BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
GARY CORNISH is still on cloud nine following the happiest day of his life.
However, it is not long ago that he simply felt lucky to be alive.
The 30-year-old married partner Lauren in July before embarking on a memorable honeymoon in Mexico, with the celebration afforded even more poignancy due to the truly staggering build-up to the big day.
The pair were involved in a horrific car crash on a stretch of the A9 near Blair Atholl just a week before they were due to tie the knot.
Cornish candidly admits that the emergency services that rushed onto the scene were steeling themselves for fatalities.
Instead, 48 hours in Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital was as bad as it got – and Cornish knows how lucky he is.
With a renewed sense of appreciation and determination, he has vowed to grasp life with both hands, starting with the opportunity to become Scotland’s first ever British heavyweight champion when he fights Sam Sexton in Edinburgh on October 6.
He recalled: “It’s funny, me and my missus were joking a while before the wedding – she nearly fell over and I said ‘you better watch yourself, I’m not taking you down the aisle in a wheelchair’.
“We could have both ended up in one after the crash. We know how fortunate we are.
“We were involved in a car crash the week before the wedding and we were very, very lucky. We both walked away with just minor injuries and obviously someone was looking down on us that day. It’s put a new perspective on life for us.
“I didn’t think about these things before, but now we know that we need to take chances and make the most of our lives because they could be over in a click of your fingers. You need to grasp every opportunity you can – and I’m going to do that on the sixth of October.
“I had fights pencilled in and I couldn’t compete, as my hand was injured, so you are obviously worried about how you will recover and what the lasting impact could be. But I went away and trained hard and I feel stronger than ever.”
Cornish’s bout with Sexton is shot at making history that has been a long-time coming.
He was originally due to face the Englishman in May, only for the fight to be cancelled at short notice. Then there was, of course, a hectic – to say the least – summer.
Now, the former Brora Rangers footballer is ready to make up for lost time, and believes he will enjoy the perfect preparation as he enters camp with renowned trainer Billy Nelson, who helped Ricky Burns ascend to the top of the sport.
Cornish went full-time at the end of last year, quitting his job as a joiner, and believes that – even with a record of 24-1 – the improvement in his physique and technique will be tangible as he is able to commit his life to boxing.
The 6ft7ins bruiser continued: “I had faults when I came down and Billy is someone with experience working with top fighters so he is the perfect person to see those faults and I’ve been working hard to correct them.
“Going full-time, I’ve been able to just focus on my boxing and everything has changed about me, I’m training during the day, I’m getting rest, my nutrition is bang-on. It’s is a totally different me.
“It’s an exciting time. I had a meeting with my family and we decided this was the right time to go. We did well in Inverness with what we had. My two coaches up there were amazing but sparring was a massive thing that we were missing up there.
“In my first 22 fights, I think I only had around 10 spars. Now I have that on tap with guys like [Stephen] Simmons.
“It was always difficult to juggle work and fighting in Inverness, you were always tired and I need to say a big thanks to my wife for putting up with me! I was pretty grumpy most of the time, but she looked after me and made meals and always kept my spirits up.”
A lavish reward for those sacrifices could come at Edinburgh’s Meadowbank in October as he co-headlines MTK Scotland’s Capital Collision event, with sparring partner Stephen Simmons also fighting Matt Askin for the British cruiserweight title.
Simmons said: “I’ve been working towards this for 21 years, the aspiration is always to win a title. Is this career-defining? 100 per cent.
“To be the first Scotsman to win the cruiserweight British title, would mean making history and leave a legacy.
“Once I’ve done that, perhaps look at moving on to the Commonwealth or World title scene. I’m sure my team would be behind me and have the same mindset.
“I’ve only got a couple of years left in me – I’m getting bored with it now! But I’m in beast mode for the next couple of years.”