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Hopefuls fighting to seize the spotlight

THE gloves were off in Scottish boxing yesterday.

Competitors at the national amateur finals will audition for a place  in Scotland's Glasgow  2014 team.Picture: Colin Templeton
Competitors at the national amateur finals will audition for a place in Scotland's Glasgow 2014 team.Picture: Colin Templeton

This was more of a necessity than a prelude to an unsolicited square-go given that many of the country's best amateur fighters were in Glasgow to preview the finals of the national championships and had one microphone to pass between them.

Opponents for the event sat at a table alongside Richard Thomas, the chairman of Boxing Scotland, and treated it as a stage, taking it in turns to get involved in some verbal sparring. It seemed typical of the sport that each of them took what was said on the chin.

The fighters will be in close contact again next Friday when the finals are held at the Emirates Arena, encircled by a crowd which is expected to be close to a capacity of 5500. Ticket sales have already reached in excess of 2000, while the sale of VIP tables has been suspended due to burgeoning demand. That audience will be enlivened by the combat, although each bout has implications which extend beyond the ring; the fighters will audition also for a place on Scotland's Commonwealth Games team.

Yesterday brought an opportunity to first parade their personalities. This was conducted within a spartan gym in Glasgow and Joe Ham - who will compete in the 56kg category next week - at first aimed a battery of fists at a prone punching bag before pawing lightly at the prospect of facing final opponent Brandon Singh. Ham has spent years learning how to fight with his hands effectively but yesterday revelled in an opportunity to use his words, claiming that he would deliver "a fight like [Singh] has never experienced before".

He was addressing the theatre of boxing as much as his opponent, albeit his declaration was not supposed to be taken entirely seriously. Scotland's amateur scene comprises a rising pool of talent and one in which any athlete is fully aware of what the others have had to wade through.

"This is not just about a month or a year's training - some of these guys have been boxing for about 10 years and this is the absolute pinnacle of their boxing careers. It is absolutely the biggest championship in Britain," said Thomas of a bill which includes Josh Taylor, who won a silver medal in Dehli in the lightweight category.

Taylor's was not a story retold in Glasgow yesterday. It still remains pertinent to Boxing Scotland, though, since the governing body are alert to the opportunity to seize on the success of their athletes this summer and use it for a greater good.

"After the finals next week we will turn our minds to the Commonwealth Games but in the background Boxing Scotland is preparing for the bounce," said Thomas. "As a nation we should be looking to these young athletes - male and female - as role models, rather than the local drug-dealer or whatever. Look at these athletes who have to get up at six in the morning, have to hold down a full-time job, do their road work in the morning and train five nights a week in their local gyms - sometimes poorly equipped gyms.

"They don't have a lot of resources and rely on volunteer coaches; some of them don't get sports science support. That is tough given that this is a weight-specific sport. We're looking for boxing heroes after the Commonwealth Games."

The final round of auditions will be held next Friday.

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