Galliagh man expecting exciting year inside and outside ring

Connor Coyle'' is preparing to join the professional ranks.
Connor Coyle'' is preparing to join the professional ranks.

DERRY middleweight Connor Coyle has decided to take the plunge into the professional boxing ranks, leaving behind an exciting amateur career in the sport.

For over a decade, the 25 year-old has gone from promising junior to Commonwealth Games medallist and came within touching distance of an elusive Irish Senior title before a broken hand denied him his chance to prove his undeniable talent on the national stage.

And now, the two-times Ulster Senior middleweight champion has decided to make the cross-over into the paid ranks after failing to achieve his long time ambition of competing at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer.

So, Coyle, who has boxed out of St Joseph’s ABC in Bloomfield Park since the age of 12, will see how the smaller gloves fit in the no-nonsense professional game and he expects to sign his first pro contract as early as next week.

Several well respected promoters have already shown their interest but, as yet, have stopped short of making a concrete offer. Coyle, however, expects developments in the coming days.

And, with his first child on the way in the next couple of weeks with Derry girl, Ashleigh McConalogue, it promises to be a significant year for the Galliagh man and one he’s hugely excited about!

Explaining why he’s chosen to hang up his vest and walk away from the relative security of the amateurs to join the unforgiving world of professional boxing, Coyle said it was time for him to ‘bite the bullet’.

“I felt I didn’t reach my potential in the amateurs,” said Coyle. “I didn’t reach my goals. My ultimate goal was to qualify for the Rio Olympics and it just didn’t happen for me.

“I have to accept that and I felt it was time to bite the bullet and turn professional. I’m 25 years-old now so I could have a good 10 years as a professional. Ten years to get to the top!

“I can’t complain too much about my career so far. I had a lot of great trips away as an amateur boxer. I’ve lifted a good few titles and gained a lot of experience.

“I’ve shared the ring with world champions and all sorts of boxers from professionals to amateurs. My experience has been unbelievable but I just didn’t reach the my full potential. I just didn’t have the luck.”

Coyle certainly has some fantastic memories to cherish from recent years, particularly reaching the semi-finals of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, bringing home bronze.

He lost out in his last four bout to India’s Olympic bronze-medallist Vijender Singh who, incidentally, has also chosen to join the professional ranks recently.

Coyle also retained his Ulster Elite Championship title on his home patch when the championships were staged in Ebrington as part of the City of Culture celebrations in 2013 which will, no doubt, rank highly on his list of achievements.

The Cashelhill Park lad recalls the first time he crossed the threshold of St Joe’s ABC as a curious, fresh faced 12 year-old and claims he will never forget how he was quickly reprimanded for training in a pair of jeans - the first lesson he quickly learned as an amateur.

And he’s expecting a few more hard lessons ahead as he makes his way in the pro game - but he’s ready for the challenge and believes his style is perfectly suited.

“I started boxing when I was 11 or 12,” he recalled. “I was out playing football in the street and myself and two friends decided to go down to try boxing in the club in Bloomfield.

“My first day in there, I loved it. I actually landed in wearing a pair of jeans and my coach, Cahair (Duffy), told me to change them and never to come in with jeans on again,” he laughed. “I’ll always remember that. But ever since I stuck at it as some of my friends faded away from it.

“I was planning on going pro after the Commonwealth Games and, then, my coaches told me to stick with it for another year and try to qualify for Rio,” he explained. “So I kept training and tried my chances but it just never happened for me.

“After that fight in Dublin (National Championships in November), I just decided that was it - I’m done with the amateur game. I feel I would be more suited to professional anyway.

“I won the Ulster Championship twice. I lost my first final to JP Delaney at 81kg then I beat him the two following years in Belfast and, then, in Derry.

“I got to three Irish senior semi-finals and got to the final once against Darren O’Neill and had to pull out with a broken hand.

“I’ve always wanted to be Irish champion before turning professional but it just never happened. I was always so close from achieving it but I have to push on harder and get the bigger titles as a professional.”

Coyle certainly has plenty of experience which will stand him in good stead given he’s shared the ring with Frank ‘The Wise Guy’ Buglioni (WBA International Super middleweight champion) and Banagher’s Eamonn O’Kane, to name but two.

And he’s hoping he can follow in the footsteps of his fellow Galliagh man, John Duddy, who fought his way to the cusp of a world title shot while attracting a huge fan base in the USA.

And with Glen Road man, Tyrone McCullagh (2-0-0), also beginning his professional boxing journey, Coyle believes it’s a good time for boxing in Derry.

“It’s great for the city. I would love to do what John Duddy did and settle across the water in America.

“I’ll probably stay in the UK for the first year, depending on my contract. But my plans were to go to America initially and I’ve always dreamed about getting over there.

“It’s all new to me - the professional game - but I’m excited and can’t wait to get cracking and get back in the ring.

“It’s a massive life change. And having my first baby will make me hungrier for success. I’ll have someone to provide for now. It’s not just about me.”

And he’s hoping he can reveal some big news in the coming weeks regarding a professional deal.

“There are people who have been in contact with me and, hopefully, in the next two weeks, I’ll have something sorted. And, after that, I would look to get into the ring before the summer. As soon as I sign a deal we’ll get looking at my first fight straight away.

“I want to be an active fighter.

“I want to have about five or six fights a year - every two months which is what you want.”

“I’d just like to thank my coaches at St Joe’s ABC, Kevin, Cahair and Liam, who have done so much for me.

“I wouldn’t have done anything without those three. They made everything happen for me from day one!

“My goal was always to turn professional from a young age . I couldn’t wait to turn professional and now the time’s come.”