As the only Scottish boxer to have fought under the bright lights of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Craig McEwan can appreciate the emotions consuming compatriot Josh Taylor’s mind.
Having agreed professional terms with ring legend and promoter Oscar De La Hoya in 2006, McEwan, then 24, found himself on the first plane to California accompanied by his family to begin a new life in Los Angeles.
But he was thrust into the limelight almost immediately, a debut against George Nicholas Montalvo on the undercard of Marco Antonio Barrera’s WBC world super featherweight title defence against Rocky Juarez at the famous MGM Grand in Las Vegas of all places.
And, as Taylor, the Commonwealth super-lightweight champion, is now just two days from fulfilling a childhood dream by boxing at the venue where McEwan, now 34, made his pro debut almost 11 years ago, the one time Clovenstone amateur has urged the former Olympian to embrace every second in the ring.
“I signed with Golden Boy and then the next month I was fighting in Las Vegas. It was a dream come true,” McEwan recalls. “There was a lot of pressure on me and I suppose I was quite scared to be honest as Oscar had invested a lot in me and had put my name about. I was no longer wearing a vest or head guard as an amateur and I was now fighting on a world bill. This was reality. Even arriving in Las Vegas was all a bit surreal.
“But the bell went and I just threw punches and it was over in about a one and a half minutes. It was just so quick so any details are a bit of a blur but it felt so good to get a win which was made even better with it being in the MGM Grand.
“The press conferences beforehand were a real eye opener and just taking everything in, it was such a learning curve. It’s easy for someone to fall into a trap and think ‘oh this is just brilliant I’m in Vegas’. It was a wee bit different for me as I was pretty much based in Vegas a lot of the time I was out there so I got used to it.
“But I imagine Josh will continue to base himself back home so he doesn’t need to worry about that. I remember after my debut that a limo came and picked us up and took us to have dinner and you felt like a superstar. It can eat you up if you’re not careful.”
McEwan, like so many of the boxing fraternity, is predicting Taylor’s stock will continue to rise with another resounding victory, his eighth as a pro, over Mexican Alfonso Olvera this weekend.
“It’s certainly a winnable fight for him; he just has to do what he does best and box to his ability and I think he’ll come away with another win,” McEwan said. “Josh should just go and enjoy everything.
“He’s worked hard and is tipped for greatness. He’s got a good team behind him with Barry [McGuigan] and his son [Shane] where they’ve got [Carl] Frampton to where he is. Josh keeps himself in shape which is a good thing. He’s got all the tools there to go to the top.
“I actually think that’s perhaps where I went wrong. I stayed out in the States until I fought Andy Lee (in 2011). I got beat, the contracts ran out so I was thinking I’ll just come home and fit right back in at British level, but it didn’t work out that way. I almost had to start out from the beginning again. But Josh has got a great following here in Edinburgh and I’m sure he’s also building up some fans in the States now too having been over there a few times.”