When the bell sounds for the first round of the boxing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Scotland will be represented by an eight-strong team all aiming for the very top.
They head to the Midlands with expectations running high because boxing has fast become one of Scotland’s go-to sports.
With a total of 65 medals, our pugilists have been on the podium at every games since the first in 1930 – the only sport that can boast such an achievement.
Despite this success, though, there is no backslapping to be seen at the National High-Performance centre in Glasgow.
Tucked away in a corner of Bridgeton Cross, many people walk past without knowing potential champions are being knocked into shape just a few feet away.
They’re being moulded, in part, by Craig McEvoy, a 46-year-old former solider with an ability to look not just at you, but right into you, with infectious enthusiasm and absolute determination in equal measure.
He, alongside former world champion Ricky Burns, ex-British and European champion Willie Limond and Commonwealth Games medallist Stephen Simmons, have created a full-time training environment which has already delivered success.
“In this last nine months, we’ve won our first ever senior world medal, we’ve won our first senior European medal for 16 years and we’ve had some fantastic performances to boot,” said McEvoy
“We’re in here every week, training daily, travelling together, it’s a huge difference. The key to high performance is having the boxers’ minds on the boxing – they can do that here. We’re better than we’ve ever been, the preparation, the training – everything.”
If the boxers needed any reminder of what they are fighting for, they need look no further than the ring at the centre of the gym.
It’s the very one in which Josh Taylor and Charlie Flynn won Commonwealth gold in 2014.
A symbol of Scottish success, the boxers see it as a motivational tool, provoking mental images of what can be achieved.
“You want to do the same as those guys, but at the same time I’m looking at myself and trying to build my own name,” says 22-year-old Team Scotland and Team GB fighter Sam Hickey.
For this group of eight fighters, Birmingham is as good as a home event. Scottish fans will travel in numbers, Scottish audiences will watch in droves.
“The Scottish fans can come down, coaches and fans can come and watch, it will be amazing to hear the Scotland crowd, they make the biggest noise out there,” says European amateur quarter-finalist Matthew McHale.
“Not many other boxers get to experience what we get here. You get to prove you are at the level and you get a great pride from coming to box here.”
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