Head coaches of boxing clubs from across the north of Scotland spoke to us about the impact Josh Taylor becoming undisputed world champion could have for the grassroots fight scene.
One thing becomes clear after speaking to head coaches from across some of the north’s boxing clubs: Josh Taylor is already an inspiration.
The Scotsman will become the first British boxer to be crowned undisputed world champion in the four-belt era if he defeats Jose Carlos Ramirez in Las Vegas this weekend.
To put that into a global context, only four men have ever accomplished that feat before.
But the double Commonwealth Games medallist and 2012 Olympian’s meteoric rise is already motivating local boxers across the north and north-east just by securing himself the chance to make history to begin with.
Someone to identify with
That boxing in Scotland is a fairly close-knit community despite considerable geographical obstacles speaks volumes for the commitment of the boxers, the coaches, the treasurers and the officials alike.
It is, then, natural that when one of the community succeeds, there’s a feeling that all of Scottish boxing is succeeding.
Seeing someone who routinely traversed the same gyms, used the same buses and sometimes learned from the same coaches as them can put a spring in a young boxer’s step.
A late starter, Taylor put in the hard graft as a mid-teen going to competitions around the country and sometimes taking on familiar northern faces such as Darren Traynor and Andrew Smart.
As Jamie Cain, head coach of Sheddocksley Boxing Club in Aberdeen, pointed out: “A lot of the young boxers in Scotland will have actually been at shows or boxed on shows when Josh has been there.
“So to go from that to seeing him on the big screens, going through the pro ranks and reaching the top, it just shows them that it can be done.”
Likewise, Elgin BC head coach Paul ‘Ratch’ Gordon reckons Taylor’s “achievements as an amateur have never truly been appreciated” while Caithness BC founder and head coach Liall Mackenzie recalls the impact of even just sharing a gym with Taylor’s old amateur coach Terry McCormack.
“At the novice championships I was warming up one of our registered boxers, just doing pads with him and things, and Taylor’s amateur coach from Lochend BC was there,” said Mackenzie.
“Taylor had been on the TV just the weekend before so I said to our boys ‘there’s Taylor’s amateur coach watching’.
“His coach came over and talked to our boy and asked him what age he was. He replied 14 or 15 and Taylor’s coach said ‘that’s what age Josh was when he started, he started just like you’.
“That brought it home to our boxer, who could think ‘well he (Taylor) started from the same place as me and now look where he is’.
“Josh just makes it seem achievable for them.”
Pandemic recovery boost
That said, most of the coaches we spoke to agree that a Scot securing a victory of this magnitude would also increase boxing’s popularity at grassroots level as local sports clubs across the country get back on their feet after the pandemic.
Granite City BC head coach David McAllister coached Taylor on multiple occasions with the Scottish national squad.
He said: “The pandemic has hit boxing hard, just as it has other sports. But when Josh gets the win it will be massive — it will be up there with the biggest sporting achievements ever in Scotland.
“I expect the messages from young boys and girls wanting to join the gym to increase massively.”
McAllister, who is also a pro boxing manager at the Northern Sporting Club, added: “But as well as newcomers it could maybe be the catalyst for bringing some of the kids who have maybe lost interest during the pandemic back to training.
“As with every other boxing club — and sport in general — it just seems that kids would rather play on their gaming consoles than join a gym.”
As well as newcomers it could maybe be the catalyst for bringing some of the kids who have lost interest during the pandemic back to training.”
David McAllister (Granite City BC)
Sheddocksley’s Cain added: “Most of the clubs have been laid off for the same amount of time so to get back will have everyone just licking their lips.
“But you want to get as many people in and around the sport as possible, to grow the sport as much as we can.
“And I think certainly if Taylor goes on and wins this weekend to clear up the division it would really generate a lot of interest.
“I’d hope a lot of kids would then want to take up boxing. It’s the perfect time.”
‘It’s like tennis clubs when Wimbledon is on’
But there’s more to joining a boxing club than simply wanting to emulate what you see on TV. It’s not for everyone.
As Elgin head coach Gordon pointed out, the key is keeping any new-starts committed.
He said: “The more exposure a sport gets in the mainstream media the better it is for that sport.
“From a grassroots perspective, when there’s a big fight like this we do get an influx of messages and it’s great that this happens. It’s like tennis clubs when Wimbledon is on.
“But how many continue (once they start) is another matter. Once they see what it’s like and what it takes to even step into a ring for the first time, that’s another matter.”
How do you encourage that? Well, it helps that even the coaches seem thoroughly enthused by the prospect of a first Scottish undisputed world champion since Ken Buchanan.
As McAllister put it: “Who knows? One of ours could maybe find out that they have the talent to go on and become the next Josh Taylor, flying the flag for their country and becoming an idol for the next generation of kids.”
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- Scotland’s Josh Taylor on the brink of boxing immortality
- What’s it like to fight Josh Taylor? Elgin boxer Andrew Smart gives us the lowdown
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- Former world champion Lee Selby steps in to help Lochaber Phoenix club rise again after Covid