SOME boxers don’t manage 20 professional fights in a career spanning many years. Seamus Devlin – “The Celtic Cobra” – has already got that many bouts under his belt after making his debut as recently as July 2021. It seems an even bigger achievement when one considers Devlin’s rocky road into the professional ring. He started boxing late, at 27 years old. Drug addiction, anxiety attacks and an attempted suicide were the milestones – and triggers – that made him an unlikely athlete.
Devlin is a journeyman, more respectfully known as a road warrior. Travelling the country, testing up-and-coming prospects in tough fights, Devlin is not expected to win and has only done so once. Remarkably, however, he’s gone the distance in every one of his appearances.
“I was the most active journeyman in the UK in 2021. That was official,” said Devin, who hails from Padiham, Lancashire. “I did 17 fights in, I think, 19 weeks.
“I’ve learnt a lot about myself, physically and psychologically,” he said. “I am a sponge. That’s the best analogy. When the lads are sparring, I’m watching. I had no amateur experience and you can’t cheat the evolution of a fighter, you know? I got into it at 27, I’d never laced up gloves before so I’m humbled to be mixing in such company.”
The results have paid dividends and he’s quickly being recognised as one of the most reliable away fighters on the circuit, with bookings lining up across the UK over the coming weeks.
Devlin wants more victories and, ultimately, to fight over 100 times. “I want to be a centurion,” he told Boxing News. “I want to join the likes of Peter Buckley, Jamie Quinn and William Warburton. I think I was one of the only journeymen who didn’t get stopped last year, so I’m off to a good start. Peter Buckley [who had 300 fights in a 19-year career] actually messaged me and said if you carry on you’ll beat my record, which was 29 in a year.
“I want to win more rounds, I want to get results, I want to show them that offensively I’ve got a bit more fire in my belly. I played the journeyman game to a tee last year, but this year I’m fighting on a bit more pride, rather than self-preservation.”
While Devlin has mastered self-preservation in the ring, he’s not always excelled on that front in his personal life.
“My drug addiction started with me taking cocaine on the weekends, with a few friends,” he said. “Then suddenly I was getting larger amounts and then I’d start going back to my house on my own and doing it. It was obvious then there was a problem. You can see yourself spiralling, that’s what’s scary about addiction. You know, but you just can’t seem to get out of it.
“One fateful night in May or June of 2015, I was well and truly spiralling out of control. I’d bought a very large amount of cocaine and I went back to my house and I consumed the whole amount. At this point I had no one left, no family left around me, I pushed everyone away, it was my own doing. I had no one left.
“I was sitting in my house and I had these tablets, a bottle of vodka and half a bottle of red wine. I’d taken a considerable amount of coke and my heart was beating out my chest, my nose was bleeding. I had this white towel that was covered in blood, I was shaking, I was in bits and I thought ‘Right, I’m done’. So I had the tablets, I drank the vodka and I drank the wine. But that didn’t shift me, did it? Lucky for me. So I woke up about three o’clock in the afternoon, face down in a massive pile of puke and bile. I had a throbbing head. My throat was all blistered and sore. I was just absolutely in bits but I remember having a dream. I was talking to my old man – he died 11 years ago from cancer – and it’s like I had a full conversation with him. It was so vivid. I remember going upstairs and I just cried.
“I let it all out and I looked at myself in the mirror. I stripped myself down, like a phoenix, you have to burn in those ashes and be reborn. There were tears. It was a big moment and I realised then that I had to sort my shit out.”
Devlin’s epiphany was just the start of a long journey. Shortly after his suicide attempt he was evicted from his house and was homeless for a period before a friend took him in. A short bare-knuckle boxing career– which began because he had “nothing to lose” – was the start of his relationship with boxing. It saw him make his debut fighting between hay bales at a secret location.
Segueing into unlicensed gloved boxing and winning two titles, Seamus eventually met his now mentor, Curtis Gargano – formerly known as ‘the Entertainer’ during his own stint as a journeyman, during which he racked up a 0-51-1 record.
Since the end of his winless career, Gargano has become a manager and trainer, working primarily with journeymen. Now he has a stable of prolific and well-respected away fighters who regularly appear up and down the UK.
“I first saw Curtis training the lads in his back garden, training wherever they could and I thought ‘this guy has got a love for it’. I dropped him a message – not 100 per cent thinking ‘this is me going for it’ you know? – but he said come down and we’ll see what you’ve got. I went down and the rest is history. Me and Curtis hit it off. I told him I’d give him 110 per cent, he told me he’d give me 110 per cent and he hasn’t steered me wrong since.
“Good things are coming to Curtis because he cares about journeymen. It’s an unrivalled energy that he puts in.”
Even now, Devlin can’t believe how far he’s come.
“At my lowest point during lockdown, when the lockdown shows were on, Paul Kean was on BT Sport fighting Hamza Sheeraz and I watched that. Less than 16 months later, I was stood in the ring with him and it was so surreal. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’m here. This is real!’
“I’d been studying and watching this guy at my lowest point and then to be sharing the ring with this guy, it was amazing.”
“Paul Kean was just horrible. I couldn’t lay a paw on him. So awkward, fast and accurate, but sharing the ring with people like that, it’s invaluable. You could see his quality instantly but I got through without a scratch on me. It’s an absolute blessing. Some would say God’s looking over me, some would say I’m quite skilful. A bit of both I’d like to think. I want results this year, draws and wins!”
You couldn’t say that Seamus Devlin has had a meteoric rise – no journeyman does. But he’s often been described as ‘unstoppable’ and his storied history of addiction and attempted suicide lends truth to an old cliché he’s keen to repeat: “Boxing saved my life.”