When Ricky Burns created boxing history at the end of May – beating Italy’s Michele Di Rocco at The SSE Hydro to become Scotland’s first three-weight world champion – it was a timely reminder of a sport going from strength to strength since it last hit the front and back pages during Glasgow 2014, when lightweight Charlie Flynn and light-welterweight Josh Taylor captivated the country in winning Commonwealth Games gold for Scotland.
There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere at a boxing show to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and with Burns due to defend his title at the Hydro at the beginning of October – heralding the start of an exciting new season – we take a whistle-stop tour through the ages of Scottish boxing, before reflecting on the current state of the game and the blend of experienced and new promoters who are showcasing an exciting crop of fighters to look out for during the forthcoming 2016/2017 campaign and beyond.
A LOOK BACK
The achievements of Ricky Burns are the continuation of a rich heritage the fight game has in Scotland stretching back as far as 1935 when Benny Lynch became the first Scotsman to become a world champion. Lynch, born in the Gorbals in Glasgow, was welcomed by some 100,000 people at Central Station on his return from Manchester to the city after winning the title, and the 81st anniversary of that memorable day was recently celebrated by the station.
It was some 21 years later that Scotland produced its first Olympic gold medallist, Dundee’s Dick McTaggart, who triumphed at the Melbourne Games in 1956 with performances that also won him the Val Barker trophy for most stylish boxer of the Games. McTaggart – who retired with a record of 610 wins from 634 amateur bouts – went on to win a bronze medal in 1960 and subsequently received an MBE, while his landmark victory in Melbourne was followed a decade later by the emergence of Edinburgh’s Ken Buchanan.
Buchanan (pictured) turned pro in 1965 and went on to become the undisputed lightweight world champion in 1971, beating American Ruben Navarro in Los Angeles. Having been awarded an MBE, an infamous loss to the legendary Roberto Duran in 1972 did not stop Buchanan being voted the best British boxer of all time in a 1978 poll by Boxing News, before being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000.
More latterly Jim Watt took on Buchanan’s mantle by becoming a world lightweight champion on a memorable April night in 1979 at Kelvin Hall when Watt stopped Colombian Alfredo Pitalua in the 12th round, a belt Watt held until 1981. In the 1990’s it was the turn of two tough wee men, Croy’s Pat Clinton and Irvine’s Paul Weir, to win world titles. Since the turn of the century Alex Arthur and Scott Harrison have kept the flag flying on the world scene up which brings us pretty much up to date, as we turn our gaze from the past to the future.
Ricky Burns is guided by Alex Morrison, an ever-present on the Scottish boxing scene for the best part of 5 decades who along with Burns also manages the aforementioned Charlie ‘The Mailman’ Flynn and five-time Scottish amateur champion Joe Ham, both of whom making great strides since turning professional with identical records of 8 wins from 8 fights. All three fighters are next due to appear on a Matchroom Promotions show at The SSE Hydro on 7th October, with Burns topping the bill when defending his WBA super-lightweight title against 26-year-old Kiryl Relikh, an unbeaten Belarussian with a daunting record of 19 knockouts from 21 fights. Tickets are currently on sale.
The SSE Hydro is sure to be rocking on 7th October, however the night is just the tip of a boxing iceberg that has an increasing number of promoters putting on excellent live shows around the country as they nurse their stable of fighters towards what they hope to be area, national and who knows global honours.
Sam Kynoch is a recent addition to promoting ranks who has not one but two shows taking place in October, at Bellahouston Sports Centre in Glasgow on the 1st of the month and culminating in Edinburgh on the 29th with a show aptly named ‘Capital Punishment’. Having founded MGM Scotland Promotions – a joint venture with the hugely succesful MGM Marbella – last year Kynoch wasted no time wasted no time in growing an impressive stable of talented fighters and giving them plenty of exposure. Kynoch held a total of 10 regular shows is his first season, alongside a Boxing Dinner Club that has run a series of events at Crowne Plaza in Glasgow, the next one taking place on the 13th October.
It won’t be too long before MGM fighters are knocking on the door for major title honours and among those to look out for is Lewis ‘Kid Caramel’ Benson, an exciting welterweight prospect from Edinburgh who was a four-time Scottish champion as an amateur and appeared at Glasgow 2014 before turning professional, since when he has racked up 6 wins out of 6. That record could improve from six to eight wins in October as Benson is due to appear on both MGM Scotland shows. Also in action on the Glasgow show will be Stephen Tiffney, an unbeaten lightweight from Newtongrange. The 27-year-old gained invaluable experience earlier this year when chosen to spar in London with Carl Frampton, who recently became a two-weight world champion after victory over Mexican superstar Leo Santa Cruz in New York. Caldercruix’s David Brophy and cruiserweight Stephen ‘Monster’ Simmons are two more established boxers who are also on the Glasgow bill which is being shown live on TV by boxing channel BoxNation.
Another new face on the promoting scene is boxer Willie Limond who is drawing to the end of a notable career that saw him memorably floor Amir Khan in 2007, before going on to win the British light-welterweight title in 2014. Limond has not hung up the gloves for good after a recent unsuccessful bid to retain the title, however the new promotional outfit he is involved with promises to be an exciting addition to the Scottish boxing scene.
In November 2015 Limond formed Lock Stock Promotions which he runs in partnership with businessman James White. A fast growing stable of fighters includes former kick-boxing world champion Scott “Title Taker” Allan (pictured) who defends his Scottish bantamweight title on their next show in November. Also among the boxers signed up by Limond and White is former amateur star Kieran Smith, a light-middleweight southpaw from Greenrigg looking to build on a perfect professional record so far of 6 wins on the spin. Craig McIntrye an up-and-coming welterweight from Glasgow who stands 6ft tall, is another prospect to look out for.
Tickets details for the forthcoming event on 20th November at Marriott Glasgow will be released shortly (watch this space for details!), and with a number of successful shows under their belts Lock Stock Promotions are planning more small hall and dinner events during the season ahead.
A boxer for whom great things are expected, and another from the ‘Class of Glasgow 2014’ is Edinburgh’s Josh Taylor. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist has not put a foot wrong since turning professional with Cyclone Promotions, winning all six of his bouts by knockout. Taylor is learning fast under the tutelage of his manager and International Boxing Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan, and McGuigan’s son Shane who in July this year masterminded the aforementioned Carl Frampton’s stunning victory over the Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA featherweight title.
Taylor will have his first title fight against England’s Dave ‘Rocky’ Ryan at Meadowbank Arena on Friday 21 October. The Tartan Tornado has been impressing in such company as the aforementioned Carl Frampton and former world heavyweight champion David Haye and is tipped by none other than the aforementioned Ken Buchanan as a future world champion. Tickets to Taylor’s title fight are available online.
One of Scottish boxing’s busiest promoters is Paul Graham who runs Prospect Boxing. Graham had over 60 fights as an amateur, followed by 4 years as an amateur referee/coach, before officiating in nearly 600 contests over 12 years as a professional referee. With 6 years under his belt as a manager/promoter that makes a total of 34 years in the sport for Graham, who is relishing his relatively new life as a promoter and looking forward to putting on many more shows.
Prospect Boxing currently has a stable of 17 boxers with Edinburgh’s Lee Redpath among those to catch the eye and looking to make up for lost time having come to the sport relatively late. Another one to watch out for is Martin Taylor from Livingston, a crowd-pulling super-lightweight who is unbeaten in 4 fights, while Graham is also looking forward to seeing how recent signing Leon Roberts from Prestwick shapes up as a pro.
Redpath is due to fight on the MGM Scotland show at Bellahouston Sports Centre on 1st October when he will go toe-to-toe with Falkirk’s Steven ‘Buzzsaw’ Beattie, the two fighters putting their unbeaten records on the line. Later in October, on the 21st, Prospect Boxing host a dinner show at Alona Hotel Strathclyde and there are guaranteed to be boxing fireworks when they follow that up with a show on 5th November at Alloa Town Hall. For ticket enquiries and more information call 01698 338 888.
Prospect Boxing occasionally co-promote events with Chris Gilmour, son of Tommy Gilmour, and it’s Gilmour Snr who Graham credits with much of his promotional nous having had the good fortune to be mentored by one of the most recognisable faces on Scotland’s boxing scene. In the late 1980s Tommy Gilmour took over the legendary St Andrew’s Sporting Club, a private members’ club that has been part of the fabric of the Scottish boxing scene since it launched on in January 1973 when the inaugural show saw a certain Jim Watt and Ken Buchanan square off over fifteen rounds for the former’s British lightweight title.
In 2014 Gilmour Snr sold up and took over a new role as president of the club that continues to flourish under new owners Colin Bellshaw and Iain Wilson. Their next show takes place on September 29th at Glasgow’s Radisson Hotel when Dundee’s ‘Iron’ Mike Towell tops the bill against Wales’ Dale Evans in a final eliminator (i.e. whoever wins, earns the right to fight for) the British welterweight title. It’s a show that has captured the eye of STV and a partnership struck between the club and the broadcaster means the show will be screened on national television.
Add to the above Boxing Scotland – who host their annual Elite Finals in April, a great night of men’s and women’s amateur boxing – home of a new crop of talent aiming for qualification to the next Commonwealth Games taking place in 2018 at the Gold Coast in Australia, and there’s no question the sport of boxing in Scotland is in a rude state of health.
From small hall shows featuring a rising crop of talent, to huge shows at the Hydro with world champions topping the bill, there’s truly no better time to be a fight fan, or to experience a live show for the first time.
We’re looking forward to previewing shows across Scotland during the 2016/2017 season and beyond. And if you’ve never had a night out at the boxing we recommend it to sports fans as an experience that everyone should try once. And then see if you don’t get the bug! For all the latest spectator news make sure you subscribe to our weekly newsletter – and check out our Events! page where we’ll have news of boxing shows coming up in the week ahead.