Cashelhill man Connor Coyle has boxing in his blood, with a rich family history steeped in success within the sport. ‘My great grandfather was Spider Kelly who was entered into the Guinness Book of Records with his son Billy for first father and son to hold the same title, so maybe everyone was half expecting me to give it a go. I don’t recall ever having burning desire to box, I just took a notion one day and called into St Joseph’s at the age of eleven totally unplanned, I was even wearing jeans!  My coach Cahir obviously sent me home to change then we sparred and that was it, I finally understood the love for the sport and I was hooked.   My friends joined on the same night as me, eventually falling away from it and all the while, I just kept my head down training, committed and most of all kept enjoying it.  

Connor’s ability impressed the boxing community around him and it wasn’t long before there were bigger plans laid down.  ‘The more time I spent in the ring the more my coaches noticed the skill I had, and how my form was improving round on round.  I was doing extremely well and my name was becoming well known within the boxing community so we ramped up our efforts and took training to the next level, giving up my day job as a floorfitter and training twice a day.  It was a big risk, but I believe that often bigger dreams require bigger risks, so you have to believe in yourself and go for it’.  Unfortunately ambition cant pay bills, and the life of an athlete is an expensive one with memberships, supplements and tailored diets so Connor asked the people of Derry to get behind him.  ‘I was very fortunate to have countless local businesses come forward willing to sponsor and invest in me at their own cost and this epitomises Derry people for me, always there for their own when they need it.  The people of Derry have a sense of community unlike anywhere else I have ever been.  Living in Florida, my family, friends and people of this city are what I miss the most, particularly the humour.  It can feel very alone and isolating being away by myself but it’s part of the trade-up for getting to do what I love for a living’’.

Connors dedication paid off when he was called up to represent Northern Ireland in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.  ‘I won a bronze medal after reaching the semi-finals, something I am extremely proud of.  I injured my hand which obviously affected by hopes of going further but it taught me a lesson, that setbacks happen and the most important thing is how you bounce back from them.  Be it either in your professional or personal life, obstacles will always take you off the original path you planned to take, but don’t let that defeat you, just get yourself together and find a different route’’. 

This was especially true for Connor who prior to injury had been expected to be called up to participate in the Rio Olympics team.  Hoping the games would award him his break into professional grade, the injury ruled this out for him.  ‘It was a dark time and I was really low and depressed.  I needed to get my hand operated which meant I couldn’t box, or even work for eleven months. I am the type of person who needs to train to feel physically and more importantly mentally well, so I needed a Plan B.   My only way to cope was to stay disciplined with my diet and training routine, finding alternatives by running instead of boxing for example.  My hand healed well after the operation and I was eventually able to make the break into professional boxing albeit via a different route’. 

With an incredible record and an even more prosperous future, we chatted to Connor about how he stays disciplined, what makes him laugh and what the ultimate goal is.

How would you describe yourself?  I would say I am easy to get along with.  I am outgoing and have a sense of humour about things; I don’t take things very seriously.

Do you have a nickname? I have a few, no one really calls me Connor! The boxer, is usually what I’m known by.  Coco at school because of my name and The Kid is my boxing name. 

You live in Florida at the minute, do you miss anything about your community?  Millions of things, the fresh air for one as the humidity is so bad in Florida. The toughest aspect is being away from my daughter, it’s the hardest thing in the world to be separated from her and my family but this is the job I do and it has to be done.  She is at the age now where soon she will notice more that I am not there which will make leaving harder again, but for now we facetime every night and that gets me through the day.  As I said before, Derry people are unlike any others in the world and it’s difficult to have a natural conversation sometimes when I’m away, others just don’t get our local humour.  When you’re here, you are itching to get away and start training but when you’re away you want to be back.

For the majority of the year, you are training which requires a very disciplined life.  How do you relax during your down time? I always say the same thing when I am training and feeling in peak condition, on holiday I’m not eating junk and I’m not drinking but I always do otherwise I would go insane! You have to relax and enjoy yourself too, its all about balance.

And when you’re training, how do you relax?  When I’m training, I have a set routine and I block everything out so that I can stay focused. I train a few times a day, so after training I come home and eat then relax with some TV, then just repeat again as many times as I need to. I’ll finally get to facetime Clodagh Rose then, and get to bed ready to do it all again.  Sleep is important too so ill make sure and get plenty of rest.

What makes you laugh?  My daughter, she is a wee granny.  She is 17 months going on 17 and she makes me laugh so much now that her wee personality is coming through.  I enjoy comedy films too when I am in my training routine. If I’m a bit homesick or lonely then I use them to bring me round.

What’s the best compliment you have ever received? Ahead of the commonwealth games, one of the high performing Irish coaches was on the pads with me.  He just shook his head in disbelief and shouted to my coach that I should be an Olympic gold medallist by now. 

What makes you happy? Training, Boxing, Family and Friends.  That’s all I need!

What makes you angry? Bad training sessions crack me up. I get frustrated because I’m someone who has to have things go their own way.

What has been the high point of your life to date?  The birth of my daughter.  I didn’t realise what an impact it would have on me and how much she would change my life.  I appreciate her so much and the change she has made in me is all for the better.  The opportunities that the Commonwealth gave me too, it opened a lot of doors. 

What has been the low point of your life to date?  I had a bad year a few years ago.  I couldn’t train the way I had been because of my hand and I felt really unfit and down and out and I wasn’t eating well and drinking more than I would have.  There was no big ‘moment’ that made it all better, I just started gradually getting myself back on track bit by bit until I finally felt strong and well again. 

What are your most treasured possessions?  I genuinely don’t have any!  My wee girl and family are my world, so if they are ok them I’m ok.

How would you like to be remembered? As a boxing legend from Derry!

Whats been your motto? My dream has always been to be champion of the world at my sport, so I have always needed to believe it myself in order to achieve it.  Look at Conor McGregor, he believed in himself and his ability when no one else did and look at what he has achieved now.  My motto has always been to believe in your dreams, hard work beats talent so keep putting the hours in and keep trying.