Meadowbank boxers defying the odds with British Champs trio

From left, Owen Paton, Nicole Stewart and Brad MacFarlane will fight at the British Junior Championships at Ravenscraig. Pic: Ian Rutherford
From left, Owen Paton, Nicole Stewart and Brad MacFarlane will fight at the British Junior Championships at Ravenscraig. Pic: Ian Rutherford
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It has been a challenging few months for Meadowbank Boxing Club since the closure of the old stadium towards the end of last year.

However, despite those uncertainties outside of the ring, it’s business as usual for the next batch of talented youngsters.

Teenagers Owen Paton (50kg), Brad McFarlane (54kg) and Nicole Stewart (54kg) will represent the Capital club and Scotland at next weekend’s British Junior Championships at Ravenscraig Sports Complex in North Lanarkshire.

The trio’s preparations for the competition have not gone as smoothly as coach James Paton would have liked, with the club now restricted to just two nights a week of training at a rented gym hall based at Drummond High School.

Grateful for an allocated slot time of 90 minutes on a Tuesday evening – and two hours on a Friday – the facilities are sadly a shadow of what the boxers had become accustomed to at the club’s former base of more than 40 years.

Nevertheless, Paton – whose 16-year-old son Owen represented his country at last year’s European Championships in Bulgaria – is confident of a positive outcome next weekend.

“I think they’ve all got a good chance of coming away with a medal, but it will be a tough competition,” Paton said. “We’ll study who they might face over the next week or so and then the Scotland coaches will look after them in the ring.

“Owen is an excellent fighter and Brad is very aggressive. Owen’s more skilful, whereas Brad gets in your face and just doesn’t let up. Nicole also has real talent so I am quietly confident for all three of them.

“Wee Maggie White (50kg) is a very good boxer from Craigmillar who will be there and Lochend’s Caitlin Grover (54kg) too, so they’ve got a good chance as well. It’s great to have five boxers from Edinburgh represent their country.”

Paton revealed it has taken a real effort just to keep the club going following the closure of Meadowbank for redevelopment in December. And although the club has been offered new premises when the stadium reopens in 2020, Paton just hopes the lack of time spent in the gym won’t hinder their progress.

“We’ve not had the best time lately, it would be fair to say,” Paton explained. “We’ve lost all of our senior boxers, but we’ve decided to keep it going for the younger ones and keep it as Meadowbank. When we were told the stadium would be closing, Meadowbank offered us a derelict building down Portobello way and something down Leith Links, but they weren’t feasible options.

“I even contacted the Lord Provost, but nobody came back with anything. We’ve ended up getting Drummond High School for two nights a week, but it’s just a basic hall with very little equipment so it’s far from ideal.

“I’ve got to take some of them to other gyms to try and get them some extra training. We’ve done a lot of travelling lately to get them decent sparring to get them ready for the championships. It’s been an absolute shambles, to tell you the truth.

“But the guys are really taking it in their stride and this is the best we’ve ever done at junior or kids level as shown by the results at the Scottish Championships. The likes of Lochend have the best boxers at senior level, but we’ve got more Scottish champions than any other club in the east of Scotland.

“Two years ago my son was the only one at Meadowbank to win a Scottish title under the age of 16 and last year we had five or six Scottish champions.

“I don’t think we’ve had three from the club represent their country at the one time in 15 years since the likes of Kenny Anderson, so it’s a big achievement.”