THE road to the Gold Coast begins in earnest tonight for Scottish boxers seeking to emulate the Glasgow 2014 heroics of Charlie Flynn and Josh Taylor.
The gold medal-winning performances of Flynn and Taylor were among the most memorable moments of last summer’s Commonwealth Games.
Lightweight Flynn has already turned professional, while light-welterweight Taylor is expected to follow suit no later than after next year’s Olympics in Rio.
But Scottish boxing is already looking to build on their success with ambitious plans to claim another impressive medal haul at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.
The 2015 Boxing Scotland elite finals at the Ravenscraig Sports Facility in Motherwell tonight will provide the first indications of who is likely to make the trip down under in three years.
A high-quality field includes five of the Glasgow 2014 boxing squad, including heavyweight bronze medallist Stephen Lavelle.
“I actually thought more of them would turn pro after the Games last year,” admits Boxing Scotland chairman Richard Thomas.
“Sport is about creating inspirational role models and local heroes like Charlie and Josh. It is a catalyst for growth at grassroots level, for boys and girls going into their boxing gyms.
“Also, for elite boxers who have attended training sessions with Charlie and then saw him win a gold medal, it makes it seem attainable to them.
“So success breeds success. These other boxers know that Charlie is a mere mortal, so they know they are capable of going to the next Games and achieving something similar.
“After Delhi 2010, where we won a gold, a silver and a bronze on a shoestring budget and a performance plan of just 16 weeks, it kind of went flat. There was a dip in the enthusiasm.
“Whereas, after Glasgow, we were looking around and thinking we have some really good prospects to go forward to the Gold Coast.
“Historically, I have been critical of sportscotland for a funding and investment system that no-one understood or could explain. But, in this cycle, the funding application process has been fantastic and I must give sportscotland credit for that.
“What they have done is ask each sport to set out a strategic plan for the whole cycle – what we hope to achieve in terms of membership, growth and medals.
“We have set quite an ambitious target of five or more medals for the Gold Coast, whereas a lot of the sports are saying that, after a home games, they will never reach the same heights again.
“We have actually upped our target. That’s not based on blind ambition, it’s based on sound evidence. With a better draw in Glasgow, for example, we could have won more medals that we actually did.
“We have demonstrated a return on investment. So, by giving us funding, you get massive growth in recreational boxing, growth in clubs and more medals.”
Boxing is a sport which often attracts negative publicity but Thomas hopes Glasgow 2014 helped provide a greater appreciation of the benefits it brings to both participants and their extended environments.
“Lots of people have spoken about a legacy from Glasgow 2014 and in the end it comes down to resources and being able to channel them back into the local boxing clubs,” he added.
“We have around 1,600 registered boxers in Scotland now and around 3,000 recreational boxers.
“One of the problems is around capacity. If we don’t have capacity in the clubs, then we won’t see the growth.
“I’ve said in our strategic plan that boxing can change a nation. A lot of people have said that’s a bold thing to say and even bordering on the ridiculous.
“But what I base that on is if you go to the communities where boxing clubs operate, generally in socially-deprived areas, some of the most troubled and troublesome kids are drawn into those clubs.
“If we can get a portion of those kinds who cause havoc on street corners into the boxing clubs, that will change the dynamic of their community. If we do that in communities across Scotland, it will have an impact on the nation.
“I’m not talking about changing crime figures by five per cent or anything like that, but, if you look at the relatively tiny investment which goes into boxing clubs, the return is massive for social good.
“The government have a ‘reaching higher’ strategy. I don’t really buy into the psycho-babble of it, but the strategy is basically about making the nation better through sport.
“If you look at the areas which suffer most with crime, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, it tends to be in areas which suffer deprivation.
“Boxing is a fantastic medium in helping to change that. Other sports can do it too, but boxing attracts the kind of kids which maybe wouldn’t be interested in other more mainstream sports.
“We had the big whizz-bang-pop of the Commonwealth Games. Everybody loved it, getting their photos taken with the athletes. What I’d say to the government now is they have to put money into boxing to make that sustainable.”
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