THEY aren’t quite clamouring for autographs just yet. Josh Sandford, though, hopes that whatever he goes on to achieve in his own professional boxing career will continue to serve as inspiration to the hundreds of kids – and amateur adults – who pour into his gym every week harbouring a variety of aspirations of their own.

Sandford makes his fifth, and no doubt toughest, appearance in the ring to date this evening having travelled down to Wigan to take on rising English talent Joe Howarth (7-0) in an eagerly anticipated lightweight contest. The St Andrew’s Sporting Club fighter is candidly honest and realistic about his own future prospects, keen to go as far as he can in the sport without wanting to hang all his hopes on a dream that materialises only for a select few.

Trained by Craig Dickson out of the Colosseum boxing gym in Hillington, the 27-year-old has no qualms about putting his own undefeated record on the line so early in his career, believing that taking such a tough fight will provide a useful barometer of his capabilities for him and his team.

“We were meant to fight last year so it’s a contest that’s been brewing for a wee bit,” he says. “My pro career has gone as well as could be hoped this far.

“I’ve got the opportunity to train full-time, which is something I always wanted off the back of my amateur career.

“If you’re able to devote your time to something fully then you can go into fights like this one feeling a lot more confident about your chances. I’m just focusing on fight to fight at the moment and not looking too far ahead. Every boxer will tell you they want to be a world champion and of course that’s an aspiration of mine, too. But I think if you’re to look right to the top of the mountain when you’re at the stage I’m at now it can be a bit overwhelming.

“So my goals are just to keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully inspire the next generation to go on and maybe even do better than I have so far. After that we’ll see what happens.”

His long-term future, though, will likely centre on the gym and boxing academy he established in his hometown of East Kilbride seven years ago. At that time the only sporting facility of its nature in the area, Sandford takes great pride at providing a home both for those keen to start off on a journey similar to his own and others just looking to stay fit and burn off some energy. It remains his true passion project.

“I took a couple of years away from boxing to set this up in order for me to then be able to train full-time,” he reveals. “Getting kids into boxing or to learn about the sport was a massive side of it for me.

“When we opened we were the only gym in East Kilbride and little grassroots gyms like ours are really valuable for a community like this, whether kids go on to become serious competitors or not.

“One of the main reasons I opened the gym was just to show what boxing as a whole can do for people. I started boxing when I was in primary school and that stopped me from maybe going down a different path as I was a bit of a class clown and getting in trouble for fighting in school.

“My teachers and my mum thought it would be a good idea for me to go to boxing and I’ve not been in any bother since then. It’s such a great tool for emotional control and being able to deal with any situation as, after being in a boxing ring, there’s never going to be anything in life as overwhelming as that. Just going to a gym and surrounding yourself with like-minded people can be huge too.

“Boxing is a funny thing with me. It’s just something I’m decent at rather than being totally in love with. So, it’s a bit of a love-hate relationship. I love boxing as a whole and I love getting kids into it and the amateur system is phenomenal. It’s very team-oriented and all about character building. The pro game is different. It’s a lot more unforgiving and bloodthirsty, to be brutally honest about it.

“But kids getting into boxing is a brilliant thing. And I suppose the better I do in my pro career the more I’m able to push that and drive things forward both for the club and the community as a whole. I don’t know if the kids look up to me or not! I think they mainly see me as a good role model and that’s half the battle.”