It may be the shiny medals that catch the attention of the watching public but in Marianne Crichton’s mind, there’s far more to the sport of boxing than landing the knock-out punch.

Crichton is chief operating officer of the sport’s governing body in this country, Boxing Scotland, and she’s spent the past seven-and half-years since joining the organisation trying to think of every possible way not only to aid the country’s elite fighters but, and this is potentially of even greater importance to the 43-year-old, how to get more people from every possible background involved in the sport.

Boxing is unique in that, more than any other discipline, it reaches the most deprived areas of society. 

And that’s exactly what attracted Crichton, whose background includes a stint at the 2014 Commonwealth Games organising committee, to become involved in the sport of boxing for the first time in her life.

“I’ve always been involved in sport and I’ve always been passionate about people participating in sport and especially from under-represented groups,” she says.

“So I thought Boxing Scotland was a good place to be in terms of driving inclusion. 

“For me, it’s about targeting under-represented groups, particularly women and people from areas of mass deprivation across Scotland and seeing progress in those areas is the rewarding part for me. 

“Watching people break down barriers, wherever they come from, is amazing and that’s what I’m in it for.”

It’s one thing talking about helping society’s poorest sectors, it’s another thing entirely actually doing it.

And while more can always be done, there’s already definitive proof that boxing is having a significant impact in areas of Scotland that so many other sports aren’t able to access.

“There’s evidence to show that boxing can really reach all areas of society,” Crichton says.

“Last season, 37 percent of our clubs were based in the 20 percent most deprived areas of Scotland. We’re the number one sport to reach these corners of the country.

“Yes, it’s about the sport but it’s also about creating safe spaces for young people too.

“Some of the clubs feed the kids – they’ll do camps during the summer and the kids will get lunch too so it makes sure they get a meal. And some of our clubs don’t charge anything so it’s accessible to everyone.

“That’s something we want to showcase because we want young people to realise there is a safe space for them and it doesn’t matter if they don’t have the ready cash. As the governing body, we make sure we support that.”

As passionate as Crichton is about developing the grassroots of the sport, she’s also acutely mindful of the importance of the elite side of boxing and, ultimately, winning medals.

Boxing is Scotland’s most successful sport at the Commonwealth Games, with fighters picking up medals at every edition of the Games since its inception in 1930.

And for all the effort Crichton puts into developing the grassroots of the sport, she also has a ringside view, so to speak, of the development of Scotland’s very best fighters.

She’s watched Sam Hickey, who won gold at last summer’s Commonwealth Games, transform from a 12-year-old kid into one of the world’s best amateur fighters and it’s Hickey, along with his compatriot, Reese Lynch, who all eyes will be on over the coming months.

The Herald: Sam Hickey won gold at Birmingham 2022 and is now targeting the OlympicsSam Hickey won gold at Birmingham 2022 and is now targeting the Olympics

As members of the GB squad, both young men have their sights set on becoming Olympians at Paris 2024, something that would mark a major milestone for the sport in this country with it being almost 12 years since a Scottish boxer was last at the Olympics in the shape of Josh Taylor in 2012.

And while Crichton is careful not to pile undue pressure on the pair, she’ll well aware of the importance of having Scottish boxers fighting on the greatest stage amateur boxing has to offer.

“In Scotland, I think the elite side of things is in a very good place. We have Sam and Reese on the GB programme and potentially going to the Olympics if they get through the qualifiers and so I feel in that area of the sport, we just need to continue doing what we’re doing,” she says.

“An Olympic medal for one of our fighters would be incredible and there’s massive potential there but we need to take things day by day and not put too much pressure on the athletes. I’m optimistic about how things are looking on the elite side though.”

As things stand, it’s male fighters who dominate the sport in this country both at elite level and through the ranks.

But Crichton, as the highest-ranking female in the governing body, is entirely committed to encouraging more women and girls to step into a boxing ring.

Although personally, she’s never experienced any discrimination during her time in the sport, she’s well aware this isn’t the case for all women and girls and that’s something she’s desperate to reduce and ideally, eliminate entirely.

Crichton has been a driving force behind Boxing Scotland’s newly-launched National Beginner’s Boxing Programme for Female Boxers and this will, she hopes, accelerate the number of women and girls getting involved in the sport in this country.

At the 2022 Commonwealth Games, there was only one female fighter in a squad of eight and in the very near future, Crichton hopes to see a dramatic increase in that figure.

And just perhaps this approach will see Scotland produce its first female medallist at a senior amateur major championship in the not too distant future.

“The research we’ve done with women and girls involved in the sport showed they do tend to find barriers to getting into the sport,” she says.

“And so one of our key priorities this funding cycle is to encourage more women and girls into boxing as a whole and boost representation of female fighters at things like the World and European Championships and Commonwealth Games.

“For me, it’s about equal representation.

“There’s so much talent coming through so we need to nurture that, support it and do everything we can to develop the talent we have.”