Tyler McCreary has a polite confidence that has him keen to face next opponent Carl Frampton, as Danny Flexen discovers
They say fortune favours the bold. Well, whoever ‘they’ are, there are few better embodiments of that assertion than likeable Toledo, Ohio fighter, Tyler McCreary. From seizing his opportunity, through boxing, to turn around a previously wayward youth, to far more recently embracing the chance to fight former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton on November 30 in Las Vegas, the hitherto little-known 26-year-old is not brash or cocky, but in possession of a quiet self-belief that precludes him from waiting around for prosperity to find him.
“I was training,” McCreary tells me, having just in fact finished his session for today. “Getting ready to fight an eight-rounder with an undefeated prospect on the October 26 Shakur Stevenson undercard. My coach got a call that Frampton was looking for an opponent; his other opponent didn’t get approved. I jumped at it, I told them I wanted it. When I first started as a pro he was one of the top guys, so I always wanted that fight. It was something I dreamt of as young guy in the sport, but he hadn’t been on my radar just recently.
“When I win this fight – and it is when – I want a title shot or an even bigger fight than this. He could have got an easier opponent so I respect Carl Frampton for taking this fight, but I plan on being the one to send him into retirement.”
Frampton, even coming off a defeat to Josh Warrington and a long period of injury-enforced inactivity, still presents a formidable challenge to a 16-0-1 (7) contender who has yet to mix anywhere near the Belfast man’s level. McCreary and his trainer, Lamar Wright, however, have a confidence instilled at least in part by the way in which the fighter has already left behind a perilous adolescence that could easily have seen him spending most of his prime years in prison.
“I grew up in a rough city,” Tyler reflects. “I was poor, less fortunate and I had no guidance. My father was not around, my mother was on drugs and there was nobody to look after me. I just did what I wanted to do and that got me into a lot of trouble as a kid. It got real bad, I did jail time a few times. One time I remember I had just fought a tournament and won and I was in the newspaper, and the judge had the newspaper; he’d seen I was a bad kid but also somehow saw I was really a good kid. Boxing saved me in that way, it gave me a lot of chances. Judges would give me a week off my sentence or keep me out of jail or something.”
A chance encounter with Wright at an amateur tournament, described in detail by the coach in our interview last week, led McCreary to his busy gym and, while the temptations of street life remained, Tyler never looked back, finding in boxing the discipline and, perhaps more importantly, the significant amount of time he had to spend on training, that kept him away from mischief.
“I was a troubled kid, I liked to talk a lot of stuff and Lamar had caught my ear when I was fighting his guy,” McCreary remembers. “His fighter was talking smack, so I did too, but that’s kinda what I do, I like to try to humiliate opponents. What I did not know was that the kid was active and I wanted to stay active. My team didn’t really fight a lot or go places, they had a lot of kids, travelled a lot and that attracted me. Lamar deserves a lot of credit, he believed in me before I believed in myself.”
Tyler and I were speaking just three days after the Regis Prograis vs Josh Taylor epic and news had recently broke regarding the surprising call-out of the victorious Scot by Gervonta Davis, until recently a fixture at super-feather, the division in which McCreary will face Frampton, albeit at a 128lb catchweight. It transpired that McCreary had picked Taylor to go all the way in the World Boxing Super Series, but he raised my eyebrows by the certainty with which he espoused the view “Tank” had Taylor’s number.
“I knew Taylor against Ryan Martin – who’s one of my good friends – was 50-50 and that he’d beat Regis Prograis. Taylor has got skills and he’s real strong. I don’t blame ‘Tank’, he’s a helluva fighter who doesn’t get the respect he deserves. I think it would be a good fight. People don’t see that ‘Tank’ can box. Just because he’s short and powerful don’t mean he can’t box; I’d definitely go with Gervonta in that fight.
“I knew Taylor would beat Prograis though, just like I know I’m going to beat Framption. I’m not taking anything away from him, he got to where I want to get to and he’s still a dangerous and tough opponent. I don’t care about his age, but one of the things I did take into consideration was his inactivity. I had a long layoff as well, but got back into action recently. His main strength is his ring IQ, he’s smart, but I think he’s not sure he wants to go up to 130; that’s why he wanted a catchweight. The power and size are a lot different, so he’s trying to get a taste. The heaviest I fought at was 135lbs before, but I think Frampton is a small guy and should stay at 126.”
McCreary’s conviction is compelling, more so as it is expressed with undeniable respect. He is a huge underdog but could be catching Frampton at just the right time. And if he isn’t, perhaps tenacious Tyler McCreary will simply make it the right time.