Corey McConnell – “The fire was still there and I couldn’t kick it”

CITING a lack of quality fights and outside commitments, Corey McConnell put his boxing career on hold.

Exactly one year and one day later, McConnell was standing in centre ring at the Crossing Theatre in Narrabri being crowned as the WBC International super featherweight champion, following an impressive seventh round stoppage win over previous titleholder Ryan Sermona.

It took McConnell all of one fight to change his boxing fortune and he is now within grasping reaching of an elusive world title opportunity.

The fight was stopped on the advice of the ringside physician, who deemed the cut – caused from a McConnell punch – to be too severe to continue.

“The opportunity to fight for the WBC International title is what brought me back,” said McConnell in an exclusive interview with Aus-Boxing. “I believe the WBC is the most prestigious belt, so that’s what way we went.”

“A win is important here, it’ll put us in a good position on the world stage and it will be a great boost for my career, but we can’t get to ahead ourselves. We really worked hard on keeping it as equally important as every other fight.”

At one point, McConnell, 29, believed he had achieved all he could in his then fifteen fight career, fighting on some high profile cards – lifting the Australian featherweight title – as well as challenging for the Commonwealth title in the UK.

After unanimously outpointing rugged Filipino Jerry Nardo in an impressive and one sided performance last August, McConnell hung up his gloves.

“There were a few reasons for retiring. We had a fight deal fall through and I was working with kids with cerebral palsy and autism in my gym,” McConnell continued. “My kids were doing their sports and I’d just come off a good twelve round round win.”

“The reason coming back is pretty simple. The fire was still there and I couldn’t kick it.”

In his first fight back, McConnell took the difficult and unpredictable task of dethroning reigning WBC International champion Ryan Sermona (16-6, 9 KOs). The Filipino southpaw made his name when he scored a highlight reel knockout over Matt Garlett last year in Perth in a massive upset win.

Despite sharing a common opponent in Garlett, McConnell didn’t hold much stock in Sermona’s knockout win – primarily due to their contrasting styles – as well as the fact that every fight is indeed fought with a different strategy.

“We didn’t take too much out Sermona’s win over Garlett,” he continued. “Each fight is different and each style is different.”

McConnell (now 14-1-1, 2 KOs) didn’t miss a beat as he cruised to an early lead. McConnell easily turned back the perceived challenge of Sermona, neutralizing the Filipino’s strength and looping overhand left with athleticism and superior footwork. However, Sermona did not go down without a fight – tagging McConnell several times with left hooks – that temporarily stunned the Australian.

The Queensland-based McConnell was made to look like a veteran, showing his complete bag of tricks to clearly outpoint Sermona in all aspects of the fight. Although Sermona was clearly the bigger puncher of the two, even having his occasional moments of success, it was clear that McConnell was the superior boxer between the two.

As the fight progressed, McConnell began to grow in confidence as he sensed he was building a comfortable lead.
Sermona was typically wild with his punches throughout, which in turn played perfectly into McConnell’s hands – as he eagerly picked him off from range for the majority of the contest.

McConnell was full of praise for his sparring partners post-fight, citing his work with Richard Pontillas as a major contributor to his sharpness in the build up to the title fight.

“It was very important after being out for a while the sparring had to be rough and tough to get us as close to being fight fit as possible,” he said. “It was hands down been my best preparation in the lead up to any fight.”

“I had a big hurdle to get over last night. Now that it’s done we will look see what happens next.”

As for the future, McConnell has shown interest in a showdown with Will Tomlinson. However, McConnell admits that at this point, himself and Tomlinson are going in opposite directions and taking different career paths.

However, the super featherweight division is stacked, with leading lights such as Kye MacKenzie, in addition to exciting prospects Valentine Borg and Billel Dib.

“It’s not unknown that we’ve been wanting to fight Will Tomlinson for a long time, but we were advised he was taking things internationally, which we respected,” said McConnell in closing. “The super featherweight division is strong at the moment and if us little guys can add some spark to Australian boxing, then why not.”

Words: Brock Ellis
Photo: Louie Abigail/Photography by Rockfingrz


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