Former world WBO super featherweight boxing champion Alex Arthur has never been one to mince his words.
That’s why it’s hard to believe he’s being anything other than genuine when giving his take on the current wave of optimism surrounding the Capital’s next batch of emerging talent.
Arthur, who announced his retirement from the sport three years ago having won 31 of his 34 professional bouts, says the likes of Josh Taylor and British 56kg amateur champion Lee McGregor have restored his faith regarding the longevity of the sport here in Edinburgh. Arthur himself regularly attracted crowds in excess of 3000 at Meadowbank during the early to mid-noughties, retaining his interim WBO super featherweight belt with victory over Stephen Foster in December 2007 a notable highlight.
But now the 38-year-old, who had in the past expressed his concerns with regards to a shortfall in young, local fighters with potential, is now of the opinion the city is once again producing athletes who have the ability to one day box for a world title themselves.
“We’ve got stacks and stacks of top fighters coming through so boxing in Edinburgh is on the way up, make no two ways about it,” said Arthur, as he helped celebrate the second birthday of Montrose Terrace-based martial arts and boxing outlet Seconds Out. “I’ve actually just reapplied for my manager’s licence as there are a few good young fighters coming through and I’m thinking of giving a wee bit back to the sport. The reason I took my foot of the gas with my promotions company AAA is because after I retired I didn’t feel there was anybody in Edinburgh we could promote to the point that we would sell out an arena. But it’s now something I will definitely think about again.”
Taylor’s super lightweight Commonwealth title bout with Dave Ryan next month is expected to draw the biggest crowd for a Capital championship boxing event since Arthur was active in the ring. A huge admirer of the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist – he was a winner himself in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 – Arthur believes Taylor is on the brink of landing his first professional belt but admits he won’t have it all his own way against the tenacious Derby-based boxer.
He said: “It’s a very winnable fight for Josh as he’s on top of his game. But what people forget is Josh has only had six fights as a professional. He was a career-long amateur so I think now is the time for Josh to start taking title fights.
“Dave Ryan is a very capable operator, though. I’ve commentated on him before in his brilliant win over Tyrone Nurse when he won the British title and I was really impressed with him that night. He’s got one of the stiffest, most effective jabs in British boxing. I’ve seen him put people down with his jab. He’s a real tough guy so I think it will be a great fight. Josh won’t get it all his own way but I think if Josh starts fast he could get Dave Ryan out early as he’s a really slow starter.
“That said, if you allow Ryan to build a wee bit of momentum and give him the time to find his feet, it could be a long night.
“It’s a very long road to world championship level and you’ve got to go through some ups and downs and Josh, in terms of professional boxing, is a relative novice. I think you’re a novice up until you’ve had about 12 fights. Josh has had six and not had many rounds.
“But really what an abundance of talent we have in the city now. Jason Easton won again last Friday night, we’ve also got Lewis Benson and the brilliant southpaw that is Lewis Paulin, who people don’t talk about. And then on the amateur scene there’s Lee McGregor, who, for me, is the best fighter I’ve seen since I looked in the mirror. He’s just brilliant. He, along with my son Machlan, inspired me to get back into the gym and train and get the pads on.
“Lee’s only 19. He’s with Team GB so he’s getting unbelievable experience and training down in Sheffield, just as Josh did and that’s what brought him on. He has to stay amateur until at least the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast in two years time. If he medals there, then he’ll have a massive bargaining tool to take to the top promoters.”
Arthur is loving life as a pundit on Sky Sports’ live fight nights and is flattered by suggestions from boxing fans he should succeed compatriot Jim Watt as the leading ringside commentator.
“I really enjoy it and I’ve had some good comments from the punters about my analysis so that’s encouraged me to do it all the more,” he said. “I love being ringside, calling the fights and giving my opinion.
“Boxing is not something that will ever leave you and that includes getting in the ring yourself. Even the great Sugar Ray Leonard once said to me that he still thinks he could get in the ring and fight so when you’ve been a boxer, you’re a boxer forever.”