ANY remaining doubts Craig McEvoy may have had about the wisdom of completely overhauling the Boxing Scotland program were washed away on a gloriously golden day in Birmingham.
The Performance Director and Joint National Coach had watched Team Scotland return from the Gold Coast in 2018 with just a pair of bronze medals and knew the country’s leading amateur boxers were capable of so much better.
His faith to instigate a revolution was wholly vindicated yesterday as Scotland claimed three boxing golds at a Commonwealth Games for the very first time. Add in two more bronze medals for Matthew McHale and Tyler Jolly and it added up to Scotland’s second largest medal haul in the sport in 52 years. It all augurs well for the future, with many of the team likely to now go on to compete at the Olympics in two years’ time or turn over into the professional ranks.
The subjective nature of judges’ scoring is one of boxing’s most contentious issues, but on this occasion all three split decisions went the way of the Scottish fighters. It was Sam Hickey who started the gold rush, coming out on top from a mesmerizing, no-holds-barred middleweight clash with Callum Peters.
The Dundonian and his Australian opponent took to the middle of the ring from the first bell and stood and traded shots until they could raise their limbs no more. It was exhausting just to watch. Hickey, wisely, began to demonstrate better movement in the second round causing Peters to swing and miss more often but came to the conclusion of the final round it was tough to pick a winner. The 3:2 verdict went in Hickey’s favor who had just about enough energy to shout “number one” as he made his way out of the arena.
“You always need to believe in yourself and have confidence in yourself,” he said. “I’ve been short of making finals a few times now so to finally get there and break through that barrier and win is a huge thing mentally for me.
“I’m so happy. This is my moment, a huge platform at a home Games. It’s crazy. I’ve got a big future ahead of me and I can’t wait to show everybody what I’m capable of. Scottish boxing is flying at the moment.”
Hickey’s win set the benchmark for the day and Sean Lazzerini was next up to match it. The light-heavyweight found himself in an all-British contest with Wales’ Taylor Bevan, a fight that began slowly before warming up over rounds two and three.
It was again tough to separate the pair for the most part, with Bevan not shying away and Lazzerini getting repeated joy with a laser-accurate left cross. The Glaswegian unleashed a series of combinations late in the fight to eliminate any doubt about the outcome, with the judges scoring it 4:1 in his favour.
The 25-year-old had been eliminated in the first round on the Gold Coast four years ago, his shushing gesture as his name was read out no doubt a message to all of those who had doubted him.
“It’s just surreal to be honest,” he said. “I feel that he was the favorite and it was mine to try to take from him. And I came here and shocked everyone. I shut a lot of people up. A lot of people stopped believing in me because I got hand injuries and stuff. It’s good to just prove everyone wrong. I’ll talk to my family now and see what’s next. But I’d love to box as a professional in Glasgow.”
Reese Lynch had to wait a few hours after that for his own shot at gold but didn’t let the side down. Up against the vastly-experienced Richarno Colin from Mauritius, this light-welterweight contest was a duel between two counter-punchers who were willing to take a patient approach before getting their shots away.
Colin, a three-time Olympian, was a dangerous opponent who twice sent Lynch’s mouthguard flying, while a cut above the Scot’s right eye in the third round also made things more complicated. A big right hand from Colin saw Lynch take a standing-eight count late in the final round but the southpaw had already done enough by then to seal a 4:1 victory.
“I fulfilled what I said I was going to do,” said Lynch. “There was a wee bit of pressure going third but pressure makes diamonds. I knew this team could do brilliant things. I said it was a record-breaking team in the making and here we are.”