Boxer Lewis Benson knows what is at stake tonight at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow. The 22-year-old says he is in “the shape of my life” as he bids to take a major step towards cementing a Commonwealth Games place in Glasgow.
Benson has been aiming for Glasgow ever since sacrificing his job as an electrician in December 2012 to train as a full-time athlete. A win tonight would almost certainly confirm his selection.
The Lochend fighter won the 64kg title last season, but has since moved up to 69kg and faces reigning champion, Connor Law from Glenrothes, in tonight’s Scottish Championship finals.
After climbing up the weight ladder last October, Benson has been in impressive form and is unbeaten at his new level.
“It’s never actually been said and I don’t know for sure,” Benson said when asked if he’d been assured of his place with Scotland this summer should he prevail tonight.
“But we both know it’s all coming down to this fight – it shouldn’t come down to just one fight but it’s that close. A bad day at the office for me and my dream is over.
“I know what I need to do and that is to perfect the game-plan,” he said.
“This is the pinnacle of Boxing Scotland and is the biggest show of the year. This is my third year in a row of making it to the final and it’s got better every time.
“I don’t think they will ever top this event with what the prize is on offer.
“I have been at all of the press conferences and the media have hyped this fight up so much. It’s the only fight on the bill that has two reigning champions fighting one another.”
He continued: “Connor and I both haven’t been beaten in Scotland for a long time. He knows what’s at stake, as do I, so I’ll shake his hand before and after as well.
“If I get beat tonight then it’s not from lack of effort and I will have been beaten by the better man, I’m honest enough to put my hands up and say that.”
With Benson selling more than 120 tickets to friends and family alone, he doesn’t shy away from the pressure and expectations being placed on his shoulders.
“I don’t call it pressure,” he said. “I just want to impress and I know it’s all or nothing. I’ve done everything that has been asked of me, I’m unbeaten in four fights since I moved up weights so this one is absolutely massive.”
Meanwhile, Scotland’s reigning 52kg champion, Ryan McCutcheon, will take centre stage in the first bout of the evening as he looks to retain his title against Forgewood’s Reece McFadden.
Formerly of Clovenstone Amateur Boxing Club, the 19-year-old now fights under the banner of Meadowbank having made the move across the city towards the end of last year.
However, McCutcheon disclosed he has endured a difficult time personally since being crowned Scottish champion just 12 months ago and his motivation to box had reached an all-time low.
“To be honest, I just went a bit off the rails for a while,” he explained. “Basically, I lost interest in the sport and didn’t have that motivation anymore.
“I was very rarely at the gym and was lucky if I was there once a week. I hit my maximum weight gain at 61kg, but I’ve trained hard, came down in weight and got my sharpness back. The past couple of months I’ve felt a lot better since making the change from Clovenstone to Meadowbank.
“Clovie is where my heart lies and I love the place, but I just felt my time was up there and had to move on – I feel I’ve made the right choice.
“I’ve been a bit rusty as the semi-final was my first time in the ring in about a year but I’m in the final and that’s all I can ask for.”
McCutcheon doesn’t believe he is in a position to challenge for the Games’ 52kg berth at this late stage and accepts that, irrespective if he emerges as the winner, the coveted position is always likely to be filled by his opponent who looks the favourite to fulfil the selection criteria.
He added: “He’s a tough lad who will throw a lot of punches but I am confident of picking him off.
“I haven’t been going to residentials or taking part in Scotland training and I know he’s probably going to the Games but, you never know, I might just give them something to think about.”