Britain’s only undefeated world boxing champion, Joe Calzaghe, has challenged Commonwealth Games gold medallists Charlie Flynn and Josh Taylor to light up the professional circuit in Scotland.
Flynn, who was one of the faces of Glasgow 2014 with his cheeky grin and endearing charm, has won his first three bouts in the pro lightweight division as he looks to build on the success he delivered in his home country last summer.
Edinburgh’s Taylor, meanwhile, is yet to confirm his move to the professional circuit but it is believed the GB Podium boxer will make an announcement on his future within the next few weeks, with a host of top-class promoters all vying for the 24-year-old’s signature.
But, Calzaghe, who was last night a guest speaker at Action for Children’s 12th Annual Sports Dinner in Glasgow, a charity that supports and speaks out for the country’s most vulnerable children, believes two of Scotland’s most promising boxers can make the grade with the right mentoring and desire to reach the top.
“It would be nice if these two Commonwealth champions could make it as professionals which would give the younger fighters out there something to aspire to,” said the 43-year-old, who retired from the sport in 2009 having won all 46 of his professional fights. “I’ve not actually seen them box but I’ve heard a lot of good reports about them so I’m looking forward to seeing them in the ring. With Scotland, who could forget Kenny Buchanan but also Alex Arthur who did really well, Ricky Burns…nobody gave him much chance of winning the world title did they? So you just never know.
“I put all my eggs in one basket because I wanted to be world champion. Sometimes that’s just what you’ve got to do. I remember speaking to my careers advisor at school and he asked what was I going to do when I left school? I said ‘I am going to be a world champion’ and he just laughed. But with boxing, it taught me discipline. It gives you focus and that self respect.”
Taking on board the recommendations of a boxer who is the longest-reigning WBO super middleweight champion, having held that particular record for over ten years and making 21 successful defences of that title, is advice both Flynn and Taylor are likely to embrace given their dedication and commitment as amateur boxers.
But where did Welshman Calzaghe find such inspiration to forge a career that started before he’d even reached double figures? That accolade, he insists, belongs to father, Enzo.
“My father pushed me,” Calzaghe stressed. “If I wanted to go out with my friends he told me to go out running and train. I can’t thank him enough for that because if he hadn’t done that with me from a young age, I might not have been as mentally strong as I was throughout my career. My mother was against boxing and never watched any of my fights, but would watch the fight on TV after I’d won.
“But I had a very tough upbringing with such little money. My dad was away a lot as he was a singer and musician. My mum was a housewife so it was hard. I didn’t enjoy school either so boxing was my life and I had that dream to become a world champion and give my children a life they would never have had if I hadn’t done what I achieved in a boxing ring.”
And what about his own admiration for a sport he left behind six years ago. “I think it’s very encouraging at the moment because there is a bit of rivalry which is always good to see in domestic fights,” he said. “I like to see Amir Khan, Kell Brook… a fight I think everybody is chasing. It’s nice to see another Welsh champion in Lee Selby, he’s a class act so there are decent fighters coming through.”
• Joe Calzaghe was the star guest at Action for Children’s 12th Annual Sports Dinner in Glasgow, helping Scotland’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people and families – sponsored by PG paper.