English title success 'still sinking in' for Barrow boxer Conroy
LIAM Conroy has spent the last few days proudly showing off his English light-heavyweight title belt to some of the people who helped him turn his dream into reality.
The 25-year-old Barrow boxer says he still can't really believe what he has achieved after stopping reigning champion Joel McIntyre in the second round at York Hall on Saturday night.
It was the most eye-catching performance of Conroy's 18-fight professional career and the result has elevated him to the top five in the UK rankings, and in line for a crack at the British title.
The one-time Barrow ABC junior went into the contest at the famous Bethnal Green venue as the challenger and underdog. But he proved too strong for his highly-rated opponent, forcing two standing counts in the first round and then finishing the job early in the second.
In the week leading up to the fight, Conroy received some negative messages on social media writing off his chances, and a panel of boxing experts and fans dismissed his chances in the fight night programme.
But with help of the calming words of his trainer Johnney Roye, Conroy remained focused on the job in hand and used all the criticism as extra motivation to produce the result of his career. The way the fight unfolded could not have gone any better, with Conroy flooring the champion with a big right midway through and never allowing him to recover.
“I'm dead happy. I don't think it has quite sunk in yet. It still feels weird,” said Conroy.
“I was executing my game-plan exactly how Johnney wanted me to and then I managed to catch him and that was it.
“I didn't let him off the hook and managed to get it over and done with early, so it couldn't have gone any better.
“I always thought I was going to win, although I didn't expect it to be in that fashion, but I just felt like it was my time.
“Everything just seemed to be clicking at the right time – everything just seem to go perfectly until the week before, when I started getting messages off people on Twitter saying I was going to get knocked out and that I was out of my depth.
“There were times in the week where I was feeling low and in a mood about it. I was starting to think: 'Do these people know something I don't?'
“But I discussed things with Johnney and then I started feeling good again and just kept believing in myself.
“I got to the venue and I looked around around and I could tell it was going to be a good atmosphere and I started thinking: 'How am I going to react if it's a bit hostile?' but I felt like I was ready for that.
“I didn't really know for sure what I was going to be like, but it all came together perfectly.
“I just cleared everything from my mind. When I was walking to the ring and people were booing me, I just cleared it all from my mind.
“All I could hear were the things Johnney was saying to me. I remember him (McIntyre) coming into the ring to the music and getting announced as the English champion and he was staring at me, but I didn't look at him.
“When they were announcing me I remember them saying 'WBC youth world champion' and I remember thinking I'm a champion as well, I shouldn't be written off by anyone.
“That started going through my head and I started getting fired-up and I started mouthing the words to myself “I'm a world champion” and that was it, the nerves were gone after that.
“And I just knew then what was going to happen. I was going to execute the gameplan. And that's how it went.”
Conroy also brought to mind a quote he had been sent from Peter Fury – play the game, and not the occasion – which Sir Alex Ferguson had written in a letter to Peter's son Hughie, ahead of his upcoming WBO World Heavyweight title fight with Joseph Parker.
“That quote that Peter sent me, play the game and not the occasion, I was thinking about that. I thought I've got to be relaxed here and everything I will do will work, but if I let the crowd get to me I'll just tense up, like I have done at times in the past.
“I still feel like there is more to come from me now that I can feel relaxed on a stage like that. I just felt so relaxed in there.
“I wasn't over-confident, I just knew that nothing mattered apart from what happened in that ring and I just wanted to have a good first round and that would give myself the best chance, and I couldn't have had a better first round”
Conroy thanked his dedicated bunch of travelling fans who made the tip to London, and also Matty Green of Cumbria Strength and Conditioning and Diane Singleton of DS Fitness for their expert help and support.
He added: ““The security on the night was tight, but they still managed to get a few vuvuzelas in and then when I was getting on top and his lot went quiet, all you could hear was my lot. It was like I was the home fighter!
“Thanks to everyone for sticking with me and coming to support me and sharing all my posts on social media. It all helps.
“I'm trying to get round everyone this week, my sponsors and the lads at the gym, so they can have a look at my belt and have a try of it."