Mac back on attack
Forgotten fighter Tommy keen to rebuild his career
"It's like chapter two of my career," declared Tommy McCarthy. "Rebuilding. You could even say it's chapter three. Starting again."
The last time I chatted to the Belfast cruiserweight he was enjoying an ice-cream with his daughter on a sunny day.
It was 2017 and McCarthy hadn't fought since he'd lost to Matty Askin in 2016.
He had a couple of six-round fights later that year but as he said: "It went all quiet again."
The former Irish amateur champion was so desperate he considered managing himself.
Splitting with MTK, McCarthy began receiving offers from the UK and the United States. In the end he decided to work with resilient Belfast promoter Mark Dunlop.
"It was a no-brainer," said McCarthy. "I'd seen what he did with James Tennyson and I know he can do that with me."
''It wasn't plain sailing with James," added McCarthy. "Mark was able to get him back from two losses to being a world title challenger."
On February 9, McCarthy (12-1, 6 KOs) fights at the Ulster Hall on MHD's 'A Night to Remember' show, which features Tennyson (22-3, 18 KOs) at lightweight against Portsmouth's Garry Neale (10-0). His opponent will be rugged Czech fighter Jiri Svacina.
"I told Mark I wanted to go in at the deep end," said McCarthy. "But the first couple of fights are going to be comeback fights. I need to get accustomed to fighting without headguards and having the crowd roaring again."
While he was away from competitive prizefighting, McCarthy wasn't slacking.
He gained invaluable experience as sparring partner for many top fighters ahead of title fights.
Tony Bellew, Hughie Fury, Mairis Bredis and Belbut Shumenov are just some of the names he tested in camp.
"I was training with Ensley Bingham in England for the last 18 months and it was brilliant," he said. "But, not fighting, it wasn't financially viable."
Now working with Kronk Gym coach Tony Dunlop, McCarthy has a new lease of life.
"What I'd like after this one is to have three big fights," he said. "I'd like to have a 10- rounder and then fight Luke Watkins and Isaac Chamberlain."
McCarthy sees this as preparation for a British title fight with Lawrence Okolie (10-0).
"A win against him would set me up for a big fight at the end of the year," he added. "That's my aim. But I'm putting all my trust in Mark. He knows what he's doing."
After a year of frustration, McCarthy is bristling with intent and determined to prove he's champion material.