Cuba vs Mexico Countdown: Conrad Cummings (Mex)

With only ten days left to the World Series of Boxing (WSB) exhibition match between Mexico Guerreros and Cuba Domadores, we interview another member of the Mexican team for a behind the scenes glimpse at their preparation.Today we are talking to the Irish Middleweight (75kg) boxer Conrad Cummings. Last week he travelled half of the globe to join the Guerreros for the training program.

How has it been heading to Mexico to train?
It’s been good, a great culture change. People think that I have been to Mexico before but actually I haven’t as I only fought for the Guerreros in their away matches.

So it has been interesting. There is obviously a language barrier with no one speaking English here, and leaving my family and girlfriend behind wasn’t easy. But it’s been good to finally get out here. It’s also interesting to see how they train here compared to back home.

Where is home for you?
I’m from County Tyronne in Northern Ireland.

How are you finding adjusting to the climate and altitude? [Mexico City is at 2,600m – high enough to be considered altitude training].
You know I have to call a spade a spade. I’m always fit but the altitude definitely affects some of the guys when they get over here. That’s why we’ve all come three weeks early to get ready for the fight. You need that time to adjust. The first few days were fine for me but then we started sprint work and I could really feel the altitude on my breathing, your body has to work extra hard to do the same things you usually do. So having had this time here before hand I’ll be in even better shape than normal for the fight hopefully.

A lot of people underestimate the effects of altitude. You can be fit as a fiddle at sea level and then you go to altitude and you don’t have enough haemoglobin in the blood to deal with the reduction in the oxygen levels…
To be honest I was one of those people who thought that it wouldn’t really make a difference, but the truth is some of the best athletes in the world come up to this height and they just can’t perform. Around here they are saying you need 21 days to adjust but of course everyone’s body is different. Some people might adapt quicker and some might never really adapt. Personally, I’m doing fine now after two weeks and by the time the fight comes I’ll be in great shape.

How long ago did you start preparing for this bout?
Well to be honest I train all year round and I maintain a good level of fitness. That said when I got the call from the Guerreros three weeks ago I was actually on holiday in Egypt with my girlfriend. So it was sprung on me a bit (laughs). But it was a great opportunity so as soon as I was asked to go – I started getting ready immediately, even on holiday by running in the 40 degree heat! But my base level of fitness is good so by the time it comes to the fight I’ll be ready.

What would your standard training day look like?
Well back home normally on Mondays I travel about an hour to Belfast and do Strength and Conditioning (S&C) with my coach in the Northern Ireland High Performance Centre then I recover, before heading to my club in Belfast (the Holy Trinity) that evening to train. Sadly there is no point in driving home in between times so I just try to rest during the day.

On Tuesdays I travel down to Dublin to meet up with the Irish team for the rest of the week. On Tuesday mornings as soon as I arrive we do track work, including lots of sprint work, then we rest and have a boxing session. We do lots of bag work, lots of school sparring, full sparring…it depends. We do lots of different things but generally there is a lot of sparring in Dublin.

Fridays we get up really early and do our weights sessions then get in the gym and do a boxing session with five rounds of sparring. After that I get to drive home and take the weekend off to let your body recover.  Sometimes maybe you just take one day off and go for a run on the Sunday.

For those who don’t know what is school sparring?
School sparring is when you do a limited form of sparring. It’s like an imitation spar, where you work specific drills in full kit. Perhaps you work your slips or just work your front hand for example. We do a lot of it in Dublin.

In terms of your Strength and Conditioning how do you like to work?
My S&C is a very big part of my game. I like to come forward as a box fighter so for me S&C is very important. I took on a new coach a year ago and I’m very focused on it. The trick is to get as strong and explosive as I can without putting on any weight, because I don’t want to move up a category. That’s difficult to do. But it’s interesting coming here to see how they do their fitness program. Here they do a lot of running. Tuesday for instance I joined them for the sprints then left them while they went running so I could do my strength training program. The coaches were flexible enough about that, but it’s been interesting to watch them and take some notes.

How do you feel about fighting against Cuba?
I feel very positive. I’m looking forward to it and I’m excited. It’s been 50 years since Castro banned pro-boxing so when Cuba make their first pro performance it’s going to be a massive night. I jumped at the chance when they asked me to compete. I’m really delighted to be a part of it.

Have you watched any videos of your opponent?
Not really – at the moment I’m just focused on getting myself ready. Maybe closer to the time I’ll take a look but usually I let my dad and my coach back home do the analysis and then e-mail me what to look out for. I prefer it that way and it stops me getting too hung up about it. The coaches here will contribute too of course but sometimes communication is a problem when the discussion gets more technical.

Does it bother you that you won’t have an English speaking coach in the corner who can’t necessarily give you the advice you need between rounds?
Well it will be difficult but as you get more experienced you just learn to deal with it. When I was younger my father wouldn’t have missed one of literally hundreds of bouts, but as you get older you learn to adapt to different coaches and not panic too much about it. But I’ll not get too caught up in worrying about that, I’ll do my homework, take some advice beforehand and just keep it simple. I’ll focus on the basics and take it as it comes.

What do you think the WSB has done for your career?
The WSB has been my saviour to be honest with you because I was sort of stuck in my career. I was fortunate enough to go to the Olympics but afterwards I thought: “Rio is a long way away”. I was offered a few pro deals, but I didn’t know what to do, so actually the WSB has given me a new lease of life. It really came along at a perfect time in my career as it allows me to learn the pro game gradually and looking at the long term this is the right move for me so I’m focusing completely on the WSB now.

Final Question: Since you are an Irish guy do you drink beer when you are not competing?
Is this going to be in the interview?  (laughs…a lot), No not usually, but to be honest when I’m on holiday I might have a couple of pints. Generally it’s not a good idea for athletes though so I keep it in.