Burnley boxer Seamus Devlin dons his 'journeyman' badge with honour!

Burnley boxer Seamus Devlin wears his 'journeyman' badge with honour.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 6:30 am
Seamus Devlin, right, was out-pointed by Oli Cassidy at Villa Park in September.

While some fighters in the sport marvel at the champions or the showmen, the 33-year-old novice appreciates the less ostentatious characters.

Peter Buckley, Kristian Laight, Johnny Greaves, William Warburton, Kevin McCauley, Reggie Strickland, Jamie Quinn and Lewis van Poetsch have fought 1,779 times between them.

Only 9% of their collective showings have resulted in victory while 'The Professor' and the solitary American in the line-up account for more than half of those 163 triumphs.

Seamus Devlin weighs up opponent Oli Cassidy during his fourth fight as a professional.

They're at the bottom end of the food chain when the numbers are crunched, but these gladiators are the lifeblood of the entire operation.

Without them, the walls would often cave in. "I want to be a centurion," said Devlin, who is currently one of the most active athletes on the circuit in the UK. "I think my record so far shows that I'm one in the making.

"I've spoken to a lot of journeymen including Johnny Greaves, William Warburton and Peter Buckley. They are always there to offer help and advice.

"Their resumes are ridiculous, their longevity is something else and I admire them. Kevin Macauley is another. I want to join that exclusive group of fighters.

Seamus Devlin, right, out on the road again

"I know I'll get there because I'll apply myself and dedicate myself properly."

The 'Celtic Cobra' added: "We are the lifeblood of this sport. We're the ones who are called on at the last minute to save shows when others have pulled out.

"I've already saved a couple of them. Prospects won't risk their '0' against another prospect, they want to build their records up. We are integral to boxing.

"I keep seeing some of the same faces on different cards. Fighters keep telling me that they wouldn't be able to do what I do, but I'm durable, I stay fresh, I haven't endured any wear and tear, so I'm always ready to go."

A nomadic way of life has become normalised for Curtis Gargano's charge, who would happily travel hundreds of miles by plane, train or automobile to reach his destination.

The new kid on the block only made his debut at the end of July — when going up against Leon Willings in Liverpool — and has already tipped his appearance column into double figures.

He's fought in England, Scotland and Wales, journeying as high as Glasgow and as southernly as Plymouth. He's battled unbeaten prospects, amateur champions, debutants and a WBO European challenger, and he's heard the final bell in each and every one of his assignments.

"I'm loving it," he beamed. "I'm riding the crest of a wave. I was hoping to get a couple of victories on my record, but circumstances have dictated otherwise.

"Journeymen operate on the business side of the sport and we're up against top prospects who are under a lot of pressure. I've had a very good year, I've had 10 fights back to back and I'm enjoying it.

"I've fought them all. I've gone in against some highly-touted fighters, some who have fought for prestigious titles, some with unbeaten records and others who were amateur champions.

"None of them, however, have been able to get rid of me. I haven't been stopped yet so I'm the most active journeyman in the UK at the moment.

"It's been a torrid schedule, most men would have been crying out for a rest, but you have to be super fit to compete at this level. I have to be able to out-work these top class opponents, which isn't easy, but I'm improving all the time.

"People can see that I'm becoming more relaxed in my performances, but it's difficult to even win rounds on the road. I've only won a couple."

Devlin, and his dependable band of brothers, aren't programmed to 'under-perform', as is often perceived. They might not be revered artists in their field, they might not always be the most aesthetically pleasing, but these durable road warriors are cut from a different cloth.

Their role in the sport has never been, or will never be, premeditated. They make sacrifices beyond comprehension; time, family, lifestyle, physical and mental well-being. Their role is one of the most demanding and most punishing in the business.

Though they don't have the pressure of ticket sales, or the worry of collecting cash, there is often the overbearing fear that a severe cut or stoppage would put them out of action for 28 days. That means no income during a period when Devlin has been able to fight up to five times.

"It's been tough, the psychological aspect has been the most difficult thing to deal with," he said. "Physically I'm put together like an old leather boot, I've had people trying to take my head off from round one, and some spectators/trainers couldn't believe I'd stayed on my feet after taking some shots.

"But I've always had a winning mindset and that can quickly change in this game. You go into the ring with the best intentions but sometimes fatigue kicks in and you can't deliver.

"That just comes with the territory. It can be hard mentally when your pride takes a bit of a hit, you keep replaying everything back in your mind, assessing how you could have done things differently.

"Some fighters can't deal with that, but you can't have an ego as a journeyman. You have to be a survivor, an entertainer, and you have to be mentally strong."

Devlin, one of four siblings, added: "It's hard to fire on all cylinders week in, week out. It's an unforgiving cycle; I'm fighting every weekend, travelling up and down the UK, and training in-between. I don't get much rest.

"You have to put everything into it because seven of the 10 opponents that I've faced have been way too good for me. You only need to look at their credentials and pedigree to see what I'm up against.

"Some of these lads will go on to fight for British or, even, World honours. They could go all the way and I'm taking them on in their own backyard. They are really good and there have probably only been a couple of fights where I haven't looked out of place.

"It's testament to my training, dedication and mental fortitude that I've been able to get through this schedule, but it's been an invaluable experience.

"We're just missing Northern Ireland but, other than that, I've completed a tour of Great Britain. I've earned a massive amount of respect from insiders within the sport. We're the backbone of this sport and they know what it takes."

Journeymen come in various guises. You won't find many show stoppers, but many are saviours, stepping in at short notice to keep a production alive.

There are those that initiate a new prospect into boxing, providing a necessary springboard in their development, there are entertainers, pantomime villains, the hard-to-hit types, the hard-hitting types, or those that go into survival mode from the off.

But they all serve a purpose.

Devlin will take in fight number 13 at the Metrodome in Barnsley tonight as he faces newcomer Redwan Nishat.

“I can hang in there with anybody and I’ve earned my spot,” he finished.