An increase in participation rates across the city’s amateur boxing gyms may provide a timely boost ahead of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in just over two years’ time.
The Usher Hall recently hosted the latest episode that pitched a squad of Edinburgh amateur boxers against a university select. In front of a 2000 strong crowd, the event has followed on the momentum achieved from last year’s success at Princes Street Gardens when a group of London pugilists travelled to the Capital for a series of competitive duels.
It would appear such marketing strategies have given the amateur sport a much needed boost, a trend which Holyrood club leader Bradley Welsh always remained hopeful of obtaining through such events. A former amateur boxer himself, Welsh’s role as a volunteer for promoting Amateur Boxing Scotland (ABS) hasn’t gone unnoticed, with raising its profile a resounding success.
“Before these events came into fruition, this is exactly what the objective was.” Welsh said. “The numbers have already increased within the gyms, where we have seen kids as young as eight or nine now coming along. I can only speak on behalf of my gym, but we’ve had loads coming and speaking about the events and wanting a taste of amateur boxing, so it’s about broadening our horizons. Three of the universities involved have opened up their own boxing gymnasiums on the back of the recent event, so it’s all been very encouraging.”
With a Manchester-based squad the latest outfit set to face the Edinburgh amateurs in just over six weeks’ time on May 25, opportunities to experience a taste of the action are arriving thick and fast.
“We want to bring new people into the sport and entertain them,” Welsh added. “Amateur boxing has changed dramatically over the past two years and it’s been for the better. The next few years are going to be so important for the sport with the Commonwealth Games, where we’ve tasted a lot of success in the past, taking place in our country. It’s just going to be such an amazing experience. The young athletes that are coming through and winning Scottish titles are on the development side for the Games in two years.
“My objective and the reason why I am doing this is to give Edinburgh boxers the opportunity to perform at some big venues. I’ll do everything I can to help Amateur Boxing Scotland and with the success of the events in Princes Street Gardens and the Usher Hall, I hope we can do maybe another three of four this year.”
Furthermore, the recent Scottish Amateur Boxing Championships at Meadowbank Stadium had ABS chairman, Richard Thomas, hugely encouraged by the calibre of personnel in attendance at the event. A key meeting in the amateur calendar, there was also success for a number of Edinburgh-based boxers who managed to strike gold on the night.
“We had both Chief Executives from Sportscotland and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games along with the Sports Minister, Shona Robison, present at the event so it was an absolute fantastic night. We now have great Edinburgh champions with Pushkar Singh and
Lewis Benson, both from Lochend gym, and Brian Forsyth from Holyrood taking titles so it’s been great.”
Despite the progression in raising awareness of the sport within local communities, Thomas remains largely dissatisfied with the limited financial support provided by thenational governing body, a burden he hopes can be addressed later this year.
“Our figure is one of the lowest for a sport that has consistently delivered Commonwealth Games medals. Badminton, for example, receives more than double in comparison with what amateur boxing receives and they have so far failed to deliver even one medal.
“We have appealed this in the hope of getting an increase for performance investment. I have spoken with the Sports Minister, so this is now being reviewed. The sport has shown a lot of progression in comparison with others, so we are hoping for a decision in the next couple of months after they have reviewed all 2014 sports.”