The stakes couldn’t be much higher. When Scotland’s elite boxers take to the ring for the Scottish Championships this year, the majority will do so in front of the biggest crowds of their career, without headguards and they will be judged not only by a new scoring system but by the Commonwealth Games selectors.
The biggest boxing championships of their kind staged in the UK, 170 boxers from over 100 Boxing Scotland-affiliated clubs across the nation will fight for the right to contest one of the 13 finals in front of a 5,000 strong crowd at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow on 28 March.
The preliminaries get underway at Scotstoun on 22 and 23 February but the top fighters are already looking ahead to the grand finale.
“There is a lot on the line. If I was to lose the Scottish, I would see my chances of getting to the Games go down and I don’t want that to happen,” said defending Scottish welterweight champion Connor Law. “Being at the Commonwealth Games means everything to me so if I lose my Scottish title and jeopardise my chances, it would be gutting. That shows how important the Scottish Championships are.
“We know we are going to have to work hard to get there. We will box our hearts out to get to the final and then we have to do it all over again to win it and show everybody how good we are. It is a high, high level so you have to be on your game.”
“They have put it all on the line now,” said the current British and Scottish lightweight champion, Charlie Flynn. “They have set these Scottish Championships up to basically seal the deal. It is the cream of Scottish boxing, meeting in a top spec facility, with 5,000 people watching so it’s going to be top class and there is no better way to seal it in front of the Scottish fans. The fans are going to get a chance to see their commonwealth boxers with the pressure on, with everything on the line.
“I won the Scottish last year and the British as well. That was my biggest achievement. A few years back I fought in the Youth Commonwealths and got to the final of that. I got beat in the finals. But even the Youth Commonwealths won’t be anything as big as the Scottish Championships now because of the size of the crowd and what could be at stake. At the Youth Commonwealths, there were probably about 2,000 but this is absolutely huge and there will be the lights, the smoke, the atmosphere and it’s going to be a great show. It’s going to be mind-blowing. I can’t wait for it.”
The pair agree the size of the event, the quality of boxing, the razzamatazz and the rule changes mean bouts will be as close to professional boxing as it gets without money changing hands. “We won’t do as many rounds as a pro fight,” says Law, “and we wear a vest but other than that, the boxing is the same.”
The world governing body has ruled to ditch the headguards in the men’s competition, while the scoring will be done on a round-by-round basis rather than scoring individual blows. “When you get down to it, boxing is an entertainment sport and this opens everything up,” says Flynn, who boxes out of the Glasgow Phoenix club. “You now get a lot of headbutts and elbows and you have to be conscious of all that when you are in the ring or you’re going to get cut. But it’s better for people watching because you’ve not got this big red or blue headguard in the way and you can see the shots landing and it’s better for the boxers as well because we’re not carrying that weight about on our heads.
“It’s the same with the new scoring. It’s a lot more exciting because you don’t know the score, you don’t know who is up and who’s down and you have to just go out there and win every single round. You can’t go out there, get ahead by a few points and then keep away, you need to be throwing punches all the time. Now it’s not just single clear headshots that count, it’s workrate, it’s bodyshots, headshots, general body language, the whole thing. That should be better and it shouldn’t be as boring.”
Tickets are available from Saturday at www.tickets-scotland.com or on 0141 204 5151.