Jack Desmond, a two-time All Ireland boxing champion from Bantry, chats to Jack McCarron about the sport he loves and his passion for winning
Jack Desmond (16) wasn’t always destined to be a top-class boxer.
The two-time All-Ireland Champion, who fights out of the Bantry Boxing Club under the stern tutelage of Andy Keirns, had initially loved soccer, plying his trade with local side Bantry Bay Rovers.
A not unreasonable worry, held by his mother Marguerite, about the dangers associated with the sport of boxing was another stumbling block.
‘I would have been afraid of everything a mom would be afraid of,’ she says.
‘You would be worried. But I can see the benefits. The discipline, the diet, the fitness. It’s great.’
Eventually Marguerite relented and Jack has yet to look back.
With his mother’s blessing Jack has gone on to dominate locally, delivering six county and Munster titles in a row, which sit nicely alongside his pair of National crowns.
Although athletes can have different motivations for why they compete, the factor that usually sets the best apart is an insatiable hunger for that winning feeling.
‘It’s hard to describe. When you win something like an Irish title the buzz seems like it lasts forever,’ Jack says with a glint in his eye. ‘It’s an unbelievable feeling’.
As his mother Marguerite says: ‘The journey from Dublin is shorter after he’s won. He even says the food tastes nicer!’
It was this trait that eventually brought an end to Jack’s burgeoning soccer career. His size went against him so a decision was made to switch his entire focus to the ring, although he still keeps an eye on the fortunes of the team he supports - Manchester United.
As a boxer, Jack has a style that’s extremely pleasing on the eye.
A stinging jab is complemented by impressive head movement, something he’s well aware of and works hard on to perfect.
‘Head movement is key in boxing and the jab is everything as well. It’s about the perception of distance - using your jab to find a way in’.
With that level of insight and tactical nous at such a young age it’s no surprise Jack holds boxing’s pound-for-pound king Vasyl Lomachenko in high regard.
Lomachenko, a two-time Olympic Gold medallist from Ukraine, who has been dominating the professional game since debuting in 2013, has a style many refer to as Matrix-like in reference to the 1999 sci-fi classic.
‘He’s perfected it,’ Jack says describing the Ukrainian’s approach to the sport.
When asked to describe his own style Jack’s answer is simple: ‘Relentless’.
Where Jack’s relentlessness and winning mentality come from is debatable but you can be certain the fact he has three brothers that also box plays some part in it.
James (15), Paddy (12) and Con (10) all train at Bantry Boxing Club alongside Jack and as he says himself they all share the same attributes.
Their father Andrew (of Desmond Conservatories) is also a key part of the team at the club, fulfilling the role of assistant trainer to Andy Keirns.
‘I love it. I was always interested in the training side of it and I love spending time with them [his sons],’ Andrew notes.
Unsurprisingly for a lad his age, Jack isn’t really in the business of making long-term goals but he does admit that a career in boxing would be of interest to him if things keep going the way are.
‘If I could become a millionaire out of boxing that would be the dream,’ Jack says laughing, citing the path taken by Irish Olympian Michael Conlan from Belfast as the route he’d ultimately like to follow.
Conlan famously gave two middle fingers to the judges after a decision went against him at the Rio Olympics in 2016, making him a household name.
For now though the focus is getting back to full fitness.
Unfortunately for Jack a broken thumb has slowed his post-Irish title momentum and also put paid to a trip to Italy which would have seen him take on the best their amateur scene has to offer.
A mooted international event that was due to be held in West Cork against a German selection has also been placed on the back burner for now as he focuses on recuperation.
‘Like a wasp,’ is how one former opponent described Jack though, and with his relentless, winning mindset it won’t be long before we see him back under the lights.