Lewis Benson believes he can bring the big fight nights back to the Capital as he says goodbye to a “rollercoaster” amateur career.
The four-time Scottish national champion will sign a three-year professional contract with Marbella-based promoter MGM upon his return from holiday later this month before making his debut in his Edinburgh hometown on Saturday, September 5.
Which venue the 23-year-old will box his first pro bout is still to be determined, but Benson is ecstatic to have been given the opportunity to fight in front of his own fans – a trend he hopes will continue in the months that follow.
The Lochend star has shown similar aspirations to the likes of Stephen Simmons and Brian Forsyth in shirking the advances from Scottish promoters by agreeing a deal with MGM, who have state-of-the-art premises on the Costa del Sol.
However, boxing within established venues across the city is what’s really spurring Benson on as he prepares to carve out a career in the light welterweight division.
“I know my first fight will be here in Edinburgh but it hasn’t been decided where yet,” Benson told the Evening News. “Fighting in my hometown and making my professional debut, it is just the icing on the cake. It’s something I’ve dreamed about from a young age and I know the people of Edinburgh will get behind me like they’ve always done. I want to bring back the big nights to the city when the likes of Alex Arthur was boxing. I know it is still early days but I hope I can do something like he did.
“Everything is in place so I’m going over to Marbella at the end of the month once I’m back from holiday to sign the contract. I agreed it all just after I won the Scottish [Championships] in March. I’ll be based here mostly at the start but will be over in Spain for training camps or whenever I’m needed for sparring. It’s going to be a major step up but I always knew after the Scottish I would be making the move.”
Under the tutelage of manager Daniel Kinahan, Benson is expected to be competitively active every couple of months to ensure the transition from amateur to pro is as smooth as can be. He does, however, harbour some resentment that he failed to win a second British title in Rotherham last weekend after defeat by GB Podium boxer Pat McCormack in the 64kg final.
“It was always the target to win the British to end my amateur career but it wasn’t to be,” he explained. “I boxed out of my skin against the GB Podium boxer and got beat on a split decision which, on another day, I could’ve won. The GB team coach even said to me afterwards that it was an excellent fight and that there was nothing between us so that softened the blow a little. But it’s all about thinking ahead now and concentrating on the future.
“I’m going to hopefully have six to eight fights in my first year as a pro so I’m going to be busy. I know I’m under good guidance under Daniel as he’s the manager of Derry Matthews, Bradley Saunders, Tom Stalker... all these sort of guys so he’ll be moving me towards a British title route. I don’t want to be fighting on small shows all my life so it will be one step at a time. I want to be busy as too many pros sit waiting around for dates coming their way but that’s not me. I’ve dedicated my life to the ring and I intend on making the most of it.”
Benson disclosed in an interview with the Evening News in February that his dedication to boxing had been jeopardised in the aftermath of a first-round exit to New Zealand’s Bowyn Morgan in last summer’s Commonwealth Games. He revealed his regret at boxing at 69kg, a weight he admits he found great difficulty in making. He then began drinking heavily with his friends to drown out the disappointment of missing out on a medal in Glasgow. He even sought professional help through a sports psychologist, a decision which was vindicated when he added his fourth Scottish title in March.
And although he feels some unfinished business remains as an amateur, another crack at the Commonwealth Games in Australia in three years’ time having caused him some contemplation, Benson says the lure of the professional ranks was just too strong to ignore.
“The only thing that was in the back of my mind was waiting around for the Gold Coast,” he said. “I was never going to make the Olympics next year so I would have had a three-year wait. Yes I would have been very confident of getting a medal there, but I can’t afford to sit around. Now is the time to make my move.
“My amateur career has been a rollercoaster to be honest. It took me three years to win my first Scottish senior title so that was frustrating. There have been so many ups and downs but I managed to have 101 fights as an amateur and I had always hoped I’d make the 100 mark. I’ve travelled the world and been to places I thought I’d never see, I’ve boxed for my country nearly 30 times so the ups I’ve had have been unbelievable. It’s a part of my life I won’t ever forget.”