Enter a new dragon: Sean McGoldrick interview

Shaun Brown
02/02/2018 10:55am

Ahead of his fourth pro fight on Saturday night, 2010 Commonwealth Gold Medallist Sean McGoldrick talks to Shaun Brown about his fledgling professional career and how the great Joe Calzaghe inspired him as a youngster...

Calzaghe nights.

There have been a few.

Thousands in attendance, privileged to be there to witness occasions such as his fighting artistry in Manchester that sent Jeff Lacy and American hopes back home with their tails between their legs.

His conquering of a Viking named Mikkel Kessler in an all-star super middleweight unification battle for the ages in front of 50,000 fans in Cardiff. Calzaghe was winning the respect he had fought hard for throughout his career, but he was also inspiring a new generation of Welsh fighters.

"I attended a lot of Joe's fights," 2010 Commonwealth Gold Medallist Sean McGoldrick told me.

McGoldrick, from the Welsh city of Newport, was a young teen when he attended those memorable nights in Manchester and Cardiff with his family.

"He was just so exciting and so thrilling to watch. He was a massive inspiration for me growing up. A normal lad from Wales and the valleys was doing something so massive and special, and inspiring a generation of people like myself and other young children coming through.

"For all British fighters he was a massive inspiration the way he went about his business. The way he conducted himself, the way he fought in the ring as well. He was a perfect example of boxing."

Over a decade on and McGoldrick is trying to carve his own path to a professional career that will lead to titles and hopefully the return of big boxing nights in Wales.

So far, so good for the bantamweight prospect. Three fights, three wins for the 26-year-old who turned over from the amateur code to join forces with Matchroom in March 2017.

Fight number four - against Ghana's Michael Barnor (14-19-3, 10 KOs) - takes place on Saturday night at The O2 Arena in London as part of the 'British Beef' card headlined by Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain, which is previewed by BM's Callum Rudge here.

"3 February is the most important thing for me then hopefully a couple more fights. Got two more six rounders planned," McGoldrick said, looking ahead to the rest of the year.

"Six, six rounders was the original plan in one year and from there start building on the rounds. As soon as I do that, start pushing for titles. So, whether that's in 2018 or however long that takes then so be it, but hopefully by the end of 2018 I'll be starting to push on and start looking at titles hopefully."

McGoldrick's signing and progress, so far, has gone slightly under the radar, which suits him and his personality. It's a common occurrence nowadays that Team GB members sign to the pros with fanfare and the keys turned on a hype machine that can get out of control.

For McGoldrick, trained by Tony Borg, the concentration is solely on boxing and letting Matchroom and his management team at MTK build the profile into something seismic.

"I'm learning my trade. The positives of it are nice and quietly, then hopefully as soon as my time comes to step up. That's when people will take notice. Hopefully, then, that's when my profile will be built up. At the minute it suits me to be under the radar and just build and learn my craft. All I'm doing is fully focused on the boxing side of things, then hopefully everything else in the future falls into place for me."

Behind the scenes McGoldrick is getting used to the transition to the professional ranks. Training is longer, there's no head-guards, the gloves are smaller and there is not the bonus of having a lot of your regime organised for you by Team GB. It is something he has tried to replicate with having a nutritionist and psychologist to ensure he gets the most out of everything available to him.

Then comes the differences that can bring the wow factor: the bigger venues. Something that the amateur starlets get thrust into right away when they are signed with Eddie Hearn. While having fought at the Manchester Arena on his debut, The Odyssey Arena in Belfast in his second fight and now The O2 on Saturday, McGoldrick also fought at the Tudor Grange Leisure Centre in Solihull in his third fight.

"My last fight was in a 500-seater Leisure Centre and to be honest, for me, the buzz in there was the same as it was in the big arenas," he commented.

"A ring is just a ring. With the big massive venues and all the people there for me that's not daunting. Any boxing match you get nerves anyway. With people there, and the big venue, that just drives me and gives me that extra buzz.

"The big arenas are special, looking back at the memories in being involved in a Anthony Crolla card and a Ryan Burnett/Lee Haskins card. They're all memories, but when I'm actually in there it's the same sort of buzz from a Leisure Centre in Solihull to the Manchester Arena."

Having great memories in boxing is something that McGoldrick isn't short of. Staying on the GB squad for 6-7 years he developed friendships with the likes of Sam Maxwell (5-0, 4 KOs) and Kody Davies (2-0, 1 KO) who are making their own way in the pros.

Being in the squad environment, meeting people around the world, becoming friends with fighters is something that McGoldrick cherishes and describes as "amazing experiences".

There are, of course, the medals too. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow McGoldrick would eventually lose to Michael Conlan in their bantamweight semi-final, giving the Welshman a bronze medal along with Kenya's Benson Gicharu Njangiru who lost his last four match-up to Matchroom's latest signing Qais Ashfaq (Conlan would go on to win gold in the final).

For the wrong reasons the 2010 Commonwealth Games would prove an experience never to forget for McGoldrick. In the 54kg category McGoldrick, then 18-year-old, lost to Sri Lanka's Manju Wanniarachchi in a narrow count-back defeat. Wanniarachchi would return home a national hero only to be stripped of his medal after failing a drugs test for the banned performance-enhancing drug nandrolone.

"Going there in 2010 in my mindset all I wanted to do was win," McGoldrick recalled.

"People were surprised that I was getting so far and winning the fights. And I could tell with people's reactions that I almost shouldn't be doing it, but I was. It was my first senior tournament. In my mind I was doing what I was meant to be doing.

"When I lost in the final I was so gutted that I lost. I enjoyed the moment but didn't take full advantage of it. It wasn't so much about the gold medal, I just didn't want to lose. The fact that I lost the final I was so gutted and disappointed. When it came out that he failed the drug test, and then I did get the chance to get the medal, I was just so disappointed that I lost the fight.

"If someone had said to me you can just take the medal or fight the kid, who beat me in the final again, to win the gold I would have fought him again because it isn't the same satisfaction as beating someone to win a medal. I lost the fight. I know it was a draw and a very close fight but it wasn't the same satisfaction."

The chance to 'legitimately' win a boxing gold medal at the Commonwealth Games may have gone but there are opportunities to possibly eclipse that. Just three fights into his career no-one knows how the story will pan out for Sean McGoldrick, but the potential and ability are there to bring some big nights back to Wales.

The Calzaghe nights have come and gone and live long in the memory. It's time for someone else in the new generation to resurrect them.

"I've always got a good support base which has followed me out to Belfast, Manchester. It would be really great to have something back home for the people that follow me. For myself, personally, I'd love to fight back in Wales. It's been a long time since I fought here and it'd be special for me to fight back in Wales."