IT’S been said before and it’ll be said again; the best part of this job is being paid to watch sport. I’ve spent this week covering the build-up to Josh Taylor’s fight tomorrow evening, where he will take on Miguel Vazquez at the Royal Highland Centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh for the WBC Silver Super Lightweight title.

Taylor has long been touted as the brightest star of the generation that is following Ricky Burns and as Burns’ star is fading, Taylor is seamlessly moving to fill the void. But what is most encouraging is that while the 26 year-old from Prestonpans is leading the pack, he is not ploughing a lone furrow. Burns has been flying the Scottish flag somewhat singlehandedly on the international stage over the past decade but there are signs that the days when this country has only one boxer making a real impact in world terms could be in the past.

There are a number of young pros who are worth keeping an eye on, including Jason Easton and Lee McGregor who are both fighting on Taylor’s undercard tomorrow evening. Then there is Charlie Flynn, who made his name during the Commonwealth Games in 2014, Stevie Simmonds, who became IBF European cruiserweight champion last month while world amateur champion Willy Hutchinson has been signed by former world champ, David Haye.

Loading article content

The importance of Scotland being a strong boxing nation cannot be underestimated. There is no other sport in this country that is so inclusive and accessible to every demographic as boxing and the value of that can never be overstated.

In many respects, Scotland overachieves in international sport. Andy Murray, Chris Hoy and Katherine Grainger have, in recent years, written themselves into the history books with their achievements but there remains one inescapable fact; to become a world-class athlete in tennis, track cycling or rowing, you invariably need money. These sports are not cheap and so any kid from a deprived background has basically no chance of emulating any of the trio.

How many kids who are from Scotland’s poorest areas looked at Chris Hoy, in his aero helmet and his bike costing thousands of pounds, and truly believed that one day, that could be them? My guess is not a single one.

Boxing however, is entirely different. Boxing does not merely give kids from deprived backgrounds the opportunity to become involved, it actively encourages it. Much work is being done in Scotland to promote sport and physical activity, but it is still not enough. Levels of obesity and inactivity are still sky-high and life expectancy in deprived areas remains worryingly low.

As beneficial as the money invested in sport currently is, increasing the number of boxing clubs should be a priority. Every young boy, whatever their background, will be able to look at Josh Taylor tomorrow evening and believe that could be them some day. You cannot put a value on the number of kids who have stayed out of trouble because they joined a boxing club.

There remains one area of boxing in Scotland that requires more work though. The female side of the sport still lags significantly behind the men’s and while that is understandable considering it has only been legal for women to box in the UK for less than 30 years, it is vital for Scotland to have a female boxer who young girls can look up to.

Nicola Adams in England and Katie Taylor in Ireland have done wonders for changing the perception of women boxing, and tomorrow evening, Englishwoman Chantelle Cameron will fight on Taylor’s undercard.

The view that boxing is a ‘man’s sport’ is slowly but surely diminishing but it absolutely remains in some quarters. Every young boy, whatever their background, can realistically believe that boxing is a viable path for them to pursue, yet this is still not the case for every young girl in this country.

I understand the concerns about the safety of boxing and there are, of course, a few. However, the positives of the sport so heavily outweigh the negatives that providing support for boxing should be one of Scotland’s top priorities.