ON June 9 the eyes of the boxing world will be cast towards the Manchester Arena, as former unified world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury finally makes his long-awaited return to the ring.
After over two years away from the sport, last seen dethroning Wladimir Klitschko to reign supreme in November 2015 on German territory, Fury will be under the spotlight on his comeback appearance.
But as the “Gypsy King” prepares to lace up his gloves for the 26th time professionally following what will have been a 31-month layoff, another fighter will be doing so for the first time on the same night.
Swapping the octagon for the squared-circle, MMA star Jack McGann is set to make his debut on a high-profile night in Manchester, as he seeks a successful maiden venture into the sport this summer.
The Liverpudlian has long been making a name for himself in the MMA world, having showcased his explosive talents and risen to prominence in the cage across the UK, Ireland and even Russia.
But he now has his sights set firmly on making a significant step into boxing, a career move which should be seamless for a heavy-handed fighter who is already renowned for his striking abilities, with 10 of his 11 KO victories coming from an impressive stand-up game.
“I’ve always been a striker at heart,” McGann told Boxing News. “Look at my MMA stats, 10 first round knockouts and most, if not all of them, were done with my hands.
“Now because the wrestling and kicking element has been eliminated I’m now only getting better at something I was great at anyway, just boxing.”
With an amassed record of 11-5 as an MMA pro, McGann was a regular feature on some of the biggest fight cards both domestically and abroad. So why the switch in combat sports now for the promising 24-year-old?
“There are a few reasons for the change now, but the biggest is the fact that boxing is booming in Britain right now,” admitted the Merseysider. “Not Vegas or anywhere like that, there are massive UK shows selling out with English lads on every five minutes. It’s great, I love it.
“Boxing is flying at the minute, in England especially, and everyone wants a piece of it. There is more money in it, look where Conor [McGregor] had to go to make crazy money. It was boxing.”
After being snapped up by esteemed promoter Frank Warren, McGann was initially slated to make his maiden ring outing in Belfast on April 21, on the night Carl Frampton rallied to a comfortable home triumph over four-weight world champion Nonito Donaire.
However, a busy schedule forced the Liverpool fighter to prolong his desired debut. Currently training at Elite Boxing gym in Bolton, Manchester, head coach Alex Matvienko was occupied elsewhere with McGann’s stablemate and super-bantamweight prospect Osman Aslam, as he earned his latest career win on the coinciding Amir Khan bill in Liverpool.
Though, having missed out on one massive platform to perform on, another has welcomingly come along at the right time.
“So making my debut has taken a while, but for the show that I’m starting on it’s been worth the wait,” McGann continued, clearly beaming with excitement at the prospect of what’s ahead.
“It feels amazing. I’m so grateful I get to get my boxing career started on a huge card.
“But as I said, I’ve fought in sold out arenas before from Moscow to Dagestan, Siberia to Dublin and everywhere in between. I’m not gonna’ get stage fright under a big set of lights.”
As was the nature of McGann’s success in the MMA world, comparisons were expectedly made with one Conor McGregor, and now more than ever the pair are being mentioned in the same bracket, after the Irishman’s exploits last year. There’s also the added connection through their shared striking coach Owen Roddy, who has been a long-standing and beneficial part of McGann’s set-up.
‘The Notorious’ was, of course, involved in that mammoth-money meeting with Floyd Mayweather, in which Roddy was one of the cornermen, switching trades for the biggest payday of his, or any other fighter’s, career in Las Vegas. Though, in spite of being outclassed and ultimately stopped as widely expected, does McGann take any inspiration from the Dubliner?
“Yeah of course. Conor done great, he won just by getting the fight,” he outlined. “There’s a difference in jumping in the deep end and diving into the sea with jaws. Owen has coached and cornered me in fights before and he will be there in the corner on the night. I can’t wait.”
Despite journeying into a new skillset, MMA is still McGann’s underlying passion, and his long-term future could still be in the octagon, regardless of how his strive into boxing develops.
“I’m an MMA fighter, I’ve done it since I was a kid. It’s my life,” reminisced a passionate McGann.
“But I’m 24, I’ve fought all over on international shows against world class opponents, so I can afford to take a bit of time out. The door isn’t shut on MMA by any means, it’s just on ice for now.”
While his MMA career is put aside to chill for the foreseeable future, McGann is now aiming to spark his boxing charge into life, starting on June 9, as he looks to make an immediate impact on a night Tyson Fury takes centre stage in Manchester.