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Friday, September 30, 2022
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Friday, September 30, 2022
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    Out of the ‘boxing’ ring

    Fadhil Yunus

    Boxing has never been distant for British boxer Sammy McNess, who has long been associated with it since his childhood days, before embarking on a journey that saw him make a series of accomplishments over an illustrious career.

    Growing up, McNess started boxing at the age of eight having come from a family background of boxers, especially his father who was a well-known professional.

    “I started boxing when I was eight years old. My dad was a professional so I’ve been around boxing my whole life since I was born,” he said. “I was begging my parents to take me to the boxing gym from a very young age. My mum took me when I was eight years old and I got hooked.”

    An alumnus of the famed Repton Boxing Club, McNess recalled the early days during his time there.

    “I was with my mum and the gym’s training started at 5pm for my age group. I got there at 4.30pm and I was a little bit eager. I wanted to get to the gym and I wanted see how it was like.” After being told that he was early, one of the coaches proceeded to ask for his name and recognised his surname. “He recognised my father’s name because my father fought for England. He was on the wall and won a lot of championships for Repton. His face changed when he heard my name.”

    “I think it helped that my dad fought at the club because they put a lot of potential into me and gained a lot of respect from a young age.”

    He considers his father as his first idol having been a massive influence in him taking up the sport. “My dad obviously got me into boxing and if it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t have been around boxing as much as I had.”

    British professional boxer and trainer Sammy McNess trains local boxers. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

    Growing up, McNess watched top fighters like Prince Naseem Hameed, one of the greatest British athletes known for his charisma, gracing the boxing scene at the world stage.

    “I was around five years old and he used to be a big star at the time especially in the UK. I was watching him on TV and I was fascinated by his ring entrances and his performances. He was just a huge boxing character.”

    McNess’ early days as a youngster at Repton Boxing Club saw him quickly make an instant impression as his talent was recognised by coaches.

    “I couldn’t stop going and I wanted to train all the time. After about a month or two, my dad was hearing good things about me from the coaches.” Having taken notice from his immediate boxing environment, his dad started to get more involved and played an integral part in his steady rise in the sport.

    “He started taking me to the gym and became more involved and then from there on it felt like it was a journey. My dad took me to the gym every single day and travelling across the country to fight tournaments.” As an amateur boxer, McNess enjoyed success winning national championships with over 100 fights in total under his belt. He went on to represent Team GB and England for four years where he competed in 30 international contests.

    “My first fight for England was when I was 13 years old. I fought for England at every age level and every tournament,” he said,

    At the age of 13, McNess fought for England for the first time in Wales in a multi-national tournament comprising the best young fighters from England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

    “I ended up winning the tournament. I was the best fighter in the whole of Great Britain and Ireland,” he said. “Since then, I’ve gone on to win international championships and gold medals. I fought against Olympic and world champions.” During his time in Team GB, McNess was training with some of the best fighters in the world.

    “I also trained alongside some great fighters on the GB team who have gone on to win world titles as professionals and Olympic gold medals people like Anthony Joshua and Josh Taylor.

    In 2010, I made it to the GB team. I was in the team for four years. I was travelling the world, in tournaments and international training camps,” he said. He turned professional in 2015 for three to four years before eventually moving into coaching.

    Recently, McNess, who is currently in Brunei as a guest instructor for Jab Gym, conducted a series of boxing clinics and had a closer look at a pool of local talents.

    “When I first arrived here in Brunei, I heard that the fighters here are very inexperienced and that they don’t have many fights. Since then, I’ve had a few clinics where guys from different gyms came in and trained with me. It opened my eyes and I realised that there’s a lot of talent in Brunei. I’ve seen people who only had two or three fights and they are much better than the fights that they’ve had.

    “They look like good potential fighters but they just need experience. They need competitive experience. I’ve only held three clinics so I’ve heard there’s a lot more talent here in Brunei. It’s very exciting for me to see and be a part of that.”

    McNess offers personal advice to local boxing enthusiasts or up-and-coming boxers looking to commit to the sport to be disciplined and possess a vision.

    “It is a very disciplined sport and it teaches you a lot of respect. There are a lot of highs and lows and with that, you have to keep staying dedicated and you need a vision,” he said. “It helps me to have a vision in my head like if I have something to prepare for. It does not only teach you a lot of respect within the sport but it also teaches you respect within life. You can take that into other parts of your life where you can be respectful towards people.”

    Elaborating on his thoughts with regards to the local Bruneian boxers, McNess highlighted their potential and how they can develop even further given the right support, coaching and opportunities.

    “With the talent that I’ve seen, they can go a very long way. Although it is a very small nation, they can be very strong. The talent is there and they are very passionate about boxing. They just need the right coaching and all they need is the experience.”

    “They need competitive fights and they need to be fighting regularly and there’s where you improve through experience.”

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