MENTAL health experts would probably give it a fancy title like expressive group therapy. For Calvin McCord, however, it is just old-fashioned mickey-taking.

In trying to keep their spirits up as they await news of their next fight after a year of inaction, the boxers who train out of Sam Mullen’s Doon Valley Fitness Gym in Dalmellington – when it’s permitted to open – have been grateful for each other’s company.

That support and solidarity comes in many different forms, from sparring to helping with weight sessions. More often than not, though, the best way to raise morale among a close group is self-deprecating humour and a willingness to dish out – and receive – a good-natured slagging.

“It’s been tough over the last year or so,” admits McCord. “I don’t mind being in the gym so that side of things is fine. But doing it all with no fights at the end of things can be murder.

“That side of it is soul-destroying. But you just have to stick at it so you’re ready for when the next one comes around.

“I went down to Manchester to spar with Terry Flanagan which was class, and was meant to be going to Belfast to spar with James Tennyson, the British champion, and then lockdown came and we couldn’t travel.

“Mostly I’ve just seen the boys in my own gym so we just drive each other on. There will be other fighters who will be thinking of chucking it completely after not competing for so long. It’s tough on your mental health when you’re not earning and seeing fights cancelled.

“But in our gym we’ve all tried to help each other – mostly just by slagging each other! That’s honestly the best way, just slaughtering each other constantly.

“There’s me, Neil McCubbin, Arran McGarvie, Chris Wood, and Jay McFarlane was down for a while too. We just like to wind each other up because bouncing off each other is what helps keep you going when it’s tough.”

McCord, a spark to trade, hasn’t fought since September 2019, with a planned comeback at Turnberry in March called off just days before he was set to step into the ring.

There have been one or two other opportunities in the 10 months since then but not one that would have been suitable.

Like most other boxers in the country, then, the Scottish lightweight champion is keeping his fingers crossed that the rollout of the vaccine will finally make it safe and viable to get back to doing what he loves best.

“I was meant to be fighting on the Saturday at the start of the pandemic and it got cancelled on the Wednesday,” he adds. “I had sold a fortune in tickets so had to go and hand all that back. That was torture.

“I then got offered a fight out in Belarus against a Russian guy for a WBC world youth lightweight title. But I was only given three weeks’ notice so it wasn’t enough time to get ready for it.

“If it had been six or seven weeks then I would have taken it. But 18 days for cutting weight plus the travel wasn’t long enough to prepare.”

There has been some good news, however, with undefeated McCord (8-0) one of three Scottish boxers to have been signed up by veteran promoter Dennis Hobson with a view to advancing his prospects of title fights on bigger and better shows.

Fighting in his native Ayr is another goal the 24 year-old hopes that Hobson can help bring about.

“I’m really buzzing with this,” said the Kynoch Boxing fighter. “Talks had been going on for a while and then I signed the contract in the middle of December. It was supposed to be getting announced around Christmas but was delayed for some reason. But I’m happy the news is out there now.

“We’re going to get a bit of TV coverage which will hopefully get my name out there a bit more. And it should help get me bigger and better fights. Dennis knows what he's doing and has plenty of experience so it’s going to be good.

“There’s talk about putting on four shows a year in Scotland on top of some down in England so there should be plenty of opportunities to get out regularly.

“I sell a lot of tickets around Ayrshire and I’m lucky to have that support. I’m hoping they will put a show on in Ayr itself one day as I know it would sell out pretty quickly.

“I’m hoping to get back out again in April or May and that thought is helping keep me going.”