Paschal Collins: Conor will be a phenomenon in Boston

With the limelight firmly fixed on Boston this weekend as Conor McGregor makes his North American debut, Peter Carroll caught up with Paschal Collins, a coach to world champion boxers at Celtic Warrior Boxing Gym, which the UFC featherweight frequents for sparring.

No stranger to South Boston due to the success of his brother, Steve, on the East Coast in the early 90s, Collins gave an insight in to what kind of reception he thinks McGregor will get in the home of the Irish Diaspora, the 145er’s progress in his stand-up game and his opinion on MMA as one of the most respected voices of boxing in Ireland.

Paschal Collins is a man who can spot an aptitude for boxing having been at the side of his brother, Steve, as he rose through the professional ranks to eventually secure the WBO middleweight crown before taking the super middleweight title in the now iconic bout against Chris Eubank in 1995.

The head coach of Blanchardstown’s Celtic Warrior gym didn’t take long to notice that it wasn’t the first time the animated Dubliner threw a combination when he first walked through the door.

“Conor already had a pedigree in boxing from his early days in Crumlin when he came up to us,” said Collins. “It was really his first martial art.”

“It’s been a while since he has been down with us. He was just about to head off to Sweden before I saw him last time, but I’ve always been very impressed by what he can bring to the table.

“The first time he came up to us was about two years ago, but his development in that period has been unbelievable. His approach is second to none, he’s confident and he has natural power and ability – and that’s priceless in this game.”

Despite the boxing community across the water leading the assault on MMA when it emerged in the US, Collins commended McGregor on his decision to transition from the ring to the cage.

The respected coach also complimented the Straight Blast Gym man on his boxing skills that have allowed him to get top class sparring against some Ireland’s finest boxing pros like Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan and Stephen Ormond.

“Professional boxing is a very hard road, he was smart enough to see an avenue into MMA and it really suits him down to the ground.

“What we can never quite believe is the amount of work he puts in. A lot of times he’d be down to us in the afternoon and he would’ve already been grappling for the whole morning.

“He comes down here and he can hold his own with world champions like Spike and Stephen, he’s a very capable boxer.

“With the amount of training in the different martial arts he does, he’s made himself an even trickier opponent for lads that have just trained boxing their whole lives.

“I won’t name names but, the last time he was up here a very good boxer of ours couldn’t make head nor tail of what Conor was doing.

“He has what appears like a kind of chopping movement when he strikes and he doesn’t use a traditional stance, so this guy just couldn’t time him at all,” said the Blanch based coach.

Not only is Collins open to the idea of MMA, he has a lot of respect for the sport and was in Boston when the sport began to take off. Coincidently, he is also good friends with Peter Welch, whose gym is currently housing the 25 year old ahead of his showdown with Max Holloway on Saturday night.

“I’d be far more open minded than most to be fair. I got to know a lot of guys when I was in Boston myself. My first introduction to it was through the Brazilian Top Team, I was brought down there to hold pads for jiu jitsu guys.

“Even just meeting some of the guys there, I knew they were serious. I’ve always respected athletes from all different disciplines.

“It was my time in Southie that opened my eyes up to those kinds of things. Meeting Pan Am Muay Thai champions and wrestlers and just realising how gruelling their training is – it certainly deserves respect.

“Even in my gym now we have kickboxers, Greco Roman wresters and taekwondo guys that come in to train.

“Once people take their training seriously I really don’t care what kind of background they have,” he said.

“Peter Welch originally started his place as an out an out boxing gym, but he recognised that there are advantages to opening it up to athletes from different backgrounds.

“I know Peter very well and Conor couldn’t be in better hands over there.”

As far as Boston’s reaction to McGregor, Collins is sure that he will get massive support in the home of the Fighting Irish and tips the young Dub to be a superstar amongst the Gaels of America.

“Honestly, I think he will be a phenomenon in Boston,” he said without hesitation.

“He’s an aggressive fighter,  he’s great with his hands and he’s quick with his tongue too – he’s everything that the Americans think an Irishman should be.

“I was just looking at him the last time he was down here and his eyes were dancing around in his head – he’s a bit of a mad man and I suppose you have to be in the fight game.

“A lot of the boxing community might not be around since the likes of Steve, Freddie Roach and Mickey Ward retired, but a big win for Conor on Saturday could see a whole new generation born out there.

“He’s just got that star quality, it’s clear for everyone to see and he deserves it. He works hard, he fights hard and I wish him all the best on Saturday,” he finished.

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.