When champion Dungiven boxer Paul McCloskey made the decision to retire in the summer, he said he hadn’t a clue what was next for him.
Involved in boxing since the age of five, the sport was in his blood but defeat for the European Light Welterweight fighter in his last bout forced him to hang up the gloves.
“I wasn’t going to box forever,” Paul told the ‘Journal’. “I’m 35 and and I have a young family so that’s me finished with the fight game.”
As for life outside the ring, the dad-of-three said he sat down with his wife Emma and realised, still young, he didn’t want to, nor could he, sit at home. Included on his list of potential career changes was training to be a barber.
“That stuck out, and so I’ve put my hand to the barber business,” says Paul, at work in the Legenderry Master Barbers on Derry’s Clarendon Street.
“It’s a bit of a change in my life, but one that was kind of forced on me since I got beat last year,” he jokes. “I’m enjoying the barber business and I’ve done it since June time and I feel like I’m getting there - I wouldn’t say so fast, but I’m getting there.”
Paul describes the profession as “a whole new ball game”. A big part of the job is getting to know his clients and making them feel at ease - a case of swapping the gift of the jab for the gift of the gab, although those who know the Dungiven man knows he has never been short of a word.
“Knowing the customer is happy makes me happy. You’re greeting and meeting people all the time, and that’s fun. People want to talk about the boxing and I understand people are genuinely interested and want to know your story.”
Paul completed a crash course in London followed by a stint in a Magherafelt barbers before moving on to work with Denis McDermott in Derry. He is on his way this week to completing his Level 111 qualification.
As for models to practise on, Paul says there is no shortage of candidates, including his father.
“My da is great banter and there is plenty of craic with him,” says Paul.
Looking to the future, Paul says initially he thought of opening his own barber shop, “but then common sense kicked in”.
“I’m no expert, but I think I can cut. I like a challenge and I’m the type of person if I put my mind to something I’ll go for it. I’m lucky to have support from my family over the years, and from Emma’s family. To be honest, never in a million years did I think I would be doing this. I was always so focused on boxing.”
As he gets to work on his next client, Paul quips: “Hopefully I don’t do as much damage in the barbering!”