Sam Hickey doesn’t really do holidays, but the talented Dundee boxer always has a suitcase packed knowing the next fight could see his career take off.
Hickey begrudgingly took a well-earned rest last week, catching up with friends back home after a gruelling schedule at the Belgrade Winners’ Tournament.
The 21-year-old fought five times in as many days, narrowly losing out to Russia’s Nikita Voronov in the final to pick up a silver medal.
It was tough both physically and mentally for the young Lochee ABC fighter as he readied himself to face blow after blow, day after day.
‘It was one of those where you could’ve flipped a coin and chose who won’
“Every day you’re preparing yourself for somebody to put their fist through your face,” Hickey said.
“It takes a lot out of you, so when you get to the fifth day it is tough.
“Physically, on your legs, but in your mind as well.”
The Team Scotland amateur, who fights in the middleweight division, was disappointed he didn’t quite have enough in the tank to win as Voronov took the bout on points.
However, looking back at the clash, he feels the experience will stand him in good stead.
“I’m buzzing with it now but at the time I wasn’t,” Hickey continued.
“I was a bit p***** off and disappointed with it because, obviously, you want to win the final.
“It was a close fight, it really could’ve gone either way.
“Looking back and reflecting on it, I had some wins against good boys so it was nice to be fighting at that level.
“He (Voronov) got two byes in the tournament though and I boxed five times in five days. He only had three bouts the whole tournament.
“He had three rest days before the final so when my legs were a bit heavy and I had a slow start he came into it.
“I thought I won the second and took the last round, knocked it out the park, but I think it was maybe just too close in the second and the judges nicked it to him.
“It was one of those where you could’ve flipped a coin and chose who won.”
Birmingham is Sam’s next big target after Bahamas Games experience
Striving for a place in Team Scotland’s 2022 Commonwealth Games squad, Hickey was happy to pick up a haul of points in Serbia that should go a long way to helping achieve that aim.
He added: “I racked up a fair amount of points just in that tournament alone and I’ve still got about three more competitions to go.
“It’s going to be a busy year but it’s good to have a fair few points under my belt.
“I’ve got the European U/22s in Italy next month and Team Scotland are wanting to do a training camp before it somewhere, maybe Russia or France.
“It’s going to be a good build-up for that.”
That the Games will be held in Birmingham next July suits the bold Dundonian down to the ground.
Hickey means business when he prepares for bouts – and home fights signal no danger of falling into the tourist trap.
For all he was successful at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas – picking up a bronze – and just missed out on the Gold Coast in 2018, Hickey doesn’t treat competitions as paid-for holidays.
He quipped: “I get about a fair bit and have been to quite a few countries now. I’m well-travelled – I’m living out of suitcases here!
“I was too young to go to the Gold Coast because I was still a youth boxer.
“I went to the Youth Games in the Bahamas in 2017, though, so I’ve experience of that Commonwealth Games aspect.
“It’s good for me that it’s Birmingham because it’s probably as close as we can get to a home Games.
“When you go to the Bahamas or Australia or something like that, your mind-frame changes a wee bit.
“When you go to Birmingham you’re there to do a job not for a holiday.
“I’ll be in a good mind-set for it and everybody can come down and support.”
‘If I was as good at football as I am boxing I’d be playing for Man City!’
One of Hickey’s biggest ambitions is to box in a big football stadium.
Though he is not a huge fan of the beautiful game, while revealing how he fell in love with the sweet science, Hickey proves the two sports can go hand in hand in communities like Lochee.
“I used to play football but I wasn’t very good at it,” he laughed.
“I thought I was good at it. If I was as good at football as I am boxing I’d be playing for Man City!
“I just played wherever they put me. Usually warming the bench up with the boys!
“I played for Celtic Boys – it was a good laugh.
“I used to support Celtic when I was younger but football is not really for me. I wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard fan.
“My dad’s an Aberdeen fan so he’d never take me to Celtic games so I ended up just falling out with it. I’m not pure big on it.”
Kicking a ball wasn’t for him but dad Darren quickly spotted Hickey’s talent for punching and got him involved at some local clubs.
Meeting the late “Iron” Mike Towell at St Francis Boxing Club was inspirational for Hickey before he started soaring with Lochee.
He continued: “I stay on the Perth Road but I’m associated with a lot of people from Lochee and have boxed for Lochee Boys since I was 10 years old.
“My dad used to do a bit of boxing and I remember I used to always punch his hands when I was a bit younger.
“He ended up just taking me up to the boxing gym. It was St Francis at first but then I moved to Lochee.
“Mike Towell and I went to Lochee at the same time. We used to train with each other at St Francis.
“I had my first fight at 11 and I’ve just been going ever since.
“Mike was a big influence on me. We trained really closely together when I was younger before he passed.
“He and I were very close.
“All the coaches at Lochee are good for me as well. They put a lot of time into me so it’s good to get the name of the club out there when I’m doing well.
“Jerry Howett, Andy Howett, John Reilly and Scott Cunningham as well.”
Professional ranks beckoning?
What lies over the horizon for Hickey? All that’s for certain is it’ll involve enduring some pain.
There are still a few goals to hit at the amateur level. However, he knows his next fight could just be the first on a quick ascent to success.
Do the professional ranks beckon for Hickey, one of Dundee’s most promising boxers in many a year?
He’s not sure yet but what is clear is, so long as making it to the top remains possible, it’ll be a case of fight and flight, not fight or flight, for Hickey.
“I want to try to push to get on Team GB before I think about going pro,” the ambitious youngster said.
“After the Commonwealth Games I want to see what it’s like for the next Olympic cycle and try to push for that.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen. I could go to the Commonwealth Games, bring back a gold medal and turn pro or I could wait.
“Boxing has a lot of different options but I want to get as much done in the amateurs as I can before I go pro.
“I want to get a better deal and get my name out there a bit more.”