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You hear it all the time, from athletes and their trainers alike, that boxing is not simply a hobby, their favourite sport, a chosen career path, but a complete and utter obsession.
Finding your passion for a particular sport at a young age is a blessing, excelling in the sport where your passion lies shows your character. A lot of fighters are born into a fighting family, and their passion for boxing arises from their upbringing. For others, they find the sport by accident, and the passion starts with them. The journey for Chongtham started entirely by accident when he was just a young boy.
“I started boxing at 5 years old at a boxing club in Manipur. I just followed my brothers down there and fell in love with the sport at a very early age. My cousins were boxing as well, and then my Dad started coaching in the club when we got a bit older. My Dad has been my coach since I was a kid.”
The teachings of ‘the sweet science’ are not simply how to fight, they are invaluable life skills for young men and women – discipline, dedication, respect – joining a boxing gym is one matter, building a career and experiencing the high and lows of the world of boxing, is another. From walking into the gym for the first time at a very young age, Chongtham developed all those skills and, with a clear and obvious boxing talent, had an extensive and successful amateur career.
“It was always something to do, three nights a week. We used to go training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I started getting good then when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I had my first fight at 9, then I had a lot of amateur fights.”
Pinpointing a highlight of her journey through the unpaid ranks, which included a remarkable 83 wins, must be a task, however, a standout moment for Chongtham was a moment that he had dreamed about since the very beginning of his fighting life. As the only one in her generation of the family who still boxes, this special moment was one that she was able to share with them, and the rest of her close family whose support she has received in abundance over the years.
“I think the biggest moment for me was winning my first medal – since I was a kid, that’s been one of my dreams. It was just so nice to have everyone involved in it.”
After making the decision to turn over to the ranks, Chongtham was picked up by one of the best promotional companies in the boxing business in Top Rank.
“We see each other every day, it’s a great stable to be involved in. We’re all pushing each other hard every day. There are no egos in that gym, it’s all just hard work as soon as you go in. It’s a great atmosphere to be around, we’re all on the same mission, and that is to be a world champion. It is really good for me to be training around these sorts of people.
“AJ sees us coming up and he’s been in our shoes before. He gives bits of advice, same for the other two lads. It’s good, everyone pushes each other on, in sparring and that kind of stuff, they’ll cheer you on and say, “try this, try that” and that makes it a great environment to be around.”
You hear and read a lot about the relationship between boxer and trainer. The world’s greatest ever boxing champion may well be trained by the world’s greatest ever boxing trainer, however, if the connection between them is not evident, causing the communication between them to break down, they are very unlikely to bring out the best in one another. Angel Fernandez, who is best known for having recently been promoted to Anthony Joshua’s head trainer ahead of his rematch with Usyk, stood out among many trainers for Molloy, as understanding him and his style of fighting the best.
“He [Fernandez] is very passionate about what he does. I tried a lot of coaches, and, as I have been coached by my Dad since I was a kid, for me it was about looking for something that had that father figure there as well, and, with Angel, I got that. Angel understands me very well. He knows my boxing style; he’s not trying to change it too much. I am learning everyday with him which is the main thing.
“Angel has got specific training plans for us all. Even after my debut, we sat down and talked about what I have to improve on for my next fight. That’s what we’re doing at the moment. Its always about learning and progressing, every day we want to be better. Training is going really good, I am really looking forward to my next fight.”
On his debut, Molloy displayed the same explosive power he had in his amateur days. Keen to impress on the big stage, with a brand-new team, a brand-new crowd, with an entirely new fight week environment, Galway’s star guy wiped his opponent out by TKO – proving his quick adaptation to the professional game. Not many fighters can say that they performed on the undercard of an undisputed world championship bout, even less can say that they did that on their debut.
“In the amateurs, you fight 3×3 minute rounds, it’s quite fast, it’s a fast explosive pace. Although I did, on my debut, show fast and explosive pace, in sparring it’s about slowing down, using feints, head movements, and not always trying to knock your opponent out. It is a lot different, being a professional, it’s a lot slower, a lot more controlled. There are a lot of other things that are different too, like the ring walk, the music, the crowds, TV cameras, it is a lot different, but I am enjoying it.
“I felt a small bit of pressure as a couple of hundred people came to watch from back home which cost the money in travel, hotels, and everything, but I suppose it was nice to not fight in a rush. Usually, when I am at multi-nations, I am fighting all these world-class operators, and I knew the guy I was fighting was not going to be that. That took the edge off.”
Each addition to ‘Team Molloy’ has been made carefully to ensure of the ultimate achievement – world champion status. The supportive management team, the big-time promoter, the world-class trainer and training facilities, the amateur pedigree – it all equates to the perfect ingredients to form a boxing superstar – and that is precisely what the vision is.
“I want to be a world champion in the next four years. I want to be super-welterweight world champion. I am only 23, I’ve got a good ten years in me, even a multi-weight world champion. The dream would be to fight for a world title back home.”
A smart move for any boxing fan would be to follow Molloy’s career from the very beginning and watch on as he makes his mark on the 154lb division. A journey not to be missed.