MARK McKEOWN will have supporters old and new on his mind when he steps back into the ring this week.

The Coatbridge boxer is set to make his third professional appearance in the latest edition of MTK Fight Night, eager to make up for time lost to the pandemic.

Watching from home will be one of the newest additions to Team Sparky. Luca McKeown may be only three but he is already aware of what his daddy does for a living. And that provides all the motivation the 26-year-old needs to go out and deliver.

“Having a kid changes things as you’re doing it for him as much as for yourself,” admitted McKeown. “It gives you that extra bit of motivation as you want to do him proud. Luca is at an age now where he has a fair idea of what’s going on. He knows what I do and keeps asking me about the fight. He’s got a Team Sparky T-shirt that he calls his boxing T-shirt so he’s told me he’s going to be wearing that when he’s watching me. That gives me a wee buzz thinking about it.”

One person who sadly will not be watching is Rab Bannan. The legendary stalwart of The Barn gym in Coatbridge was the coach who set McKeown on his way in the sport, just as he did Ricky Burns and countless others from that part of the world. When he passed away in July, the tributes came from far and wide.

“I was really close to Rab when I boxed there,” said McKeown. “It was a hard hit on everyone from Coatbridge when he passed away. I’ve never
met anybody who ever had a bad word to say about him. He showed a lot of faith in me early on in my career so I was always grateful for that. He must have been responsible for getting so many boxers from that area up and running in their careers.

“But you also saw on social media the amount of folk who said they maybe only met him once or twice and he’d still had a big impact on them. That was the kind of guy he was. He was so well respected. I’ll be going out to try to get a win as a tribute to him if I can.”

McKeown is now trained out of the Keir Hardie club by Barry
Clark and Kevin Morrison who have overseen his transition from decorated amateur to promising professional.

What had been pencilled in as a breakthrough year after his debut win on the undercard of the Lee McGregor v Kash Farooq last November has been disrupted somewhat. But the hope is that a win in this bout in Wakefield will open more doors.

“I only got told about the fight a few weeks ago but I’ve not taken my foot off the gas throughout lockdown,” he said. “And I’m glad now that the call has come in that I’ve kept myself fit.

“I was meant to be fighting on the undercard of Josh Taylor’s world title fight at the Hydro in May but that obviously didn’t happen. But I just kept at it. Anytime I was stuck at home I always felt a lot better after I’d done some training. It was good for my mental state as much as anything to keep ticking over.

“In February when I last boxed we had the whole year planned out. And that’s all been turned upside down. But if I do well in this one I’m hoping it will open a few doors if I can get people noticing me. I want to go from six, to eight to 10 rounds and then look to challenge for a Scottish or Celtic title.”

McKeown’s loyal fan-base were kept waiting to see that debut at the Emirates, their favourite not stepping into the ring until after the main event. And the featherweight hopes it will not be long before he is appearing before them once again.

“Hopefully the next time I’m out then fans will be allowed back in by that point. Even for this one, I had a couple of phone calls from folk asking if there was a bus running down to the fight! I don’t think they realised they weren’t allowed in.

“But even though they won’t be there I’ll still be buzzing when I walk out to the ring knowing that all the folk who’ve supported me will be at home watching.”