Three of the Capital’s most prolific amateur boxers are set to undergo some of the toughest bouts of their careers as they travel to Kazakhstan for the prestigious World Boxing Championships.
The Lochend trio of 2012 Olympian Josh Taylor and Scottish champions Lewis Benson and Aston Brown are under no illusions over the calibre of opponent that awaits them when the official draw is made this weekend before the action gets underway on Monday.
The 14-day event is considered to be one of the finest in the sport and this year’s competition in Almaty – the largest city of Kazakhstan with a population in excess of one million – provides ideal preparation ahead of next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Although yet to officially confirm their places as part of the Scottish team for next summer, both Taylor and Brown, who fought in last season’s World Series Boxing for the British Lionhearts and will represent GB next week, are widely expected to be included in the squad whereas for Benson, who has only recently moved up weight category from 64kg to 69kg, his pathway to the Games appears to carry a somewhat sterner proposition.
Speaking ahead of his first major event, Benson said: “Obviously, the Worlds and the Commonwealth Games are what I have been training for. This is a major test for me so I’ll find out where I am as I’m facing the very best there is.
“The selection for the Commonwealth Games will all come down to the Scottish Championships next year, to be honest, so I’m going to Kazakhstan to get the experience. I am not going to get ahead of myself or anything like that, but I am hoping to get out there and fight well. I don’t want to be put out at the first stage. The longer the tournament goes on, the more it favours me.
“If I was still at 64kg, I wouldn’t be eating much at all at this moment in time. But now I can get plenty of rest in and fight so it’s been a great move that I don’t have to kill myself trying to make the weight anymore.”
All three pugilists, aged 22, have come a long way in a short space of time. For 75kg fighter Brown, he is aiming to build on an inspired performance at the European Championships in June where he made it to the last 16 of the competition. He sees little reason why any other of his compatriots shouldn’t be aiming to return home with a medal.
“The World Championships are on the same level as the Olympics so I’ve prepared myself really well,” Brown said: “I’ve only moved up to 75kg in the last year, but I got to the last 16 in the Europeans where I fought against some really top guys, so with the way I have trained I’m really looking to medal out there. I’m putting pressure on myself and, if I perform, then I know I can.
“These other guys are class acts – Lewis (Benson), Joe Ham, Stephen Lavelle, big Ross Henderson – they are all capable of going over there and winning fights. You need to go to these events to get the experience and I have no doubts they’ll put on a decent show. All boxers are the same, they’ve all got the same mentality and want to win.”
This level of competition, as expected, holds little apprehension for Taylor. Despite a niggling hand injury sustained in February which has limited his competitive appearances this season, the Prestonpans star remains in a positive frame of mind.
He said: “I don’t feel any pressure at all and am quite confident of coming back with a medal. To be honest, there are a couple of really good guys out there, but I’m not really fussed who I come up against as I know if I can perform to my best then I can come out on top. Every competition I go into I want to win, but coming back as world champion would be amazing.”