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Former champion boxer takes on riding challenge

By Jordan GerransIMG-5079.JPG

Former world champion boxer Corey McConnell has found a second coming in the sporting landscape at the racetrack.

Featherweight McConnell retired back in 2016 following complications around his heart with a 16 win and two loss career record in the boxing ring.

His career highlight list includes becoming the 2013 WBU Super Featherweight World Champion, 2014 WBC International Champion, 2015 WBA PABA Champion, 2012 Australian Champion and being ranked top 10 in the world across WBC, IBF, and WBA between 2012 and 2016.

He required heart surgery after doctors revealed due to his ongoing condition, McConnell was fighting at approximately 55 per cent capacity in comparison to the average professional boxer.

While gutted to have to step away from the sport he loved and thrived in, McConnell  always had one foot in another game.

“My escape from boxing was always riding horses, between fights generally I would go ride horses in that time,” he revealed this week.

“Whenever I had a bad day in the gym, I would go ride my horse and I would use that as an escape.”

With doctors informing McConnell he could no longer fight as a professional, he quickly switched gears.

Not long after, the now 35-year-old was up first thing every morning riding track work.

And, he has done it since, working for experienced Queensland trainers such as Paul Butterworth, Chris Munce and Less Ross, among others.

These days, McConnell refers to himself as a freelance track work rider, picking up work here, there, and everywhere in the morning before the sun comes up.

“After the surgery, they told me no more boxing at that level,” McConnell said.

“I had to get away from boxing and found myself in racing by coincidence.”

As well as riding track work and at times strapping horses on race day, McConnell still has some involvement in boxing – helping keep members of the racing industry fit with personal and group boxing coaching sessions.

He mainly coaches jockeys to keep their weight down, but he also has clients that includes strappers, stable hands, barrier attendant staff as well as other industry participants.

After having to shed weight quickly during his boxing career, McConnell believes he can easily relate to jockeys trying to get their weight down to ride.

“I am lucky to ride work with them, see what they go through and understand what they go through with their weight,” he said.

Leading Queensland-based hoop Ryan Maloney says McConnell has become vital to the racing industry with the work and time he puts in.

“He helps a fair few jockeys out,” Maloney said.

“His career was cut short but the time he did have in the ring, he was very good.

“He is a big asset to the riders up here.”

McConnell is over the next 10 weeks coaching more than a handful of jockeys to improve their boxing towards the upcoming “Fight For a Cause” concept.

Fight For a Cause is a 10-week program, which started on Monday for the jockeys at Northside Boxing in Nundah, and is raising much needed funds for charity, while providing everyday people the experience of stepping into a boxing ring in front of a packed arena.IMG-5082.JPG

The program is designed for people with little or no boxing experience and will include jockeys and regular everyday people.

The amateur fights will be held as a black tie dinner event hosted at the Royal International Convention Centre at RNA Show grounds on Saturday April 24.

“It is for a great cause and once I let the jockeys know that I train what the point of the event was, they were happy to jump on board,” McConnell said.

“Hopefully we can raise some money and have some good matches.”

All money raised will go towards the Mental Awareness Foundation.

“We thought it was a very relevant topic of conversation and cause at the moment,” event organiser Drury Forbes said.

“We will distribute the funds through the local community.

“Hopefully we can raise lots of funds and when we run another night like this, we will choose another charity so we can spread the love and positivity.”