK Global

“For Gwynne it was his last roll of the dice,” he continued. “Gwynne needed to win, and he was on it. He came out 100mph. Even rounds where he was losing against me, he was putting his hands up and celebrating. I knew I won that round and I’m like what’s he doing but that was his mentality. My head was on the opposite end of it like what am I doing here. I do not want to be here at all. I just wanted to be home with my family. 

“It was one of the rounds, I think it was the sixth, the round before I turned my back in the seventh. The sixth round I remember I was boxing nice, and I was cruising, and I just thought to myself what am I doing here, take me home. I didn’t want to box. I am not in the right frame of mind here. I was going through the motions, and I quickly learned you can’t win fights on talent alone it has to be the full package. Everything has to be right and for me that’s the biggest learning curve overall. I need to go into a fight in the right frame of mind, up for it, ready to go. Fully focused, knowing my game plan, knowing plan a, plan b, plan c. The professionalism has to take over and that’s now where I believe I am at in my career. Looking back, as an experience the Gwynne fight will never happen again so it’s a good thing.”

The 29-year-old southpaw received the ultimate pick me up when he was given the opportunity to fight on the Michael Conlan-TJ Doheny undercard at Falls Park in August. An eight-round bout against Argentine veteran Vicente Rodriguez produced a shut-out win for McComb much to the delight of the home crowd. The perfect tonic six months on from Bolton.

“It was good, it was great to be fighting in front of a home crowd again and to get the support that I received on the night was absolutely overwhelming,” McComb said looking back on the night. 

“It was all part of what makes us do the sport we do. Even coming off the back of a loss the support was still there, and it was something I was really, really grateful for. It gave me a serious buzz and it gives you that wee bit of hunger to go on and never make that same mistake again. Just to better myself and do exactly what I need to do to get over the line in these fights.”

On Friday night at Belfast’s Ulster Hall McComb, nicknamed ‘The Public Nuisance’, will have to be a bit of a pest in front of Scotland’s Ronnie Clark. ‘The Shark’, mad hair an all, is another potential tricky test which if McComb is not careful of could find himself coming unstuck just like Zelfa Barrett did against Clark in 2018.

“As you all know Ronnie doesn’t shy away from a fight. He’s created some upsets and I know that’s exactly what he’s coming to do again. It’s my job to stick to what I’m doing, and I’m fully focused on preventing Ronnie from getting that upset. He’s a good name, he’s familiar with Belfast, I’m sure he’s familiar with the big shows as well and I’m really looking forward to shining on the night and putting one on the record and pushing on.”

A win for McComb, which would be his thirteenth in fourteenth fights, would go a long way to banishing the memory of the Commonwealth title defeat once and for all. While McComb agrees with the sentiment to an extent he knows that it will always be part of his record and something he just has to live with.

“It was a loss, it’s a loss on the record but it’s a win for my career because I’ve learned so much from it,” he says. “I’m better now than I was then, and I would be asking questions if I didn’t feel that way. I’d be asking questions whether I belong in this sport or not if I didn’t feel I’m getting better. It was a great learning curve for me, a great experience the loss and how I dealt with it and what I done to get over it.

“For me it’s very important to tick all the boxes now mentally and physically through each camp for each fight regardless of what’s going on if your mind’s not in the right frame of mind. If you’re not in the right frame of mind it’s just a no, a solid no. You can’t go into a fight at even 90%, you have to be 100% mentally on it and I feel now that’s where I am, and I make sure I’m in that state going into a fight.”

A rematch with Gwynne is something that McComb would relish however it won’t determine where his career travels. 

“The guy won a Commonwealth title, fair play to him,” says McComb.

“If the fight comes, I’m more than happy to take it. But if another opportunity comes up in a different direction, then I’ll take that too. I’m just focused on Ronnie Clark at the moment, and I need to overcome that before thinking about anything else and that’s exactly what I’ll do. I’ll focus on Ronnie Clark. It’s a whole new year starting in 2022 and a win will open up opportunities for me as well. The main focus is getting this fight over with. Get in, perform, stick to the game plan and again just keep progressing.”

2021 then, a year that Sean McComb won’t ever forget.

“All in all, it’s been a good year. Forget about the loss. The loss is a loss. It’s not the end of me, it’s not the end of boxing, it’s just a bump in the road. I regrouped, got a new coach, got everything together and trained. I have a happy family, another positive thing to take out of 2021 and I can honestly say it has been a good year for me.”

A win against Clark would cap it all off and produce a reversal of fortune that many perhaps didn’t see coming after the events of his last fight.