AS THE semi-finals of the boxing tournament at Glasgow 2014 arrive today at the Hydro, Team Scotland has four boxers in contention for at least a silver medal, having already won bronze.
Charlie Flynn, Reece McFadden, Stephen Lavelle and Josh Taylor have all done their nation proud by getting this far and national boxing coach Mike Keane could be forgiven for thinking job done, even though he wants them to go on and win gold.
Keane explained: “Sportscotland set a target about 18 months to two years ago of three to four medals, and we have achieved that now. It didn’t matter what colour, as long as we achieved that. That was on the back of our success at Delhi where we got the three medals – gold, silver and bronze. We’re ahead of the game, and we have done what we came for.
“The personal performances by the boys have been absolutely fantastic, and the crowd appreciate that as well. The fitness levels are where we want them to be and, obviously, from the coaching side of things, that’s what we wanted to see. We’ve had boys beaten but they have done their personal best. Like Aqeel Ahmed, he shouldn’t be in with world No 3 [Devendro Laishram of India], and we thought he won the first round and the last round was close.”
But the scorecards said Ahmed was defeated on Wednesday, as was Joe Ham, and that leaves the quartet to face difficult opponents in the semis.
Delhi 2010 silver medallist Josh Taylor, from East Lothian, probably has Scotland’s best chance of gold, but he must beat the dangerous Sam Maxwell of England.
Keane said: “I thought Josh’s performance in the quarter-final was one of his best displays of boxing skills and I have known him since he was 14 or 15 years old. With Josh, it is getting the balance right between training and resting.
“Josh just loves to train and is asking us why we are not doing things. He is awful for overtraining, but it looks like he has got it spot on. If Josh boxes the way he did on Tuesday, we are confident he can come away with the win.”
Taylor might be the best hope, but nothing can be predicted about flyweight Reece McFadden, the most exciting young amateur Scotland has produced in years and already the conqueror of World No 1 Andrew Selby of Wales and world-ranked Charlie Edwards of England and Oteng Oteng of Botswana. Now he faces another world-ranked boxer in the shape of Andrew Moloney of Australia, but at least he knows Moloney of old.
Keane explained: “Reece did a lot of sparring with Moloney in Australia, but had a small cut before he left Scotland and it caused a problem, so we scrapped the opportunity for a full bout.
“His sparring was rusty because of the cut. He had been out a while and they might have a false sense of security because he didn’t spar that well. We came back here and did a lot of sparring in Bridgeton with different opponents – southpaw, orthodox, etc – and he has come on a dream since then.
“It will certainly be a different Reece McFadden from the last time he sparred with Moloney.
“There is not an awful lot you can tell Reece, mind you. He switches from orthodox to southpaw, comes in high and low, and has the package. He is a wee showman and he loves that crowd. He is a rascal and we have to keep an eye on him, but he is fantastic for the sport as he sets the place alight. Everyone is talking about him and that is what we need.”
Charlie Flynn at lightweight has a tough task against the much higher ranked Joseph Cordina of Wales who has only lost one of nine rounds on the way to the semi – but then Flynn has lost none of his six rounds. “Charlie boxes at his own pace and doesn’t do more than he has to,” said Keane. “He has more to offer. He will have to close down Cordina, who has fast hands and is a master with his feet.
“Charlie will be looking to cut the ring off, close him down and do a lot of work inside – close to mid-range. Cordina is a good puncher, but Charlie is probably our most solid puncher and he is a very strong boy for 60kg.” Stephen Lavelle is really up against it when he faces New Zealander David Light at heavyweight, not least because of the cut that has opened up in both fights so far. His participation will depend on the doctor’s approval.
Keane said: “You get the medical the morning of the fight, so he will have that, but I am just about 100 per cent sure he will pass it. We have our own doctor, who has stitched the wound on the inside and glued it on the outside, and I think it will be fine.
“We have seen a very tough Stephen Lavelle who has produced a personal best in terms of performance here. He has a tough opponent and he will probably have to adapt against a very powerful puncher.”
Even a single gold would be magnificent, not least because the Scots are battling against financial odds.
Keane said: “The way the boys are performing, in all honesty you cannot say that any of them couldn’t lift the gold. They are upsetting all odds. [Some of their opponents] have been massively funded, they are full-time, they have background support staff you would dream of. We are doing our best with our boys and, to be fair to sportscotland, our funding is reasonable but we still need more.”
Success is the sure way to guarantee future funding. Sometimes all that glisters really is gold and a medal of that colour would be very useful come Saturday night.