Glasgow 2014 blast from the past: Alex Arthur
And yet, as he told a packed Hilton Hotel in Glasgow last Saturday night, the Commonwealth gold he won as an amateur in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 is the accolade he will treasure most in retirement.
The reason for that is the same reason a host of Scotland’s top athletes look back with more fondness on their Commonwealth exploits than their Olympic Games experiences – because they did it all in the blue apparel of Scotland. There is the additional subtext that – let’s face it – Olympic medals are usually harder to win.
Arthur’s gold was certainly hard-won, though. Aged 20, the Leith Victoria man’s passage to the medal stages was genuinely gruelling as he had to overcome tough Kenyan David Muluu in the first round, followed by Uganda’s Kassim Adam and Simon Maryin of Antigua.
In the semi-finals he came up against Australia’s world No 3 James Swan, whose low blow into the abdomen protector brought Arthur to his knees. But the Scot was resilient and too canny for Swan, and made it through to the final despite the fact he had forgotten his boots and had to borrow a pair from Northern Irish flyweight Liam Cunningham minutes before entering the ring.
In the final, Canada’s Marty O’Donnell forced Arthur to make all the advances, something he had not wanted to do, but he fought back from a 7-6 deficit to win 11-7 with a brilliant final round, and then sank to his knees.
Forty years after the great Dick McTaggart added Commonwealth gold to Olympic gold in Cardiff, Arthur had his chance to hear Scotland The Brave from the top of a podium and it was a moment he loves to relive to this day.
“There were four favourites – Australia, Uganda, Kenya and me – and I drew three of them,” Arthur said afterwards. “My body is really tired, exhausted. It was a long. tiring process. I just got more tired every day.”
A year or so later, after the door to the Sydney Olympics closed and Alex Arthur became “Amazing” Alex Arthur in the pro ranks, he reflected: “The Olympics would have been a great stage for me and I know a lot of people fancied me for gold. But my ambition in the amateurs was to win a major gold medal in the vest of my country and at least I did that in the Commonwealth Games.”