“I’ll go to Russia to fight Mickey Rourke,” – Roy Gumbs; Former British middleweight champion.

“I’ll go to Russia to fight Mickey Rourke,” – Roy Gumbs; Former British middleweight champion.

The former champ provides a blow-by-blow account of his career and explains why at 62 he is prepared to make a comeback against actor Mickey Rourke.

Roy Gumbs always felt he had something to prove.

As a young man he was told by boxing promoter Mickey Duff, “If you don’t sign with me, you’ll be your own worst enemy.”

In the 70s and 80s Duff and his associates were known as, “The Cartel,” and they controlled every aspect of British boxing including the fight dates, venues and most importantly the television deals.

Signing with “The Cartel,” would have provided support, exposure and opened up a world of opportunities for a young fighter. Resisting them would have been considered career suicide.

Yet, Roy Gumbs did resist the advances of the wily Mickey Duff and later went on to become the British and Commonwealth middleweight champion.

Ultimately, he may have done it the hard way, but by his own admission the point Gumbs wanted to prove ran much deeper than just winning titles in boxing.

“I wanted to prove to myself, not to the promoters, not to the world, not to the public, but to prove to myself that I was good at something.”

Born in 1954 into a single parent family on the Caribbean island nation of St Kitts and Nevis, Gumbs and his mother were one of many families from the West Indies who emigrated to Britain in the 1960s encouraged by the burgeoning labour market.

It was hard enough moving half way around the world but to make the transition even more difficult was Conservative MP Enoch Powell, whose controversial, “Rivers of Blood,” speech incited racial hatred towards the myriad of immigrant families arriving on British shores. As a child Gumbs regularly faced racist remarks and taunts. From the beginning overcoming adversity was a constant battle for him.

The family settled in the industrial town of Slough, twenty miles west of London where Gumbs mother found work and he finished his primary education. By his late teens Gumbs was figuring out what he wanted from life. He aspired to something more than the steady work of a factory in his adoptive home town.

“I always wanted to be somebody, I knew I would be somebody, but I just wanted to find my niche, something I was good at.”

“I tried everything, I would try jobs and really excel in them and then I would quit. My colleagues would always say, “Why you got to quit? You’re doing so well,” but it just wasn’t my thing.”

“I was convinced that I was good at something in the world, and when I found boxing, that was it.”

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Roy Gumbs in his prime

A young Roy Gumbs in his prime.

Gumbs was introduced to boxing by a close friend, who took him to a London gym when he was aged nineteen.

“My friend took me to London to a boxing club and I liked it. I smoked cigarettes at the time. I had bought a packet and smoked two and then I gave him the rest and said I want to try this boxing thing.”

Considered a late starter, Gumbs boxed for Seven Feathers ABC in London but he quickly turned professional after just nine amateur fights. He won his professional debut by stoppage in 1976 and then lost his next three outings on points. Gumbs persisted and within two years he had amassed a professional record of 10-8-1 (6 KOs).

For a prospect it was a less than stellar record, but it highlights the brutal business of boxing. Gumbs was regularly fighting on the road, all around Britain and Europe, often with short notice.

“I was one of those guys you could call at the last minute. It was usually the day before, I was like a substitute fighter I wasn’t a mainliner. When Dave ‘Boy,’ Green fought Carlos Palomino for the world welterweight title in Wembley I had two hours’ notice before fighting Greg Evans [an 8 round points loss]. My title fights were the only fights I had top of the billing. Everything else was a substitute fight.”

Despite the difficult circumstances Gumbs had to endure these early fights were extremely important in his education as a professional. He admits, “It was a learning curve for me. I never really had an amateur career. I had nine amateur fights in a year when I was 21 and then I turned pro at 22 so my first few fights were like I was still an amateur. When you look at my career five or six years after I turned pro I was fighting for the world title.”

By late 1978, something changed for Gumbs. He began an unbeaten run that would last for the next five years and he established himself as a genuine danger man in the middleweight division. He credits this change to a new found sense of confidence that he developed while working as a sparring partner.

“It was very difficult for me as a professional because I never had any support. I never had anyone tapping me on the shoulder and telling me, “Yes son, you’re on the right road.” I trained in the same gym as Bunny Johnson, Bunny Stirling, Cornelius Boza-Edwards and John Conteh. Those guys gave me belief because I was their main sparring partner and to be in that position made me think, yeah I can do this.”

In 1979, Gumbs won the Southern Area middleweight title with a seventh round stoppage of Jan Magdziarz. Gumbs dropped his opponent eight times in that fight and announced himself as a genuine contender for a British title.

Gumbs explains the significance of the win over Magdziarz, “He had beaten [Alan] Minter twice and it was good motivation for me to have put this guy down eight times. I felt I had to beat this guy in a good way and it strengthened my belief to fight.”

Gumbs was invigorated by his new self-belief but he still found it difficult to move up the ladder and get his shot at a title. Between 1977 and 1979 he fought and beat journeyman Bonny McKenzie four times.

“Bonnie was a very durable guy. He was built like a double decker bus. I kept beating him and the final time I fought him I said, “Look Bonny, if your phone ever rings and if it’s Mickey Duff or whoever, and they want you to fight Roy Gumbs, tell them Roy Gumbs don’t want to fight you no more.” He was a tough customer.”

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Roy Gumbs is crowned the British Middleweight champion.

Gumbs persisted and in 1981, he won the British middleweight title with a third round stoppage victory over Howard Mills. One would think being crowned British middleweight champion would have set Gumbs on the road to riches but it seemed harder than ever to get the fights he desired.

“When I won the British title, Bernard Hart [the owner of Lonsdale] managed me. He went over to America to set up some fights for me. When he came back he gave me my back my contract and said, “Roy, I can’t do anything with you.” I was the British champion and the number one middleweight in the Commonwealth and Europe. What does that say?”

The inability to secure meaningful fights forced him to travel to Canada and link up with George Chuvalo’s former manager; Irving Ungerman.

“Before I became British champion I had visited Ungerman and told him I’d like to fight in Canada, he told me to win a title and then come back to him, which I did. When he managed me I was living in Canada but I was coming back to Britain to defend my title. It was at that time that the British Boxing Board of Control wrote to me and said they would strip me of my title because I wasn’t domiciled in the UK. Ungerman gave me my contract back and said, “You may as well go back to England mate. I can’t do anything with you.”

Quite simply Gumbs was too dangerous an opponent for most middleweights at the time. Gumbs remained in Canada long enough to claim the Commonwealth middleweight title with a fifth round stoppage victory over Canadian Ralph Hollett.

That fight encapsulated everything that made Gumbs a livewire in the middleweight division. During the third round a sharp left hook from the champion dropped Gumbs to the canvas. Gumbs used the ropes to pull himself to his feet to face a standing eight count. Two rounds later Gumbs trapped Hollett on the ropes and unleashed a barrage of punches that battered the champion and forced the referee to call a halt to proceedings. Just to prove it was no fluke Gumbs gave Hollett a rematch, this time stopping the Canadian in four rounds.

By 1983 Gumbs was managed by Frank Warren who took him to Boston to watch undisputed middleweight champion Marvin Hagler knock Wilfred Scypion out in four rounds. The intention had been to secure a world title fight but it never transpired.

A few months later Gumbs lost his British and Commonwealth titles as well as his unbeaten run to Mark Kaylor via a fifth round stoppage in what has become regarded as a classic shootout.

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Roy Gumbs lands a heavy shot on Mark Kaylor in their epic encounter.

“The Kaylor loss was the one that broke the camel’s back.” Gumbs explains. “That was the one that told the promoters and the pundits that it was over. I gave boxing 150% and at that point I wasn’t giving it 150% anymore. I hadn’t lost a fight in over five years, but after every fight, every manager I had would say, “Win the next one and you’ll get the big money.” I kept winning and they would say, “Win the next one, big money,” it got to a point where I just had enough.”

Following the Kaylor loss Gumbs was stopped in seven rounds by future IBF super-middleweight champion Lindell Holmes. As fortune would have it the losses to Kaylor and Holmes seemingly managed to finally earn Gumbs a shot at a world title. Ironically, he was considered as a last minute choice of opponent for South Korea’s Chong-Pal Park’s in his first defence of the IBF super-middleweight title in 1985.

“I didn’t have a manager when I fought for the world title. Mickey Duff got a call to make a match for Park, I was available so Denny Mancini was sent with me, along with my friend who introduced me to boxing. I packed my bag, the three of us jumped on a plane and went over there.”

The fight ended in disappointment for Gumbs who was stopped by the hard punching South Korean in two rounds. It seemed like the end of the road for Gumbs who promptly retired in 1985. However he made a comeback six years later against the then unbeaten American Ernesto Magdaleno. Gumbs lost a ten round decision to Magdaleno, who would later unsuccessfully challenge Henry Maske for the IBF light-heavyweight world title.

This time it was the end of the line for Gumbs who retired shortly after the loss with a professional record of 26-12-3 (21 KOs).

Life after boxing has been kinder to Roy Gumbs who now lives with his wife in Dubai.

“After boxing I became a house dad and then I ran a very successful restaurant for a long time. I got married and my wife went to med school and she’s now a doctor.”

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Roy Gumbs today.

Currently Gumbs uses his experience as a fighter to inspire confidence and promote healthy lifestyle choices as an ambassador for Club Fit for Business in Dubai.

“To stop me from being idle I teach personal training to business people. It is part of a sports orientated network, known as Club Fit for Business. We meet for breakfast, lunch, dinners and we have experts who speak to our members about finance, opening a business and how to keep a successful business going.”

“I have spoken a few times about how fitness is important in business and how being fit helps you make better decisions. Years ago it would have been unimaginable to think of me sitting in front of a group of high profile business people and telling them how to lead a successful and healthy life, but that’s how I support myself now.”

Despite making his living as a personal trainer and motivational speaker, it seems old habits die hard and Gumbs eagerness to prove himself in a boxing ring hasn’t eroded even in retirement.

He recently challenged actor Mickey Rourke, the star of such movies as Sin City, Iron Man 2 and The Expendables to take him on in a professional boxing contest. The 62-year-old Rourke, has dabbled in professional boxing and his last bout was a controversial second round stoppage of 29 year-old Elliot Seymour in Moscow in 2014.

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Gumbs is eager to challenge actor Mickey Rourke in the ring.

Gumbs seems enthusiastic about the prospect of fighting the veteran actor.

“I threw out the challenge to Mickey Rourke. He’s the same age as me, we’re both 62, so I said let’s get it on Mickey. His people would like to put it on in the US, because of the pay-per-view potential but at our age there is only one State that would give us permission to fight.”

He continues, “He [Rourke] had a contract for a few fights in Russia, and I’m saying I would go to Russia to fight him. I think if I was a lesser category of opponent he would jump at the chance to fight me. I think he’s happy that the US won’t sanction us because of our age. I don’t think he fancies his chances with me.”

Even in later life it is hard to extinguish the natural competitiveness in Roy Gumbs, but for a man who always felt he had something to prove he certainly proved himself in boxing. The sport may not always have been kind or indeed fair to him but he has endured disappointment and overcome adversity to carve out a successful career in his own right.

Through it all he remains an ebullient, jovial and positive man. Far from being his own worst enemy, he is a living testament to the power of self-belief and determination.

“I’m living the dream.” -Conrad Cummings

“I’m living the dream.” -Conrad Cummings

The Irish middleweight prospect talks candidly about his career, horrific diets and explains why he describes George Groves as, ‘a big lump.’

Irish boxing has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years and one of the most promising fighters to emerge from the scene is middleweight prospect; Conrad Cummings. The fighter from Coalisland, Co. Tyrone is managed by former WBA Featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, trained by his son Shane McGuigan and promoted under the Cyclone Promotions banner.

The McGuigans believe that Cummings (8-0-1, 3KOs) has the potential to become a future world champion. However for the amiable Cummings, the road to glory began with the purchase of a certain set of weighing scales.

“I was an anxious, heavy kid when I started boxing at the age of nine, but I just fell in love with it. It allowed me to expel my aggression without getting in trouble for it. I was boxing for a year when my coach Frank Gervin told me, “You’re a great kid, talented but you’re just too heavy, but I promise, if you lose weight you’ll win an All-Ireland.”

Cummings reacted to the criticism with surprising maturity for someone so young. Inspired by the belief of his coach he purchased a set of weighing scales and watched his weight for the next twelve months. By the following year, the young boxer had lost over a stone and won his first title; an All-Ireland Medal in the boy 1 category.

“That’s the sort of person I am,” Cummings admits, “very driven.”

That determination would see the young man from Co. Tyrone become a decorated amateur with a run of schoolboy and national titles at junior level, before representing Ireland at a host of international tournaments culminating in a Gold Medal win, at the age of 18, at the Nations Cup in Vienna in 2009.

“Every time I boxed for Ireland I won Gold, the only time I didn’t was during the Olympic Test Event in 2011. I went to that tournament with a weeks’ notice. I beat the Brazilian Esquiva Florentino [the 2012 Olympic Silver medallist] in the semi-final and then lost to the European champion, Maxim Koptyakov of Russia.”

Cummings rebounded from defeat in the final of the Olympic Test Event to claim a Gold medal at the Tammer Tournament in Finland in 2012. His success in the amateurs gave way to his ambition to one day become a professional world champion. In an effort to showcase his talent on a global stage he became involved in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) in 2013 and signed for the Mexican Guerreros. The non-Spanish speaking fighter would spend over a month in Mexico training at altitude, and he describes the experience as, “life-changing.”

“It gave me invaluable experience,” Cummings admits, “I got the opportunity to box a number of European and World Champions.” The time spent sparring in Mexico earned Cummings the nickname, ‘Mr Dinamita,’ in recognition of his all-action style. The semi-pro nature of the WSB provided an ideal training ground for the young fighter, but the decision to remain as an amateur and compete in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 were dealt a blow when Cyclone Promotions offered Cummings the opportunity to turn pro.

“I was in Dublin airport with the Irish team, on my way back from Finland having just won my Gold Medal. As I was picking up my luggage I got a private twitter message from Barry McGuigan, saying here’s my number and asking me to call him. He could have been looking for anything, but I knew what he was looking for. I thought, my dreams have come true.”

The normally calm and collected Cummings struggled to maintain his composure after he had been contacted by a legend of Irish boxing. “I wanted to tell everyone, but Barry told me to play it cool. I couldn’t, two hours later I gave him a call, and I was just mumbling and not being myself. We must have talked for an hour, he told me he had been watching me since I was 17 and I thought I wasn’t even good at 17! But I knew that day Barry wanted to sign me.”

In February 2014, Cummings turned professional with Cyclone Promotions and he has no regrets about leaving the amateur game behind, “The plan was to go to the Commonwealth Games with the aim of winning the Gold medal and then turn pro. I turned pro six months before the games and my Dad said I should have waited but the deal was already there. I wanted to be a world champion and I already had a great manager and a great team. I had to make the right decision for me.”

Cummings is trained by Shane McGuigan

In Shane McGuigan, Cummings has secured himself one of the most prominent trainers in the UK and Ireland to spearhead his professional development. Before turning pro he had been invited to train with Shane in his Battersea Gym to determine if they would be compatible. It laid the foundation for a solid professional relationship and Shane McGuigan’s methods have added a new dimension to Cummings craft.

“Shane’s all about trying new things, if it’s not working he’ll try something else. The way the fight game is evolving he believes the fighter should be evolving as well. My training is very intense, it’s not really long but it’s really hard. It’s basically circuit training, weight training, sprinting and very little long distance running. It’s different to my amateur training, but I feel my body is evolving and I’m enjoying it.”

The change in training methods also brought about a change in diet for the young fighter, something that Cummings admits he found difficult to adjust to, “when I first started training with Shane, I thought I had a good diet, but then he put me on a strict diet, it was horrific! Meat, fish and vegetables for two months to get my body fat percentage down. It was a bit of a shock initially but I’m enjoying it now, and I’m very grateful.”

Cummings has also benefited from being part of a stable of high profile fighters that Shane McGuigan currently trains. Cummings regularly rubs shoulders with former WBA heavyweight champion David Haye and the former British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion George Groves.

“Sparring with George was a wake-up call for me, because I had been thinking, maybe I could be a super-middleweight, but then I saw George and I thought, no, I’m definitely a middleweight. He’s just a big lump, a big strong man and a really good fighter.”

Cummings has a close friendship with stable mate Carl Frampton

Cummings also enjoys a close relationship with his other stablemate, IBF super-bantamweight champion Carl Frampton, “I have a good friendship with Carl, he’s at the absolute pinnacle of his career at the moment, he unified the world title, he has the best fan base in the UK and Ireland and he doesn’t believe any of his own hype. He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, a gentleman.”

Frampton’s success as a world champion provides much inspiration for the young fighter from Co. Tyrone, “Carl put the work in to achieve his dreams, there’s no reason why I can’t do the same and win a world title.”

When it comes to working towards the dream of a world title, Cummings is committed to the heavy graft in the gym. Earlier in his professional career he sparred with Frank Buglioni, Andy Lee and the current WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. Cummings also sparred with the Nick Blackwell the fighter who recently recovered from injuries sustained in a British title defence against Chris Eubank Jr.

Cummings is somewhat reflective on the Blackwell incident, “Nick’s a nice guy, tough and fit as a flea. It was great to see the whole boxing world get behind him, but I learnt from his experience. I used to let people hit my gloves, but look at Blackwell, he didn’t get hurt he didn’t get knocked down but he took too many punches. Now I’ve seen the end result, and it’s a wake-up call for me. Nobody wants to see another fighter hurt in the ring so I hope he makes a full recovery.”

Despite his ring moniker, ‘Mr Dynamite,’ Cummings is keenly aware that as a professional he has a low knockout ratio but he feels that the pubic haven’t seen the best of him yet. “I don’t think the boxing world has seen my true potential. As an amateur I would get in close to opponents and hurt them, that’s how I beat two Olympic Silver Medallist’s.”

He adds, “As a professional Shane wants me to be more polished, use my jab and take a step back, we’re trying to create that distance, put them back with maximum authority and leverage and be a lot more devastating, I’m still learning and I’m still a pressure fighter, but I am more methodical.”

The dedication to his profession and the hunger for a title has seen Cummings career go from strength to strength in the last eighteen months. The sole blemish on his undefeated record was a draw with the undefeated Alfredo Meli for the Celtic middleweight title in November 2015.

The consistently positive Cummings puts the result down to experience, “I learned a lot about myself in that fight. I was top of the bill, in the Waterfront Hall, Belfast and I had jumped from fighting six rounders’ to fighting a ten rounder. I dropped Meli in the first round and I should have won, but I guess I have to learn the hard way, it’s all part of the plan.”

Cummings is also realistic about the possibility of a rematch with Meli seeming unlikely in the future, “I would like the rematch, but they don’t want it. The quote from his manager is that they have other options. So I have to move on, but I feel I would win the rematch.”

Cummings has moved on quickly from the draw with a comprehensive victory over Victor Garcia on the undercard of Frampton v Quigg in February and he has just announced that he will be fighting the former Welsh middleweight champion Frankie Borg in Cardiff in May.

The fight in May is another step up the boxing ladder with the ultimate goal of securing a world title shot. When the opportunity arises he wants to ensure that he has a certain individual in his corner.

“I’d love my Father [Patrick] to be there, even if it’s just with the water bucket. When I was 18, I was in University and there was a risk of boxing going on the back burner, so my father said to me, ‘Son, if you want to leave university, I will support you financially and every which way I can, to stay in boxing.’ My mother looked at him as if he was mad, but he had seen something in me.”

“He supported me financially, mentally and any which way you could imagine and he still does to this day. I owe everything to him.”

In a sport where so many of the young prospects are portrayed as brash upstarts it is refreshing to learn Conrad Cummings is so down-to-earth in nature. He is reflective about his life and career, serious about his ambition and grateful for the support he has received to get him where he is today.

“So many people have supported me since I began boxing a 9 years of age; my first coach Frank Gervin in Clonoe ABC taught me about discipline; then when I moved to Belfast aged 18, Harry Hawkins in Holy Trinity helped me and throughout everything my family have supported me as well. I’m very lucky to be in a good support system, I think it’s important in boxing because so many people don’t have that and they go off the radar. I’m very grateful for what I have because at twenty-four I’m living the dream.”

For the young hungry fighter, the hope is that those dreams of a world title will soon become a reality.