'This is my world title fight': says Derry's unbeaten middleweight Connor Coyle

UNBEATEN Derry middleweight Connor Coyle (15-0) is preparing for what he considers the ‘biggest fight’ of his career when he steps in the ring to challenge for the vacant WBA-NABA middleweight title in Florida next May.

The 2012 Commonwealth Game medallist describes the fight at the Caribe Royale in Orlando on May 28th as ‘my world title fight’ where victory would catapult the Galliagh man into the WBA’s top 10 world rankings.

Having spent the past five years earning his spurs at small hall boxing shows and having faced various roadblocks which have slowed his rise to the top, Coyle now believes it’s his time to shine and is ready to take his place among the elite of middleweight boxing. Coyle, ranked No. 13 by the WBA-NABA, returns to the USA on April 11th to complete his training camp and is excited to showcase his skills on a bill where he will be the headline attraction.

“May 28th is the biggest fight and biggest test of my career,” said the former St Joseph’s ABC clubman, “I’ll probably be fighting someone within the top 20 or top 15 in the world at middleweight so it will undoubtedly be the biggest fight of my career.

Derry middleweight Connor Coyle (right) pictured after a sparring session in Dublin with light heavyweight prospect Tony Browne.

“I’ve been training since returning from my last fight in Boston but I’ll get my head down for the next nine weeks. I fly back on April 11th to finish my gym work in St. Petersburg, Florida and we’ll leave no stone unturned.

“Winning this WBA-NABA ranking belt would get me into the top 10 in the world so I will be catapulted up into the bigger league. The next title after that will be a world title!” he enthused.

The WBA-NABA gold belt will significantly raise his profile and open doors to more lucrative fights in the US and he’s confident he can rise to the challenge.

“Definitely,” he stressed, “There will be no more of those small fights in Boston. That was the last of those in February. It’s all big fights from here on out, fingers crossed. My hands are okay and everything is going well so hopefully we can get a good run at it over the next few years.

“Hopefully there’s no more roadblocks, stuff that is out of our hands. Hopefully I have a clear path now to push on and be at the top where I deserve to be and where I’ve been working to be over these past years!”

The pandemic, injuries and travel restrictions stagnated his promising career but Coyle has remained motivated by his desire to become world champion and now sees ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. Indeed he insists there was never any danger of throwing in the towel thanks to a steely focus and hunger to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

“My coaches have been constantly on the phone every week throughout the pandemic to find a way to get me back to America. Florida didn’t really shut down like everywhere else so if I had been there I would’ve continued fighting and got on with my career.

“They’ve been working hard and keeping me motivated so I have huge respect for my team in Florida. Anybody else could have just hung up their gloves and accepted defeat but we know I haven’t even got started yet.

“We had to bite the bullet and keep focussed during the pandemic and now there’s light at the end of the tunnel and we’re nearly there after we lift this title. We’ve put too much time and effort into this to ever throw the towel in.”

Coyle’s last outing in Boston was an opportunity to shake off the ring rust after a prolonged period of inactivity and he slowly warmed to his task, stopping hard hitting Brazilian Rodrigo Lopes Rodrigues (now 8-2) who retired on his stool in the fifth round. It was a fight which served its purpose ahead of his May 28th title fight but he’s hoping the imminent step up in class will bring the best out of him after the frustrations of fighting so-called ‘spoilers’.

“He was a tough enough opponent but it was a case of getting a few rounds and getting the ring rust off,” explained Coyle, “He was a puncher and was always going to be dangerous so I had to be careful.

“He was swinging with everything, trying to knock me out but he didn’t get off his stool after round five. I was starting to find my range and find my shots. I broke his nose and busted his eye so he decided not to get off the stool after five.

“In round four and round five I started to find my distance because he was a negative fighter. It would’ve been different if he came forward, it would’ve been a spectacular fight but he moved a lot and it took me a few rounds to find my rhythm and distance which is natural because I’ve been out of the ring for so long.

“The jab started to land on his nose and I started to bust him up after that as the rounds went on and that was it.

“In my opinion those types of fighters are the hardest to fight against because they are so negative. I would rather fight a high level fighter who will bring out the best in me too. That’s what’s going to happen on May 28th for this title fight.

“This is my world title fight. I need to win in order to go further in my career. It’s my first big step up and I need to prove I belong at the top.”

Given the importance of this potentially career-defining fight, Coyle is hoping to attract a strong travelling support from his home city which will provide a springboard for success.

“I would love to have a good support come over from Derry in May. It’s my first major title. So after this weekend when I find out exactly what’s happening maybe I’ll give it a bit of a push and hopefully bring over some Derry support.”