Lewis Benson has revealed that last summer’s Commonwealth Games “devastated” him as his life veered off the rails following heartache in the 69kg boxing event.
After fighting tooth and nail to earn his place in the Scotland team for the Games in Glasgow, the 23-year-old had settled well into the athletes’ village with every faith he would make his return journey to the Capital with a medal for his endeavours.
However, it all turned pear-shaped for Benson when he suffered a first-round defeat at the SECC Precinct to New Zealand’s Bowyn Morgan.
As he prepares to step back into the ring tomorrow for the first hurdle in this year’s national championships, and chasing a fourth consecutive title, Benson admits he’s had a lot of soul-searching to do since that defeat last July.
“The Games devastated me,” the Lochend pugilist said in an exclusive interview with the Evening News. “I was so set on getting a medal and there were no ifs or buts about it. So to get put out in the first round was a real blow.
“Don’t get me wrong, the experience of it all was brilliant and it was the best two weeks of my life. But it all hit home when I got back to Edinburgh. It’s hard to explain how bad it got. I had to go to a sports psychologist to try and get my head back as I was in a bad way.
“I was drinking a lot, going out with my friends all the time and not having a care in the world. My head was that badly mucked up and it knocked me for six. I started back training but it was all half-hearted to be honest.”
This admission isn’t supposed to be the talk of a three-time Scottish champion and a fighter who had shown great resilience just to earn the right to box for his country, but Benson had simply lost all of his identity.
“I can’t thank the psychologist enough for getting me back to some sort of normality again,” he stressed. “It wasn’t a happy place to be in at all but, since the new year, I’ve turned over a new leaf and I’ve trained really hard.
“I’m still not up where I was at the Games but I’m as close to that as I’m going to get.
“Fighting at 69kg was too much for me and I knew that all the way. I tried to remain focused but I think everyone else knew I wasn’t a fully-fledged 69kg boxer. I tried as hard as I could but the guys were a lot stronger and physically bigger than me. But moving back down to 64kg, I feel a lot more comfortable and I’ve got my mojo back.” Benson has recently returned from a sparring camp in Marbella, a strong indicator he is now in a much better place both emotionally as well as physically.
“I’m back in love with boxing again and it’s great to have that in my life again,” he said. “I’m also back working as well with Watermans Solicitors who sponsored me in the run-up to the Games. They’ve been great with me as they give me two hours off every day for training.”
With a move to the pro-ranks edging ever closer, an arrangement that could see Benson split his time between both Edinburgh and Marbella, the future looks bright.
“There won’t be a lot left for me to do in the amateurs after this so I want to go out on a high,” Benson admitted.
“These will be my last Scottish Championships and hopefully the British as well, but there’s nothing really else for me.
“I certainly want to try and go out on a high as I’ve experienced so much.”